Celebrating Black History Month With Our Commissioned Playwrights

Tania Thompson & Danielle Bliss
 | Feb 17, 2021
Little Black Shadows
Giovanni Adams​ and Chauntae Pink in South Coast Repertory's 2018 world premiere ​production of ​​Little Black Shadows by ​Kemp Powers. Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.

Over the course of a half-century plus, South Coast Repertory has commissioned more than 200 established and emerging playwrights from a variety of backgrounds through SCR’s new play development program, The [email protected] Through commissions, the theatre is able to support writers—both artistically and financially—which allows them to create new plays and musicals. In the development process, commissioned 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, SCR’s annual showcase of new work. All of these experiences provide artists with the unique opportunity to see their creations come to life. In celebration of Black History Month, meet some of our commissioned playwrights.

​Bleu Beckford-Burrell

Bleu Beckford Burrell

Playwright ​Bleu Beckford-Burrell

Beckford-Burrell is a first-generation Jamaican-American actor and playwright. Born and raised in New York City, she works for non-profit organizations, teaching acting to teens, as well as writing and directing plays. Her works include P.S.365 (finalist, 2019 O’Neill Theater Center Playwrights Conference) showcased at EST (Youngblood Workshop series) and The National Black Theatre (Keep the Soul Alive reading series), Lyons Pride (2018 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2019 Princess Grace Award finalist, 2019 Kilroy’s Honorable Mention and Yale Drama Series, runner-up) showcased at The Playwrights Realm (INK’D Festival of New Plays) and EST (Bloodwork Reading Series), La Race (2020 Normal Ave/NAP finalist; O’Neill Theatre Center and BAPF semi-finalist). Her work will be featured in upcoming showcases at Faultline Theatre (Irons in the Fire) and Page 73 (Virtual Residency). She is the 2021 Page 73 Playwriting Fellow and has been a Playwrights Realm Fellow (2018), as well as an I73 playwright (2020) and Colt Coeur resident (2021). She was a finalist for the PWC New Voices Fellowship (2018), P73 Fellowship (2020), NYTW/2050 Fellowship (2019), PWC Core Writer (2020), WP Lab (2020) and a semi-finalist at Working Farm (2019). She received the Playwrights Horizons, Jody Falco and Jeffrey Steinman Commission for Emerging Playwrights (2020) and a South Coast Repertory/Elizabeth George Emerging Writer Commission (2021). She earned an MFA from Rutgers University. Learn more.

​Ike Holter


Playwright ​Ike Holter

Holter's plays include S.L.O.P., Vigilante and Serven. His play, Hit the Wall (2013), about the Stonewall Riots, became Holter’s first work to play off-Broadway in New York City. His other works include B-Side Studio, Exit Strategy, Sender and The Wolf at the End of the Block. He was a writer for the television series, “Fosse/Verdon,” and is developing a new TV series about Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor. Holter is openly gay, but prefers to create 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.” Among his honors is the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Drama (2017). Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., Holter later moved to Chicago, where he studied theatre at DePaul University.

​Dominique Morisseau


Playwright ​Dominique Morriseau

Morisseau is recognized for numerous ​works 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 also has written a book for the musical, Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations (Berkley Repertory Theatre and Broadway). She is ​a graduate of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, WP Lab and Lark Playwrights Workshop. Her works have been developed at the Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center National Playwrights Conference and she has been commissioned by Steppenwolf Theater, WP, South Coast Repertory, People’s Light and Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival​ and Penumbra Theatre. Most recently, she served as the co-producer on the Showtime series “Shameless.” Learn more.

​Kemp Powers


Playwright Kemp Powers

Powers is a playwright, screenwriter and storyteller. He adapted his play, One Night in Miami, for Amazon Studios and he is co-writer/co-director of the Pixar Studios hit, Soul.  His plays include Little Black Shadows, 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 (world premiere, 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. Powers' work has been developed at South Coast Repertory, Denver Center Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. For television, he has been 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.

Charly Evon Simpson

Charly Simpson

Playwright ​​Charly Evon Simpson

Simpson's plays include Behind the Sheet, Jump, form of a girl unknown, it’s not a trip it’s a journey and more. Her work has been seen and/or developed with Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Lark, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chautauqua Theater Company, Salt Lake Acting Company and others. She is a recipient of the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Lanford Wilson Award. Simpson was a member of WP Theater’s 2018-20 Lab. She’s a former member of SPACE on Ryder Farm’s The Working Farm, Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group and Ensemble Studio Theatre/Youngblood. Learn more

​Mfoniso Udofia

​Mfoniso Udofia

Playwright Mfoniso Udofia

Udofia's plays include Sojourners, runboyrun, Her Portmanteau and In Old Age and have been seen at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT), New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), The Playwrights Realm, Magic Theater, National Black Theatre, Strand Theater Company, and Boston Court. She’s the recipient of the 2017 Helen Merrill Playwright Award, the 2017-18 McKnight National Residency and Commission at The Playwrights’ Center and is a member of the New Dramatists class of 2023. Mfoniso is currently commissioned by Hartford Stage, Denver Center, ACT, Roundhouse, and South Coast Repertory. Her plays have been developed by Manhattan Theatre Club, ACT, NYTW, The Playwrights Realm, McCarter Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New Dramatists, Portland Center Stage/JAW Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre/The Ground Floor, The OCC, Hedgebrook, Sundance Theatre Lab, Space on Ryder Farm, Page 73, New Black Fest, Rising Circle and others.​ She has worked as a television writer on the third season of “13 Reasons Why” (Netflix) and the first seasons of “Little America” and “Pachinko” (both AppleTV). ​As an actor, she appeared off-Broadway in The Homecoming Queen by Ngozi Anyanwu and in the feature film, Fred Won't Move Out. Learn more