France Luce-Benson Named One of Camargo Foundation’s Cultural Diaspora 2018 Fellows

Camargo Foundation’s Cultural Diaspora 2018 Fellows Participate
in Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival (Minneapolis, July 12–14, 2019) 
Playwrights from Africa and the U.S. share new works and perspectives

In 2018, France-Luce Benson was one of the winning playwrights who convened in Cassis, France to participate in the Camargo Foundation’s Cultural Diaspora residency, conceived and curated by award-winning Minneapolis-based playwright Carlyle Brown. The residency’s goal was to bring together mid-career and established African and African-American theater artists, in Brown’s words, “from opposite ends of the Africanist Diaspora,” engaging them in debates about identity and authenticity and exploring the different ways in which international boundaries shape the African experience.

As a measure of the residency’s success, the Cultural Diaspora has inspired the Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival (Minneapolis, July 12–14, 2019). A collaboration of the Camargo Foundation, the Playwrights’ Center, and Carlyle Brown & Company, the festival will feature workshops, a panel discussion on theater and Afro-Atlantic culture, and stage readings of the works completed at Camargo.

France-Luce Benson, whose work will be featured in Minneapolis this July, is an award-winning playwright of Haitian descent, currently based in Los Angeles and New York. Her plays have had productions and workshops at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Bishop Arts Theatre, the Fire This Time Festival, City Theatre Miami, Crossroads Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and the Lark, among others. Honors include: Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Miranda Foundation grant recipient, Zoetrope Grand prize, Alfred P. Sloan commission, Sam French OOB Festival winner, Princess Grace Award (runner up), NNPN Best New Play, and residencies at Djerassi and SPACE/Ryder Farm. About her work, she says, “My plays explore the black American narrative from my perspective as a first generation Haitian-American, born in Republic of Congo, and raised in Miami. My characters often struggle with displacement, identity, and the impacts of trauma.” While a resident at Camargo, she worked on part 2 of Deux Femmes on the Edge of a Revolution, a trilogy about the Haitian revolution. She intends to complete the trilogy during her residency at the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil later this year.

The festival, free and open to the public, will take place at the Playwrights’ Center, renowned for supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to production at theaters across the U.S. While at Camargo, fellows had the opportunity to meet African-European artists, work with local theater students, and participate in a roundtable discussion entitled “African and Afro-Descendent Writing,” which was presented as part of the Festival de Marseille and Massilia Afropea. In Minneapolis, they will discuss the impact of these experiences on their work and debate various conceptual and cultural facets of African diaspora studies. A second event will take place in New York in Fall 2019, in collaboration with NYU’s Department of Literature and Tisch Theatre Studies program.

EllaRose Chary Chosen Among 27 Others For Rhinebeck Writers Retreat

Founding Executive Director Kathy Evans announced the 27 writers of nine new musicals for Rhinebeck Writers Retreat’s summer weeklong residencies. 

The nine musicals were selected from 160 applications, which were reviewed by 27 readers in the first round and, in the final round, six new musical experts who are members of Rhinebeck Writers Retreat’s Sounding Board: Tory Bailey, Executive Director of the Theatre Development Fund; Neil Bartram, Composer; Kent Nicholson, Associate Producer of Musical Theatre, Playwrights Horizons; Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director, TheatreWorks USA; Natasha Sinha, Director of Artistic Programs, Signature Theatre; and Steve Stettler, former Producing Artistic Director, Weston Playhouse.

For nine consecutive weeks beginning June 30, each writing team is awarded a private weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley to focus solely on writing their musical. Writers are provided a home, transportation, food, and a stipend, and all their costs are covered by Rhinebeck Writers Retreat’s donors. 

· August 4 – August 11: Brandon James Gwinn, EllaRose Chary, and Sherri Eden Barber, TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix, with Lead Support from Liz Armstrong

Read more about the retreat and other writers chosen from Broadway World here.

THE HELLO GIRLS Nominated for 4 Outer Critics Circle Awards this Season !

