Meet the 2021 ReImagine Finalists
We would like to celebrate and highlight these eight finalists, who have proven that there is a robust universe of BIPOC writers whose works are just waiting to be developed and produced. We encourage you to read about their projects and reach out to them or to us at email@example.com if you would like to make a connection!
Shoyu Tell by Sam Hamashima is a bite-size TYA piece looking at a young student’s decision to bring “family food” to “school lunch”. Lucas, an eight-year-old wallflower, must make the difficult choice: bring sandwiches from now on to avoid attention, or eating what he wants and getting questions. With help from a magical cat and an ancestor from the spirit world, Lucas proves to everyone that to be brave is to be yourself. Mixing the Japanese word for soy-sauce and the elementary school “show and tell” activity, Shoyu Tell uses food as an entryway for appreciating the variations of what an American can be and celebrating the differences that make us us and make you you.
Sam Hamashima (them+) is a writer based in unceded Lenape Land known as New York City. Hamashima passionately wields theater and writing for empowerment, change, and intergenerational healing. Produced and/or developed by John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Queer Theater, Lyric Stage of Boston, and Seattle Public Theater among others. Hamashima’s Shoyu Tell is commissioned by Lexington Children’s Theatre and will premiere in the Fall of 2021. BFA Musical Theatre, University of Michigan. samhamashima.com
Only One Day A Year by Michelle Tyrene Johnson During the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, it was perfectly legal for Kansas City, Missouri’s most popular amusement park to limit admission to blacks to only one day a year. In this play, we see teenage Rose James, in the early 1960s, use smarts, determination, and a little bit of magic to try to defeat this policy, plus fight to grant her little brother’s wish of getting to ride the Fairyland Park rollercoaster on his actual birthday. In contemporary times, we see Rose’s teenage granddaughter Ella use her spirited nature, talent, and inherited magic to stand up to bullies at the school administration level. Written by Michelle Tyrene Johnson, the play offers the invitation to see how, regardless of time or outcome, discrimination can be battled by tapping into love, a sense of empowerment, and actual black girl magic.
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a public radio journalist and author from the Kansas City, Missouri area who now lives in Louisville, Kentucky. As a playwright, Johnson’s plays have been staged nationally. Several of her plays, such as Wiccans in the Hood, The Negro Whisperer, Trading Races: From Rodney King to Paula Deen, Echoes of Octavia, and The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip have been in New York City festivals and readings.
Hero: The Boy from Troy by Nambi E. Kelley (playwright) and Joe Plummer (music and lyrics) HERO: The Boy From Troy, a new musical about the life of Congressmen John Lewis, commissioned by Pittsburgh CLO, is currently in development to tour in the spring of 2022 as part of PCLO’s “Gallery of Heroes” annual spring tour for young audiences. This is the next collaboration between Nambi E. Kelley (playwright, lyrics), and Joe Plummer (music, lyrics), following the success of their TYA show, Jabari Dreams of Freedom. In this musical, we meet John Lewis as a teenager, navigating discovering his purpose with the help of Rosa Parks, Dr. King, Mae West, and a gang of singing chickens. We get to know the man who both made the rules and knew when to break the rules.
Nambi E. Kelley, award-winning actress/playwright is currently in residence at New Victory Theatre in NYC . Her adaptation of RichardWright’s Native Son has been seen across the country and premiered off-Broadway in 2019. Former playwright-in-residence at the National Black Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, and Dramatists Guild Fellow, and recipient of the 2020 NNPN annual commission. Nambi’s production company, First Woman Inc, is currently producing a digital and national tour of Nambi’s young audiences’ play, Jabari Dreams of Freedom. Nambi is in development with several other film and TV projects.
Joe Plummer’s premiere production, Get Ready, has been produced by Victory Gardens Theatre, ETA Theatre, The EnsembleTheatre, and Penumbra Theatre. I Got’cha: The Story Of Joe Tex And The Soul Clan, co-written by David Barr III (two Black Excellence Awards, 11 Onyx Awards). Joe’s musical Vee Jay Records, co-written with Sanetta Gipson, had its first reading at The Chicago Dramatists. A film version is being produced by and stars Oscar nominee Viola Davis.
