Meet Ano Okera – Playwright, “Finding Harlem Dawn”

Finding Harlem Dawn:

With Harlem as its core, Finding Harlem Dawn is an exploration of intrigue, misfortune and love in a night’s journey. Textured in lyrical poetry, this modern day Shakespearean type story explores parallels from the past and present through dance and experimental jazz music.

Finding Harlem Dawn centers on four artists struggling to find love in their different yet interchangeable experiences. Langston Beaufort, the great-grand nephew of the famous Harlem Renaissance writer and poet Claude McKay, is a law school graduate on a quest to find his dream as installation artist and poet. Billy Perrier is a dancer in search of a new life in Harlem. Jelly wants to write his way out love and Moya wants to touch the man she loves with every song that she sings. As the lives of these beautiful artists entwine, glimpses of Claude McKay and his secret dream Juanita Love bear resonance to the mystery of Harlem. They soon discover that their dark moments are merely paths to new beginnings.

Ano Okera (Concept, Book, Lyrics):

Ano Okera was born and raised in Jamaica with strong Rastafarian traditions. He knew at an early age that he was destined to be a singer, dancer and actor that inspires and did everything in his power to fulfill that dream. Sharing his talent is his purpose.

Since migrating to New York, Ano has appeared in the NBC series 30 Rock alongside Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, the ABC series Going to Extremes, and the short film Where Truth Lies. Stage credits: ‘Angel‘ in the hit Broadway show RENT, Dreamgirls, Hello Dolly, West Side Story, All Shook Up, and a revival of Mama, I Want to Sing starring Melba Moore and Chuck Cooper. He was recently seen in the world premier of Roses in The Water and Liddy’s Baths, Potions and Sammiches at Voices at the River, the only Black and Latino Playwright Program in the United States, which is produced by The Clinton and Rockefeller Foundations.

Ano Okera executive produced his debut album ‘Groove’ that was launched in Jamaica, London, and New York in early 2009 to rave reviews. He has been seen in action at the Bitter End, Sullivan Hall, Marfa and SOBs and recently opened for Kymani Marley at the Brooklyn Museum late last August.

Ano has also been cast in numerous commercials including the Jamaica Tourist Board One Love campaign, national commercials for GAP and VH1 Promos as well as national print campaigns for Metro PCS, Target, LaCoste, and Kenneth Cole Reaction. He was the face of Jamaica for Caribbean Month in New York for June 2009 which led to a performance for the Caribbean segment on the CW11 Pix Morning Show. He has recorded tracks for a variety of compilations including ‘Free’ on the ‘Down by the River’ album for VP Records.

He is delighted to present his first installment as a Playwright—an experimental jazz musical, Finding Harlem Dawn—and is working on his anthology ‘Conversations from New Harlem’ and playwriting installments including the musical A Superhero Called ‘Androgyny’: Mercutio’s Real Story and one act plays Subahan Allah, The Letter and A Night In The Park.

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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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