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.