Whether you want to dive deep into a Netflix series, join an August Wilson book club, or learn about writing from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, we’ve got 10 things for you to watch, read and listen to from Black artists and community members. While most of these videos, essays, podcasts and groups focus on Black representation and experience in the arts, some are more general and focus on the political and societal injustices of Black people in America with ways that you can learn more.
Black Representation in the Arts
Seattle Opera hosts this community conversation that explores questions like: How does the storytelling change when Black creators and artistic leaders are the ones making decisions behind the scenes? How can companies help to undo harm, create a more diverse pipeline of talent, implement more race-affirming performance practices, and ultimately, enable the decolonization of these historically white-dominated art forms?
The conversation is led by Seattle Opera Scholar in Residence Naomi André, professor at the University of Michigan and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement. Speakers include Theresa Ruth Howard, formerly of Dance Theatre of Harlem and founder and curator of the Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, and Bridgette A. Wimberly, award-winning poet, playwright and librettist of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.
Watch on YouTube.
Much Ado About Nothing
This interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features an all-Black cast including Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black, Broadway’s The Color Purple) and Grantham Coleman (Buzzer, The Americans) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (American Son, A Raisin in the Sun) directs with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (Choir Boy).
Watch on PBS through June 7.
‘When They See Us’ & Study Guide
When They See Us is a miniseries that tells the true story of New York’s Exonerated Five. In 1989, five teenagers of color were wrongfully arrested, charged and incarcerated with the crime of rape and murder. The miniseries explores the institutional racism, coercion and injustice these boys and their families faced. Watch the miniseries and use the study guide to challenge yourself to think deeply and self-reflectively about systemic injustice and how you can take action.
“My goal when making When They See Us was to create a project that could be a catalyst for conversation and change. Entertainment serves many purposes and the mission was to create something that might move us into action while challenging us to evaluate why we believe what we believe.”Ava DuVernay, filmmaker
‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Reading Group
As part of American Conservatory Theater’s Meads Reads book club for plays, Director of Dramaturgy and New Work Joy Meads hosts a lively conversation surrounding a rich dramatic text. After reading the same play, the group will gather on Zoom to explore its layers of meaning. Each play comes with a suggestion for dinner from a local restaurant and/or a drink recipe from a local mixologist, and A.C.T. will partner with small publishers, local booksellers and individual playwrights to make scripts available.
The upcoming play for the reading group is August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This 1982 play is part of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle and is set in 1920s Chicago (the only one of the 10 plays to take place outside Pittsburgh). The play deals with the racial exploitation of a Black blues singer by her white manager and record company owner.
Register here for the book club meeting on June 25.
Black Women’s Leadership in the Opera: A Century in the Making
An essay by Whitney French discussing the opera Treemonisha. Before COVID-19 forced a cancellation, Stanford Live was preparing to present the world premiere of Treemonisha, a reimagined version of the 1911 opera by Scott Joplin, which was the first opera written about life post-slavery by a Black person. French’s essay explores the modernizing of the original source material by a predominantly Black, female creative team.
“[My hope is] that they would be inspired by Treemonisha. This idea of self-realization, self-actualization, and courage keeps us inspired and lifted. I feel passionately that this story can capture those common human aspirations.”Jessie Montgomery, co-arranger
Read on Stanford Live’s website.
I am Wole, I am Heiner: For a Fully Realized Representation of Brown Artists on Stage
In this essay, Sadie Berlin, a theatre and performance artist, questions assumptions projected upon marginalized voices, including the performance of oppression and the obligation to chronicle social disease. This essay is one of five-part series, Beyond the Western Canon, in which writers and theatre artists look beyond the “Western Canon.” Artists image how we can create more inclusive future canons of work and challenge current dominant views and structures in theatre and plays.
“The margin is where live our fears, disgust, neglect, ignorance, intolerance, our deepest desires. In those hidden parts live the marginalized and we as a society cannot progress without focus on margins.”-Sadie Berlin, theatre and performance artist
Read the essay on HowlRound.
Daughters of Lorraine
This podcast is hosted by two doctoral theatre students, Jordan Ealey and Leticia Ridley. The podcast features reviews of Black theatre productions (mainly in the DC/Baltimore area), current national conversations around, within, and about Black theatre, academic discussions concerning Black theatre, recommendations on Black theatre scripts, and interviews with Black theatre artists. This podcast centers and privileges the narratives of Black theatremakers, scholars and audiences while also underscoring the need for understanding the influence of Black theatre on the American theatre landscape.
Black Theatre Matters
Black Theatre Matters is a bi-weekly podcast covering the plays, people, and topics of importance to Black Theatre. Every other week they will explore stories that support, celebrate and highlight the achievements and issues of Black Theatre artists in the U.S. and throughout the diaspora. Hosted by Plowshare Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director Gary Anderson, Black Theatre Matters is about the intersection of culture, politics, and Blackness.
The most recent episode, “The New Normal” touches on the effect COVID-19 has and will continue to have on Black theatre artists.
Know Your Vote: What is Democracy in America?
In partnership with MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry), Northwest African American Museum invites you to join a virtual dialogue on the topic of democracy in the United States. Moderator, Moni Tep and guest, Gennette Cordova—writer and founder of the nonprofit Lorraine House—will explore the topics of voter suppression, demographics that are included and excluded from the voting process, how to sift through information on candidates, and personal reflections on their participation/non-participation, plus the historical significance of those choices. Tune in to the dialogue and participate by submitting your own questions in Zoom.
Register here for the Zoom meeting on June 6.
Suzan-Lori Parks’ Watch Me Work
The Public Theater presents Watch Me Work, a masterclass with playwright Suzan-Lori Parks,livestreamed on HowlRound TV along with a Zoom session that the public can register for. The class is one hour, in which the first 20 minutes Parks and Zoom attendants will work on their writing. In the last 40 minutes, Parks will answer questions from attendants about being a writer and her process.
Register here for the Zoom class on June 3.
Register here for the Zoom class on June 4.
Watch the livestream on HowlRound TV.