For the founders of the Fire This Time Festival, the answer to what constitutes Black theater is simple: “Any play written by a Black playwright is a Black expression, even if its about two white people in love.” This motto, adopted early by the festival’s founding playwrights, serves as a guiding principle for the program, which provides a platform for early career playwrights of African and African-American descent.
Now in its 11th iteration, the Fire This Time Festival, kicks off this Thursday at the East Village’s Kraine Theater, continuing its signature format built entirely from 10-minute plays. The works included in this year’s line-up represent world premieres from playwrights Cyrus Aaron, Niccolo Aeed, Natyna Bean, Tyler English-Beckwith, Jay Mazyck, Deneen Reynolds-Knott and Mario (Mars) Wolfe. Presented in collaboration with Frigid New York, the multi-day stagings, running through Feb. 2, are all directed by Ebony Noelle Golden and performed by a company of eight actors.
Since it was founded by playwright Kelley Nicole Girod in 2009, the festival has served as both a launching pad for playwrights and a pipeline for actors, directors and technical personnel. In addition to the 10-minute play program, the festival has in recent years expanded to include a reading series for festival alumni and a panel discussion. A sign of the momentum gathered by the organization, the producing team behind the festival has also grown to allow for, according to the festival, a greater focus on sustainability.
“Our track-record of identifying playwrights and presenting plays in developmental stages that have gone on to successful Off-Broadway, regional and international productions speaks for itself; and building upon the strides we have accomplished together for our playwrights and our community require my laser focused attention as executive director and executive producer,” said Girod in a statement. “Development and sustainability with a concentration on fundraising will ensure the work of our next-gen playwrights can count on the Fire This Time Festival as a secure launching pad for their careers and artistic advancement.”
Learn more about last year’s productions and how the festival was founded in the video above. For more information about this year’s productions and ticket information, click here.
Top Image: The Fire This Time 2020 playwrights