SCR Highlights New Works By African American Playwrights in Celebration of Black History Month

Danielle Bliss
 | Feb 20, 2018
Little Black Shadows Rehearsal Photo

Chantae Pink and Giovanni Adams in rehearsal for the ​reading of Kemp Powers' ​Little Black Shadows​ at the 2016 Pacific Playwrights Festival.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and is a time of recognition for their role in U.S. history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world also hold February as a devotion month to celebrating black history, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

Over the past half-century, South Coast Repertory has commissioned nearly 200 established and emerging playwrights from a variety of backgrounds who have written nearly 300 new works. Through these commissions, SCR is able to support these artists—both artistically and financially—allowing the playwrights to create new pieces. While developing new work, these writers are offered a number of ways to hear their work, including in-house workshops and public readings. Some may be selected for the Pacific Playwrights Festival, the theatre's annual showcase of new work. All of these experiences provide artists with the unique opportunity to see their creations come to life. Meet some of the commissioned playwrights.

​Kemp Powers


Playwright Kemp Powers

Kemp Powers is a playwright, screenwriter and storyteller. His plays include Little Black Shadows, One Night in Miami…, The Two Reds, Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue and A Negro by Choice. He received the 2013 Ted Schmitt Award for Outstanding New Play (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle) for One Night in Miami's world premiere at Rogue Machine Theatre. That production earned three additional LADCC awards, four NAACP Theatre Awards and an LA Weekly Theater Award. ​One Night's 2016 production at London’s Donmar Warehouse was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Play. Kemp's work has been developed at South Coast Repertory, Denver Center Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. For television, he recently was a writer for Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access). He has toured nationally as a storyteller for the Peabody Award-winning series, "The Moth," and was one of 50 storytellers selected for publication in the New York Times-bestselling book, The Moth: 50 True Stories (Hyperion Press). Powers is a founding member of The Temblors, a producing playwrights collective in Los Angeles, where he resides. Little Black Shadows has its world premiere at SCR and is under commission for a new play for the theatre.

​Chisa Hutchinson


Playwright Chisa Hutchinson

Hutchinson was born in Queens, NY, and spent most of her years growing up in Newark, NJ, where she was raised by her godfather’s mother. She grew up in the company of many unofficially adopted brothers and sisters, where she excelled in school despite the financial struggles of her household. After earning several scholarships, Hutchinson earned a BA in ​playwriting from New York University. She has acquired several exciting opportunities such as writing and performing with the New York NeoFuturists and being a staff writer for the Blue Man Group. Some of Hutchinson’s plays include From the Author Of (University of Delaware Resident Ensemble Players commission), Amerikin (in progress), The Forgetting Place (puppet musical, in progress), Surely Goodness and Mercy (Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey/New Jersey Performing Arts Center Stage Exchange Commission), New World Disorder, Breaking Bread (part of the Working Theater’s Five Boroughs/One City Project), The Wedding Gift, Dead & Breathing, Alondra Was Here, This is Not the Play, Tunde’s Trumpet (kids’ musical), Somebody’s Daughter, Sex on Sunday, The Subject, Dirt Rich, Mama’s Gonna Buy You and She Like Girls. Hutchinson’s screenplays include Surely Goodness and Mercy, The Subject, Chance of Rain and Ayesha Cook is Dying From the Feet Up. Hutchinson currently teaches creative writing at the University of Delaware and is a proud fourth-year member of New Dramatists.

​Ike Holter


Playwright ​Ike Holter

Holter was born in 1985 and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., and later moved to Chicago where he studied theatre at DePaul University. Holter’s plays include S.L.O.P., Vigilante, Servent and Hit the Wall. Hit the Wall, first staged in 2013 about the Stonewall Riots, became his first play to play off-Broadway in New York City. His later works include B-Side Studio, Exit Strategy, Sender and The Wolf at the End of the Block. Holter is openly gay, but has stated that he prefers creating works beyond his personal experience. “I am black and I am gay, but the minute that I only write work that is about being that—I don’t think that’s interesting. I like getting into the head of a white woman in her 30s. I like getting into the head of an Asian dude in his 20s.” Holter received a Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Drama in 2017.

​Marc Bamuthi Joseph


Playwright ​Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Joseph is a unique playwright not only recognized for his writing, but for his spoken-word poetry and dancing, too. These talents nicely complement his love for theatre ​since he frequently directs stand alone hip-hop theatre plays. His works include Word Becomes Fiesh, De/Cipher and No Man’s Land. He has worked together with Rennie Harris in 2007 to create Scourge, a play about Haiti’s social-economical struggles. A year later, in 2008, Joseph wrote The Breaks, a play based on the book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang. In Joseph’s earlier years, he worked with the Senegalese National Ballet. He was later the 1999 champion of the National Poetry Slam and, in 2006, was the recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. His work has been featured in episodes of "Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry" on HBO in 2004 and 2005. In 2007, Joseph ​was highlighted on the cover of the Smithsonian Magazine. Two of his pieces have been featured at the Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays—Chicago, Sudan in 2011 and The Breaks in 2007. Joseph is the chief of program and pedagogy at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

​Joshua Allen


Playwright ​Joshua Allen

Allen, a graduate of the University of Southern California and the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School, has created a variety of successful plays. A Chicago native, he is the recipient of a New Voices/New York Fellowship from ​The Lark Theatre Play Development Center. Some of his works include Boy in a Blue Tweed Suit, Chrysalis and The Last Pair of Earlies. His work has gone on to be developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project, Primary Stages, the Lark, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Allen has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011 and is also a member of the Ars Nova Play Group and the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages.

​Dominique Morisseau


Playwright ​Dominique Morriseau

Morisseau is recognized for numerous ​works that she has written over the years including The Detroit Project (a three​-play cycle), which includes Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and National Black Theatre). Her other plays include Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre), Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me to Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). Morisseau has also written a book on the new musical, Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations (Berkley Repertory Theatre). She is ​a graduate of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop. She has developed ​plays at the Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center/National Playwrights Conference and she has been commissioned by Steppenwolf Theater, Women’s Project, South Coast Repertory, People’s Light and Theatre and Oregon Shakespeare Festival​ and Penumbra Theatre. Most recently, she served as the co-producer on the Showtime series “Shameless.”