The Yard @ Juilliard

Sunday, March 21st, there was a very special event at Juilliard, concerning the recent production of Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ Neighbors. The evening brought a variety of panelists together.  A few Blackboard attendees were also there, and the atmosphere was safe enough for a 4 hour plus dialogue which included the post-discussion reception.

I did not see Neighbors, so my experience with the play is limited to two discussions, one before and this one, after the play.  Before the play opened, Blackboard had a Community Discussion, “NEW VOICES in BLACK THEATRE” on January 11, 2010.  The discussion was very similar to what happened last Sunday at “The Yard”.  The panel was moderated by Artistic Associate at The Public, Jocelyn Prince and included black and white members of the Neighbors’ cast, in addition to academics, writers, a sociologist, an actor, and other theatre and non-theatre professionals who one-by-one commented on their experience with the production and how it related to the world outside of the play.

The one thing I can say about this play, given these discussions, is that it evokes a variety of responses, and a litany of paper topics for any scholar.

A common and perhaps the most obvious theme from these discussions deals with identity.  How we see ourselves as Blacks in Theatre, Blacks in America or even Blacks throughout the Diaspora and how others see us.

So Kudos to “The Yard” for their efforts in organizing such a fantastic event!  This is a wonderful group of students that will bring a lot of great to the community!

Looking forward to the next event!



About blackboardplays

Familiar with the collectives for poets and other Black writers that had been created over the years and slightly envious of that sense of community, I became curious about a similar place for playwrights. I wanted to see Black playwrights, actors and directors excited over each others work and supporting each other. I was longing for a “home” as a Black playwright and wanted to see other Black artists in that home, not to be exclusive, but because there was a void. I was also eager to find other Black playwrights who shared a passion for the craft of storytelling. The stories of the Black community are diverse and are often hidden behind the blockbuster stereotyped versions. The non-artistic Black community, not involved in the writing of these stories, is yearning to see themselves in our stories and it is apart of my life’s work to ensure that happens. the cell is any artists’ dream: a new space that supports you as you grow, committed to new work and the art. This allows the writer to focus on the craft - to focus on their story. Nancy Manocherian and Kira Simring welcomed this idea with open arms and instantly became apart of what we later called “Blackboard Reading Series”. Every reading will conclude a twenty minute talk-back with the audience. Dialogue with the community is essential to what we want to do with the series. As we grow, there may be more readings a month, play festivals and of course productions. We want to nurture and develop new black playwrights for this generation! Thank You! Garlia Cornelia Jones Founder, Blackboard Reading Series
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