NEC's Year Of The Woman 2015 Reading Series
April 8th — April 12th
About Ntozake Shange, Playwright
Ntozake Shange is a renowned poet, playwright, novelist, and performance artist. Her groundbreaking work, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, based on the contemporary experience of black women, reputation as a powerful American feminist and literary figure. Her style is distinctive and idiosyncratic. As a writer, she does not want her readers to have control over the reading process. She once said that that she hoped her readers would struggle to understand her meaning. She writes what she hears in her mind, revealing the “music beneath the words.”
In the New York Times Mel Gussow wrote, “Miss Shange [is] a pioneer in terms of her subject matter: the fury of black women at their double subjugation in white male America.” Critic Edith Oliver wrote about the experience of watching for colored girls… in The New Yorker: “The evening grows in dramatic power, encompassing, it seems, every feeling and experience a woman has ever had; strong and funny, it is entirely free of the rasping earnestness of most projects of this sort. The verses and monologues that constitute the program have been very well chosen—contrasting in mood yet always subtly building.” Shange continued to write for the theater throughout the 1970s. Her plays from this time include A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977), Spell No. 7(1979) and Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979), all of which garnered critical acclaim. In 1991, she published another celebrated choreopoem called The Love Space Demands. It focused on the sexuality of black women and their complicated relationships with black men.
Shange has also written poetry and several novels. Her published collections of poetry include: From Okra to Greens (1984); A Daughter’s Geography (1983); Three Pieces (1981), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Nappy Edges(1978); and Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions (1977). She wrote the novels Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo (1982) and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1995). In her ecstatic review of Nappy Edges, critic Harriet Gilbert gushed, “Nothing that Shange writes is ever entirely unreadable, springing, as it does, from such an intense honesty, from so fresh an awareness of the beauty of sound and of vision, from such mastery of words, from such compassion, humor and intelligence.”Rounding out her achievements in playwriting, poetry, and novels, Shange has also written numerous essays about the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups as well as sharing her opinions on art, feminism, and music. She has also written four children’s books.
Ifa Bayeza, Developer/Director
Ifa Bayeza’s works for theatre include Homer G & the Rhapsodies in the Fall of Detroit, for which she won a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, Welcome to Wandaland, Kid Zero, and the novel, Some Sing, Some Cry, co-authored with her sister Ntozake Shange. Her drama, The Ballad of Emmett Till, awarded a Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference fellowship, received its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and garnered the 2008 Edgar Award for Best Play while the Fountain Theatre West Coast premiere in Los Angeles received the 2010 Backstage Garland Award for Best Playwriting. The Harvard graduate and Rhode Island State Council for the Arts 2014 Artist Fellow is Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and Senior Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University, where her acclaimed historic drama, Amistad Voices, will unveil Commencement Week, May 19-23, 2015. Directed by Carl Hancock Rux, the multimedia production will feature the Marian Anderson String Quartet. Bayeza was the original dramaturg and set designer for the landmark New Federal Theatre and Public Theater productions of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls… She made her debut as a director at the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival with her own musical Charleston Olio, which featured TONY Award-winner Phylicia Rashad and OBIE Award-winner Hattie Winston.
Florene “Flo” Wiley, Moderator
Florene “Flo” Wiley is the Executive Producer and host of Black Beat New York: The Flo Wiley Show which broadcasts live & online every Thursday at 6pm on WHCR-90.3 FM, Harlem Community Radio. She also lists among her credits: Producer since 2008 of the Harlem Arts Alliance Artz Rootz and Rhythm series, Director of Marketing & Communications for the world famous Apollo Theater, PR Manager for the Opening Week of the Dwyer Cultural Center , PR & Media Manager for the Harlem Arts Alliance, and co-host of the 2007 AUDELCO Black Theatre Awards. She received an AUDELCO Award for Best Supporting Actress (1978, Sandra Lane, Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center) and has performed at Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre, the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, and the Manhattan Theatre Club. Her theatre training includes acting workshops with Dick Anthony Williams (New Federal Theater), Hal DeWindt (Negro Ensemble Company) and Duane Jones ( Richard Allen Center for Culture & Art). Flo has directed her own productions at Mills College ( Oakland CA ), the Julia Morgan Theatre ( Berkeley CA ), Memorial Baptist Church ( Harlem NY ) and was producer of the 1978 & 1979 AUDELCO Awards at the Symphony Space Theatre. She has a B.A. in Speech/Drama from California State University at Hayward (1970) and has been an acting teacher since 1977, is a charter member of the Harlem Arts Alliance, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. ( Rho , 1967). During her past seven years of live broadcasts on WHCR-FM, she has been privileged to include among her many interviews the late Ossie Davis, Oscar Brown Jr. and Barbara Ann Teer, Spike Lee, Geoffrey Holder, Melba Moore, Leslie Uggams, Woodie King Jr., Nona Hendryx and Martha Reeves. She is currently presenting a series of workshops on Media & Marketing for arts organizations, social service agencies and small businesses. A native of Little Rock AR , Ms. Wiley grew up in Oakland CA and has lived in Lagos , Nigeria , Chicago IL , and New York City , where she currently resides in Harlem.