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
The Beast in the Jungle
Black Light
Girl from the North Country
The Hello Girls
Midnight at the Never Get

Outstanding Book Of A Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Robert Horn, Tootsie
Conor McPherson, Girl from the North Country
Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, The Hello Girls
Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown
Jeff Whitty and James Magruder, Head Over Heels

Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, The Prom
Joe Iconis, Be More Chill
Peter Mills, The Hello Girls
Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown
David Yazbek, Tootsie

Outstanding Director Of A Musical
Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!
Joel Grey, Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)
Cara Reichel, The Hello Girls

Read the full list from here.

ROLL CALL: People to Watch featuring France-Luce Benson

Profession: Playwright/educator
Hometown: Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (a.k.a. Zaire), raised in Miami
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: Among Benson’s most produced plays are Fati’s Last Dance and The Talk. Her play Deux Femmes on the Edge de la Revolution Part 1 also received attention during its workshop at the New Black Fest in 2018. The first installment of a trilogy, Deux Femmes Part 1 won Benson a residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, as part of the Cultural Diaspora Program.
What’s next: Minneapolis’s Playwright’s Center will produce Deux Femmes Part 1 as a workshop this July. Her play Detained is in development with Ensemble Studio Theatre/Los Angeles.
What makes her special: Benson was among the first playwrights featured in the Monologue Project, an online resource for women of the African diaspora cultivated by Bishop Arts Theatre Center in Dallas. Her monologue “deeply resonated with me,” says Bishop Arts’ executive artistic director, Teresa Coleman Wash. In an interview for The Dramatist, Benson told Coleman Wash about “the emotionally debilitating narrow perceptions” she must combat as Black female writer. Concludes Coleman Wash, “Her work is beautifully compelling and engaging, and deserves a platform.”
Healing through humor: Benson, whose plays celebrate Haiti’s history and culture, believes in the power of laughter. “My favorite kind of work is anything that makes me laugh, really laugh, while also illuminating poignant truths about the human condition,” she says. “Laughter can be profoundly transformative, and writing humor is such an extraordinary skill. If you can make people laugh, you’re essentially a healer.”

Learn more from American Theatre here.

Jay-Z and Kanye set the tone in premiere of ‘Les Deux Noirs’ at Mosaic Theater

James J. Johnson, left, as Richard Wright, and Jeremy Hunter as James Baldwin in Psalmayene 24’s “Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son,” at Mosaic Theater Company. (Stan Barouh)

The Richard Wright-James Baldwin showdown “Les Deux Noirs” briefly becomes “Les Quatre” in the frisky, flippant new show at Mosaic Theater. Wright takes on a Jay-Z persona and Baldwin is Kanye West as the Jay-Z/Kanye West song “Niggas in Paris” gets the music video treatment, complete with choreography and projections. No telling where playwright Psalmayene 24 might swerve after that irreverent, heady start to his 70-minute power play between mid-20th-century titans of black American culture.

You can’t say Psalmayene 24 is jumping on the hip-hop bandwagon of “Hamilton”; he’s been doing this for at least 20 years, since he performed his “The Hip-Hop Nightmares of Jujube Brown” at Arena Stage. The new drama’s full title is “Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son,” and it’s based on a 1953 meeting in Paris between Wright and Baldwin. The beef was the upstart Baldwin’s critique of Wright’s 1940 novel, “Native Son,” a groundbreaking book that’s still troubling in its representation of Bigger Thomas’s violent reaction to an oppressive society.

The show is a fantasia that isn’t entirely sure of itself yet. Sexuality rears its head — Baldwin was gay, Wright married two white women — and in that complicated key, RJ Pavel and Musa Gurnis are terrific as the solicitous maitre d’ and waitress (both white) with creamy French accents and lusty eyes. The chats and the action never feel remote — lessons on the n-word, a great joke about reparations — even if the show is still seeking the thread that will pull it all tight.

Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son, by Psalmayene 24. Directed by Raymond O. Caldwell. Set, Ethan Sinnott; lights, William K. D’Eugenio; costumes, Amy MacDonald; projections, Brandi Martin; sound, Nick Hernandez; choreography, Tiffany Quinn. About 70 minutes. Through April 27 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $20-$65. 202-399-7993.

Read the full review by Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post here.