15th National Black Writers Conference Bios of Confirmed Participants
As of Dec. 17, 2019
Dominique Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle), which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional 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). She is also the TONY-nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Morisseau is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab and Lark Playwrights Workshop, and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as coproducer on the Showtime series Shameless. Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, AUDELCO Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017–18, and a recent MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.
Sandra Adell teaches literature in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her books include Double Consciousness: Double Bind: Theoretical Issues in Black Literature and Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir. She is the editor of Contemporary African American Literature: Ten Complete Plays and the 2019 special print issue of Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre and Performance.
Dasan Ahanu is cofounder and managing director of Black Poetry Theatre. Since 2008, he has created and produced original poetry and spoken word-based productions. Ahanu is an award-winning poet and performance artist, playwright, scholar, and emcee. An alumni Nasir Jones Fellow with Harvard University’s Hip Hop Archive, he has performed across the country; appeared on national radio and TV; published three books of poetry; been featured in various periodicals; and released numerous recordings. (Photo Credit: Tyrone Combs)
Ngozi Anyanwu (Playwright) Education: University of California, San Diego (MFA in Acting), Point Park University (BA). Acting: The Pittsburgh Public Theatre, The City Theatre, Barrington Stage, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and The Mark Taper Forum. Television credits include “Limitless,” “Deadbeat,” “The Affair,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Mysteries of Laura,” and “The Deuce.” Good Grief, Victory Is Ours, The Homecoming Queen, and Nike or We Don’t Need Another Hero. Film credits include Split and Women Who Kill. Good Grief (kilroys list 2016, semifinalist Princess Grace, Humanitas Award) was produced at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles in Spring 2017, which Anyanwu also starred in. NIKE (kilroys list 2017) was recently workshopped at The New Black Fest in conjunction with The Lark and The Strand Festival in conjunction with A.C.T and Space on Ryder Farm. The Homecoming Queen (kilroys list 2017, Leah Ryan Finalist) recently had its world premiere at The Atlantic theater which also had a sold out run. Anyanwu has also received residencies from LCT3, Space on Ryder Farm, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, The New Harmony Project, New York Stage and Film and Page 73. Anyanwu is developed with Juvee Productions and Abc Signature and is currently on the writing team for AMERICANAH produced by HBO MAX. She is also commissioned with NYU, The Old Globe and The Atlantic Theatre.
Lisa Cortés is an Academy Award–nominated producer whose credits include Precious; The Woodsman; and Shadowboxer. Her work with trailblazing companies such as Def Jam Records, Lee Daniels Entertainment, and Cortés Films has defined a career that has been distinguished by her commitment to empowering inclusive voices in front of and behind the camera, producing content with challenging themes and for giving light to challenging, visionary stories. Since launching her production company, Cortés Films, she has collaborated with directors including Ernest Dickerson and Gabourey Sidibe, producing innovative features, documentaries, and short films that assert the centrality of diverse and untold stories while delighting audiences. She is currently producing with Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams a feature-length documentary about the legendary Apollo Theater and producing and codirecting the documentary The Remix: Hip X Fashion.
Amina Henry is a Brooklyn-based playwright, essayist, and educator. Her productions include: Hunter John and Jane at JACK, Ducklings at JACK, The Animals at JACK, Happily Ever at Brooklyn College, An American Family Takes a Lover at Theater for the New City, Water produced by Drama of Works, The Minstrel Show, produced as part of the 2013 Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival at 13th Street Theater/CSC (NYC), and Bully at Interrobang Theater, Clubbed Thumb and SUNY Purchase. She is currently working on commissions from The New Group, HERO Theater, and Project Y Theatre. She was a 2017–2018 recipient of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) Space Grant and a 2018 Dixon Place Space Residency. Upcoming productions include New Light Theater’s production of The Great Novel, June 2019 at The Flea. Currently, she is an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College, as well as a teaching artist for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative and the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Selected publications include: “Hello, My Name Is Joe” in The Brooklyn Review and 24 Gun Control Plays (NoPassport Press, 2013), “Bully” in The Kilroys List: 97 Monologues and Scenes by Female and Trans Playwrights (Theatre Communications Group, 2017) and the essay “Lessons in Beauty” in the forthcoming issue of Suzy Magazine.
Nandi Jacob is a playwright and theater producer. Her play Flambeaux won the Musical Theatre Production of the Year AUDELCO Award (2015) among other international awards. Jacob’s work has been produced at Theater for the New City (New York), Harborfront Theater (Toronto), and the Caribbean Inaugural Drama Festival (Trinidad) amongst other stages. She is author of The True Nanny Diaries, creator/showrunner of Green Card: A Love Story, and lead producer at Ashenandi Stage Co.
