An Experiment in Collaboration

Last August (2010), I posted an ad on craigslist in search of an intern for Blackboard.  I was excited about what could come out it.

The response was more than I could have hoped… and one of the women who responded ran a similar organization in Harlem.  She threw out the idea that maybe we could figure out how to work together and support each other’s endeavors.

So – should I see this as a threat?  Another group for Black Playwrights in Harlem? hmmm  Healthy Competition?

NO – I was excited!  I was sad I didn’t know about her (Sandra A. Daley – Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director – Liberation Theatre Company ) or her organization earlier.  Plus, I was excited to learn more.

We met and that was it.   The next month, about 20 Black Producers were in Sandra’s dining room talking about who they were, what they were doing in regards to Black Theatre and what were they interested in doing.

We met monthly, and by December it was clear who the core group was.  There were 9 of us, all part of different Black Theatre organizations / Companies.  We developed a mission and decided upon an event.  Now it was time to plan…

Talent, Marketing, Website, Fundraising… we had our work cut out for us.  Looking back, I don’t know how it all got done.

Working with a group of producers who normally do multiple jobs on their own is pretty productive because it means that you don’t have to do everything  alone or with two people.  That was definitely a sentiment felt amongst the group.  We had each other’s backs – in everything!  Someone else was always there.  Was it perfect and smiley all the time – no – but what is.  Did the collaboration create a successful event that was talked about for days after – yes!

It’s been nearly a month, and I can’t stop thinking about it.  We worked hard – a group of almost strangers.  We’d never worked together before and that means we had to learn about each other as people and how each other worked, all at the same time…  phew!

I could continue … and I might later, but for now, just wanted to share a bit about my experience with Harlem9, a group that I hold very near and dear to my heart.



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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