Recommended by Tracy Held

  • Planted
    7 Jun. 2020
    Jelks' "Planted" is a provocative reinterpretation of Hans Christian Anderson's "Thumbelina," with a focus on a Black teenage basketball player who struggles to reconcile life with an unwanted child. This fanciful piece portrayed by feisty, hardheaded, and vulnerable teens is engaging, imaginative, and invites us into lives we don't often see on stage. Juxtaposing Gestine's journey to becoming a reluctant mother with Thumbelina's mother, who begged a witch to help her get a child, is a powerful statement on privilege and the complex ways that motherhood begets joy as well as strife.
  • Detained
    3 Jun. 2020
    In this urgent and essential piece, Benson shares the stories of long time, undocumented US residents who are deported with no consideration for their contributions to this country, their families, or even their health and safety ... this story suggests that the health and safety of undocumented immigrants is unimportant except as a tool to motivate their voluntary departure from the country. This piece powerfully weaves the experiences of detainees, their families, and the various government workers and activists who stand at the center of their stories. This piece must be widely read and produced.
  • Showtime Blues
    31 May. 2020
    "Showtime Blues" is a relatable piece with engaging characters who share an experience and conversation that is particularly relevant today. The play starts with a joyful energy, abruptly bumps into a racially-charged incident, and then expands outward into reflections of larger society. "We might be moving targets, but don’t mean we can’t be still," is a powerful line that speaks to the choices that people can make about how they live their lives amidst oppression.
  • Taciturn Beings
    31 May. 2020
    I was privileged to participate in The Vagrancy's developmental commission of this piece, and I was impressed by Baker's ability to infuse lyrical language in this powerful story of processing historic violence against black women. It was especially powerful to listen to the talk-back session afterwards and to hear audience member after audience member express gratitude for this story which pierced an emotional experience that was palpable and yet unaddressed until Baker shared it with us. Highly recommend.
  • Vol. 1, A Post Racial America
    31 May. 2020
    Durham's pieces evoke a genuine reflection of the world that explores economic and racial disparities, particularly through the lens of the African American experience. He invites audiences in with humor, engaging characters, and stories that feel familiar, even when they're stretched into extreme versions of themselves. In this play, Durham presents monologues and vignettes about racism against black people, weaving historical figures and situations with surreal modern scenes. This play is particularly powerful as we face an onslaught of anti-black rhetoric and action from police and our own president. Durham's work is accessible and memorable.
  • Of Serpents & Sea Spray
    13 Jun. 2018
    I was able to watch Custom Made Theatre's production of "Serpents & Sea Spray" and was delighted to see how much of Rachel's diverse writing strengths poured into this highly theatrical play. Both boldly imaginative and adventurous and internally harrowing, this story follows a little girl as she navigates a scary world.
  • The Snake God of Fiji (A Hedda Gabler Prequel)
    13 Jun. 2018
    This historical fiction piece is a delightful read, full of clever word play and shenanigans, and leads to a beautiful and haunting conclusion. Vondy's exploration of relationships in this play tugs at the ways in which we may focus on what we want instead of what is.
  • A Driving Beat
    3 Feb. 2018
    I had an opportunity to hear Jordan's play "A Driving Beat" at the HBMG Foundation's National Winter Playwrights Retreat, and I was impressed with her willingness to take on a story with such complex and nuanced social themes. The relationship between the mom and her adopted son is intimate and touching, and this family's journey is fraught with questions about identity for themselves, to each other, and as members of a larger society that views them in a certain way. I'm excited to see this piece grow and make its way to the stage.
  • Lipstick
    16 Jan. 2018
    I got to hear this hilarious play at the HBMG Foundation's National Winter Playwrights Retreat and was blown away by the humor and the authenticity of the characters. Although written as a comedy, the play offers a thoughtful and accessible exploration of what it means to understand one's sexual identity. I can't wait to see a full production of this ridiculously delightful play.
  • Bright Shining Sea
    10 Jan. 2018
    I got to see the original 10-minute version of this play at Monday Night PlayGround in LA and was delighted to read the expanded full length version as other characters and stories have filled out the world. Jigour's writing is thoughtful and vibrant, and the images that often come to my mind when I think of her work are of perfect, sparkling diamonds rising above a mine of coals. I highly recommend all of her incisive and poetic work.

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