Interdisciplinary artist, dramaturg, and scholar Nina Angela Mercer’s plays include Gutta Beautiful; Itagua Meji: A Road and A Prayer; Gypsy & The Bully Door; and A Compulsion for Breathing. Her writing appears in the anthology Are You Entertained? Black Popular Culture in the 21st Century (Duke University Press, 2020). She has been published in Killens Review of Arts & Letters; Black Renaissance Noire; Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre, and Performance; Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Press, 2018).
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Tracie Morris is writer/editor of seven books, a sound poet, vocalist, and theorist. She holds an MFA in poetry from CUNY Hunter College, a PhD from NYU, and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She became an Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist in 2018. Ms. Morris is a former WPR Fellow at Harvard University and is inaugural Distinguished Visiting Professor at Iowa Writers Workshop.
Stanley Nelson is today’s leading documentarian of the African American experience. His films combine compelling narratives with rich historical detail to illuminate the underexplored
American past. Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, also received the National Humanities
Medal from President Obama in 2013. Mr. Nelson and his wife, Marcia A. Smith, cofounded Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to amplifying social justice issues and fostering a new generation of diverse filmmakers committed to “changing the story.”
For more information on Firelight Media, see www.firelightmedia.org.
NSangou Njikam is an actor, playwright, and hip-hop theater artist originally from Baltimore, Maryland. His most recent works include Syncing Ink (Flea Theater/Alley Theatre and Joe’s Pub), Re:Definition, I.D., The Rebellious Rhymes of J Nice, and Hands Up: 7 Plays, 7 Testimonials. He currently writes for hip-hop artist Common on his Let Love tour. Mr. Njikam received his BFA in acting from Howard University, and is a member of the 2015 Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater. He currently resides in New York.
Dr. Sandra G. Shannon is Professor Emerita of African American Literature at Howard University. Widely acknowledged as the leading authority on playwright August Wilson, she is founder of the August Wilson Society and author of The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson and August Wilson’s Fences: A Reference Guide. She has written numerous essays and chapters on Wilson and served as editor of Modern American Drama: Playwriting in the 1980s and August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. She coedited August Wilson and Black Aesthetics and Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson. In 2018, Dr. Shannon became a fellow of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre and awarded the Winona Lee Fletcher Award for Excellence by the Black Theatre Network.
Aurin Squire is a playwright, screenwriter, theater critic, and journalist. Last year, Squire had six play productions around the country. This year, his Louis Armstrong musical A Wonderful World world-premiered at Miami New Drama. Currently, Aurin is a producer on the TV shows The Good Fight and Evil. He has been a writer on This Is Us and Braindead. As a journalist, he has worked at The New Republic, Talking Points Memo, American Theater Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and ESPN. He lives in Brooklyn.
Richard Wesley was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at Howard University. His work has been produced on stage and for screen and television. He has received the Drama Desk Award, the NAACP Image Award, the AUDELCO Award and the Castillo Award for his work in political theater. He is the author of the recently published book It’s Always Loud in the Balcony: A Life in Black Theater, from Harlem to Hollywood and Back (Applause Books, 2019). An associate professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, he is married to the novelist Valerie Wilson Wesley.
“Herukhuti” Sharif Williams, PhD, is a playwright, stage director, documentary filmmaker, sexologist, and cultural studies scholar. His work has been performed or screened at various venues including Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Village of Arts and Humanities, and Ashé Power House Theatre. He is undergraduate professor of socially engaged art at Goddard College and adjunct associate professor in the applied theatre graduate program at the School of Professional Studies, City University of New York. www.sacredsexualities.org and www.nohomonohetero.com
Elizabeth Van Dyke is an award-winning actress and director and the cofounder and producing artistic director of Going To The River, a program that supports, provides a New York forum, helps in the development and presentation of new work, and produces the work of women playwrights of color. Van Dyke is currently doing pre-production work on What to Send Up, When It Comes Down at SUNY purchase, which will open in the Spring 2020. She has received an AUDELCO Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston and the Ace & Gold Award for Love to All, Lorraine, a solo piece based on the life of Lorraine Hansberry.
Van Dyke serves on the Board of Directors of New Federal Theatre and is a newly elected Board member for The League of Professional Theatre Women.
Shay Youngblood is a writer, visual artist, teacher, and mentor. The author of several novels, collections of short stories and numerous essays, her published plays have been widely produced. Her short stories have been performed at Symphony Space and recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Youngblood received her MFA in playwriting from Brown University. Her current projects include children’s books, a graphic novel, and multimedia performance installation work on architecture, memory, and the environment inspired by research in Japan, China, and the United States. She is an artist board member of Yaddo Artist Colony.
(Photo Credit: Miriam Phields) www.shayyoungblood.com