Ano Okera Interview

Name, Theatre Background…

My name is Ano Okera. I am a Playwright and Performance Artist who grew up as child performer in Jamaica recording music, acting, dancing and doing theater since I was 8 years old. After moving to New York I landed the role of ‘Angel’ in the hit Broadway Show RENT, as well as roles in Dreamgirls, Hello Dolly, West Side Story, All Shook Up and a revival of Mama, I Want To Sing starring Melba Moore andChuck Cooper. More recently, I was featured in the world premiere of Roses by the Water and Liddy’s Baths, Potions and Sammiches at the only Black and Latino Playwriting Festival in the country, Voices at the River, produced by the Clinton and Rockefeller Foundations.


Why is it important for you to be part of series devoted to Black Playwrights?

It is important to be part of reading series devoted to Black Playwrights. Who doesn’t want to share with a community they identify with culturally? I am honored that I get to share how I create art with the lyricism of music and words with my peeps and that this platform exists. I am proud to be a part of this.

What is important to you about a Black Community of Artists?

A black community of artists is important mainly because as artists our black is definitely different than the collective ‘black consciousness’. There are so many blacks voices and talents that aren’t seen or heard. I feel strongly that a coming together of minds committed to telling ‘our stories’ will allow us to paint a more accurate depiction our black experiences and how that has helped us find our voice today.

What does your play say about the Black Community to you?

The black community inspired my musical and thus expresses a range of my sentiment. First of all, I grew up in the Caribbean and matriculated to the United States before I became an adult. Given my induction within the artistic and theatrical arena, I have become reinvigorated in my attempt to comprehend and assess how Black Theater has developed and the varying streams of influence, particularly from the Caribbean. The result of this introspection is to further enhance the cross-cultural contribution to the burgeoning influence that challenges the way we visualize theater.

How did you begin writing this play?

I was doing a presentation for Voza Rivers at his home office in Harlem when he asked me what I was willing to do to increase an awareness of Harlem’s Vibrant Culture and has no idea he planted the seed. The truth is the hairs on skin rise when I walk in Harlem. While strolling one night, I was compelled to write a short story. I showed it to one of my mentors, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, and I laughed when he challenged me to write a musical. A year later I have completed the first draft of this new experimental, jazz musical called ‘Finding Harlem Dawn’. It has allowed me really explore how the Jamaican Voice influenced the beginning of the early Harlem Renaissance Movement. I have been stretched and pulled in every direction through this process, but am blessed to be in the midst great mentors. The best part is though, that I get to bring everything that I am as an artist to the writing process. It is like I have finally come home.

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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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2 Responses to Ano Okera Interview

  1. Lawman Lynch says:

    Congratulations Ano, I’m confident your play/musical will do well. Continue being the trailblazer you are. Blessings. LL

  2. Abena says:

    So proud of you Ano

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