Arts, Dining & Entertainment
February 6, 2019

JAGfest shines spotlight on black female playwrights

JAGfest shines spotlight on black female playwrights

Feb. 8-10—WHITE RIVER JUNCTION— Every February for the past two years, JAG Productions has invited African-American theatre artists to spend a week in White River Junction, to further the development of a new play or solo performance. Over the course of the one-week residency, three to five projects receive an intensive workshop, constructive feedback, and a staged reading for the public at Briggs Opera House.

The third edition of the festival of new works in African-American theatre, JAGfest 3.0, will be presented Feb. 8-10, and all the playwrights are black women. JAGfest 3.0 will include four staged readings of their works, each featuring a post-show conversation with the artists and moderated by Dartmouth scholars.

Play No. 1 will be held Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m.: “The Last Day of Black History Month: A Conversation with a Naked Black Southern Lesbian by Maine Anders & Ayesha Dillabough.” The international “triple threat of burlesque” baptized by Michael Musto as one of NYC’s Creatures of the Night in Out Magazine, the “Maine Attraction” Anders shares her story of ancestry and artistic resilience with a personal and humorous timeline of our nation’s violent and systematic oppression. Hailing from Decatur, Georgia, Anders’ one-woman master-class on the prominent underbelly of American history, The play is a multimedia show featuring dance, comedy, music, and poetry unveiling hidden truths while facilitating acceptance, compassion, and unity.

Celebrate after the first play with the JAGfest Dance Party with DJ Sean at Piecemeal Pies in White River Junction, at 10 p.m. Champagne toast, snacks and free of charge for JAGFest weekend pass ticket holders.

Play No. 2 is “Rabbit Summer” by Tracey Conyer Lee, Saturday, Feb. 9, at 4 p.m.  Wilson and Ruby have good jobs, a beautiful home, a child … working on another, while Ruby’s best friend, Claire, has just lost her unarmed black husband to the quick trigger of a white cop. Wilson idealizes his marriage and ignores the irony of his job as a police officer, smiling through pain Ruby wishes he would share. Tired of feeling helpless and trapped in her Huxtable-like existence, Ruby has a secret plan to fix the American gun problem and push her husband to unpack the legacy of false manhood. As Claire mourns in the comfort of her friends, secrets are unearthed stirring a pot of reality Wilson has never tasted, pitting Black against blue, gun violence against police brutality, manhood against fatherhood and love against need. The trio individually battle to live their truths in a country built on lies while navigating the uniquely American condition of “Being, While Black.”

Play No. 3, “If This Be Sin,” book by Kirya Traber will take place Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. A new musical based on the life of the queer Harlem Renaissance entertainer Gladys Bentley the play focuses on Bentley’s life at a pivotal moment in the 1940s when she’s lost her prominence and is facing backlash at the dawn of the MacArthur era. Traber realized that given the spectacular scope of Bentley’s real life, any retelling deserves the spectacle and grandeur of a musical. The new work is being developed with a full musical score, and will represent Bentley in her early life as an infamous performer in Harlem, as well as her eventual choice to conform and marry a man in the early 1950s.

Play No. 4, “Blanks” by Gethsemane Herron-Coward, will be held Sunday, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m. Medical student Reese desperately hunts for the romance of her dreams while her “aunties” – Black women through history and media – dissuade, distract and try to save her from love’s violent abandonment, something they all experienced, something they all did not survive. “Blanks” interrogates how intimate partner violence, intersectional patriarchy, and neglect affect Black women’s pursuit of romantic and filial love. It asks if love conquers all, what happens when it conquers you?

Admission is $20 per performance and $50 for a weekend pass to all four shows. For more information and to buy tickets, visit jagproductionsvt.com/jagfest2019. Briggs Opera House is located at 5 South Main St., White River Junction.

Photo courtesy JAG Productions

The “Maine Attraction” Anders is one of the playwrights in JAGfest 3.0, reading her play “The Last Day of Black History” on the first day of the festival.

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