Lerato and Her Drum by LeeAnet Noble and Lauretta Malloy The Norwoods have decided to adventure into the unique world of homeschooling their children; Lerato, a shy twelve-year-old girl who suffers from anxiety, and her little brother. The parents soon learn this task is too much for them to handle and enlist the help of Gogo, the childrens’ South African Grandmother. Gogo teaches the children life lessons that captivate their imagination through music. Unhappy with Gogo’s methods of teaching Thando, the mother of the family steps in. Gogo gives Lerato a very special Djembe drum. Though Thando forbids her to play and her brother taunts her, Lerato cannot resist its power. She soon discovers the djembe can speak to her through rhythms and is taken on a magical music-filled journey. While on this journey the rhythms guide her through her culture from America to South Africa and the history of the drum. She continues to play behind her mothers’ back which divides their family. The drum reveals family secrets and biased traditions that help Lerato see her mother and herself in a new light. Music, dance, technology, and storytelling guide this musical journey through culture, family, love, and inclusivity.
LeeAnet Noble and Lauretta Malloy are an internationally critically acclaimed mother-daughter duo who have experienced eclectic careers in entertainment. Both from Howard University made headlines worldwide and caused a shift in the fashion industry, Co-Directing Rick Owens historical SS14 Paris Fashion Week show. As an actor, director, educator, musician, choreographer, and creative writer, LeeAnet, has worked with Disney Theatricals, Bravo TV, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and was mentored by Emmy-winning director and producer, Charles S. Dutton. As a writer, producer, musician, and vocalist Lauretta has worked with The National Symphony Orchestra, Queen Latifah, Earth Wind and Fire, and BET. Their work has been seen at The Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Stade de Bercy, 54Below, and more and inducted into ten major museums. They are passionate about sharing stories that enrich, enlighten, and entertain people of all ages.
Ocean Uprising by Joshua Rashon Streeter is a non-verbal play for the very young. The play will utilize two different forms – tabletop theatre and object puppetry. Working in an isolated, small-scale space, we will tell an epic story in a miniature world. This story tracks the cranes that drink from the ocean. Pollution of the water is beautiful at first until the cranes slowly disappear one by one. The humans are only illustrated through their destruction. This includes creating the world above and below the sea using found materials that will be manipulated and transformed by the performers. In performance, the piece will use a large aquarium (such as a 20-gallon fish tank). A large aquarium sits on a platform for performers to efficiently work behind and in front of (the sea). At the bottom of the aquarium, a fishing net cascades down onto the floor (the sand). The cast features three performers interested in movement and puppetry (any gender or race) and a live musician (any gender or race). Consultation with a puppet designer would be ideal. This piece is in the early stages of development and would be best served by several workshops or a residency.
Joshua Rashon Streeter is a drama/theatre educator, director, and dramaturg. His teaching focuses on pre-service and in-service education in K-12 schools, drama and theatre education, Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), and Theatre for the Very Young (TVY). As a theatre-maker, Joshua loves to make work that is aesthetically and narratively driven – playing with light, objects, movement, and music. In Fall 2021, Joshua will be joining the faculty at Emerson College. joshuarashonstreeter.com
Crowned by Nikki Toombs Eighth grade honor student, Jamilah Osei, is excited to make the pageant court for the first time at W.H. Council Middle School. Her excitement is short-lived as she discovers that her natural crown (her hair) may be the true reason she doesn’t get the coveted crown. After an unfortunate incident leads Jamilah, her friend Haley, and their enemy Elisa, on a journey of self-discovery, the hope is that they each realize that they, similar to the gems found in a crown, have value – not just to each other but to the world.
