Home World Evanston playwright’s fest showcases African American stories

Evanston playwright’s fest showcases African American stories

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Three new plays by Chicago-based African American playwrights will have staged readings at Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s first Gloria Bond Clunie Playwright’s Festival June 1-2 in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston. The festival honors playwright Clunie, founder of Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre.

“We didn’t have too many thematic guidelines for submissions,” said Festival Producer Eileen Tull. The main criteria, she noted was that “the plays should speak to Fleetwood-Jourdain’s mission, which is to uplift African American stories and stories of the African diaspora.”

The competition was open to all races.

Tull chose a committee of a dozen readers from a variety of backgrounds to review the 60-plus submissions. “Our reading committee was not given any indication of who the playwrights were,” Tull noted. “The reading committee was looking at the work itself.”

Tull noted that each of the selected plays is different in terms of the form and content.

Playwright Jessica Posey’s “Boring Black Play” will have a staged reading on June 1 at the Gloria Bond Clunie Playwright’s Festival by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston. (Jessica Posey)

“Boring Black Play” by Jessica Posey will be staged at 4 p.m. on June 1. Tull described it as “this really lovely kind of metatheatrical deconstruction of romantic comedies. It’s commenting on the storytelling that it’s telling.”

“I found that my most successful plays when I was in college were about black trauma,” Posey said. “Talking to other playwright friends and seeing the type of Black art that gets celebrated — this is all trauma.”

Posey was determined to go in another direction and write a rom-com.

“I’m challenging the notion that a Black play has to feature some kind of issue to be interesting,” she said.

“Boring Black Play” is about a young Black writer named Jade who struggles to write a story that feels right to her.

“This play is ultimately about Jade and her love life and realizing that she is good enough for love,” Posey said. She has to deal with criticism from white voices in her head.

The playwright chose the title because she decided, “People may think it’s boring.”

Posey wrote the play when she was in college. When her professor told her, “This play isn’t interesting,” Posey said she decided, “Nail on the head!” The 25-year-old playwright added, “If you see this play saying it’s boring, you may be racist.”

At 7:30 p.m. June 1, the festival will stage “Inheritance-or-Brothers from the Deep” by Michael Jones.

Tull related the work to Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” “It’s a two-hander on a boat and it has a lot of energy between these two characters,” she said.

“I really hate how whenever there are these really gripping Black dramas they have to do with the police and slavery,” Jones said. “I just wanted a family drama about ‘Why my dad don’t love me’ like white people get to have.”

Jones described his play as “very quiet, very slow. It’s very strange. Two brothers are going fishing. They’re talking about their past; the pain their father has left with them. Things are kind of beneath the surface. Two guys just trying to connect.”

Jones has only been writing plays since 2022. His “Party at the Pantheon: A Greek Stoner Comedy” was produced in February by The Factory Theater where he is an ensemble member.

“I think that the Fleetwood-Jourdain is going to be a really nice home for this strange little piece before it goes to whoever knows where it will go next,” Jones said.

The final festival selection at 3 p.m. on June 2 is “3 Sisters Forced to Face the Sky” by Nehanda Julot.

“It’s a reinterpretation of ‘Three Sisters’ by Chekhov,” Tull said. “It’s placed in a post-earthquake Haiti.”

“It was my form of therapy,” Julot said of writing this play. “I am first generation, born in the U.S. to parents from Haiti. This was three years after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. I remember at the time sleeping on my couch for quite some time because I felt guilty sleeping in my bed.”

The playwright wondered how people cope three years after a tragedy like that. She based her “Three Sisters” adaptation on an adaptation of that Chekhov work by an author from Trinidad, placing it in the country of her parents.

It’s about questioning “How do we trust this earth that completely shook us and ravished our country,” Julot explained. “Can we go outside? Can we face the sky again?”

An earlier play by Julot, “Unhappily Content to the Power of Five,” was performed at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London.

The Evanston native, who has lived in the southwest suburbs, New York, and London, and is living in Evanston again, said that having her play in this Fleetwood-Jourdain festival makes her realize, “How life brings you back full circle. It means a lot to me because I’ve seen the work that they do.”

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

Gloria Bond Clunie Playwright’s Festival

When: June 1-2

Where: Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston

Tickets: $15 Saturday; $10 Sunday

Information: 847-866-5914; fjtheatre.com



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