Many young girls of color have a challenge understanding what they can potentially be because they don’t see themselves in the world. They are also often encouraged to shrink themselves by denouncing their identity. Racial discrimination is a real thing and the fact that it permeates beyond skin color and moves to hair discrimination is disheartening and prevalent. We, as a society have to cut all forms of discrimination down at the root. This play finds a humorous, musical and vibrantly cultural way to demonstrate Black joy and pride. Based on the Crown Act: www.thecrownact.com
Nikki Toombs is a notable American playwright, director, actress, and producer who hails from the “Magic City” of Birmingham, Alabama. She has authored eight plays, has directed 40+ productions, and is a nationally commissioned presenter and curriculum specialist. Her innovative approach, artistic impact, and undeniable connection with youth in the arts have earned her national recognition. Currently, she proudly serves as the Director of Education at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia.
Akira & The Merpeople by Claire Tran (book and lyrics) and Teresa Lotz (music) Akira is a rebellious teenager, with a punk band, who believes she is supposed to be a merperson. Her mother, Huệ, a Vietnamese refugee who came as a “boat person,” is keeping Akira from the ocean, out of her own fear. At night, the liberated merpeople call out to teenagers to come back to their true selves, their mer-selves. This is a musical for those who are struggling to be their true selves, who know deep down they are magical, and believe another world is possible. This is a story about coming of age, generational divides, breaking through binary-thinking, immigration, refugeeism, and pushing past the boundaries of what exists to create something new.
Claire Tran: Jonathan Larson Finalist 2020. Akira & the Merpeople, with composer Teresa Lotz (Polyphone Festival, Musical Theater Factory’s 4×15, THEatre ACCELERATOR), Livin’ the Dreamboat (Astoria Center for the Performing Arts), Grandma Kim vs. America (HERE Arts Center Theater), and Oh Soy (Bella Concert Hall in Calgary and the Duplex Theatre). Steel Cutter, screenplay, Winner, Fresh Voices, Semi-Finalist, CineStory and WeScreenplay. Steel Cutter, play, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference Finalist 2017. clairetran.net
Teresa Lotz’s work includes She Calls Me Firefly (2019 New York Innovative Theater Award Winner Best Original Short Script); Akira & TheMerpeople (Polyphone Festival 2020); Red Emma & the Mad Monk (NY Times Critic’s Pick); ThreeTimesFast (Florida Festival of New Musicals 2019, O’Neill Theater Festival Semi-Finalist); The Awakening (MTF Developmental Series at Playwright’s Horizons 2016). New Perspectives Theatre Company Women’s Work Lab; 2020 Finalist for the Jonathan Larson Grant. Dramatist’s Guild, ASCAP, Musical Theater Writing, M.F.A. NYU. TeresaLotz.com
Tent City by Shay Youngblood is an environmental fable about home security, the interdependence of humans on the land and all living things, set in Atlanta during the spring of the pandemic of 2020. Justine, a 16 year old African American girl, living a middle class life with a sense of some entitlement, suddenly finds herself living in a new city, in a tent, in the back yard of an abandoned house. When her father loses his business, he reluctantly travels to the Dakotas to find work as an engineer on a controversial fracking site and her mother soon follows leaving Justine mostly on her own. During visits to the library Justine reads and watches documentaries, about animals losing their homes to forest fires, polar bears losing their home to global warming, birds losing their home to air pollution and whales losing their homes and their lives to plastic pollution in the ocean. One night Justine discovers that she can exit her tent into portals that open onto environments where the lives of animals and delicate eco- systems are being threatened. Justine joins a passionate environmental justice movement, working towards home security for every living being.
An excerpt of this play was recently produced virtually by Horizon Theater in Atlanta. Click here to watch! (Tent Cities begins at 30:49)
Shay Youngblood is an Atlanta based writer, visual artist, and educator. Author of novels including Black Girl in Paris, short stories and essays, her published plays have been widely produced and her short stories have been performed at Symphony Space and recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Her current projects include children’s books, a super hero graphic novel and an interdisciplinary performance installation inspired by research in Japan, China and the U.S. www.shayyoungblood.com
Click here to read about our 2021 ReImagine grantees!