The Downtown Urban Arts Festival Begins Wednesday, June 7 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 02:06 pm EDT 05/18/23






(New York, NY) - The DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL (DUAF), today announced that its 21st season of presenting new works spotlighting contemporary urban culture, begins on Wednesday, June 7th when Tony Award Winner Savion Glover and Tony Award and Grammy Award Nominee Reg E. Gaines come together for a conversation about theater and their Tony Winning Bring in da Noise Bring in da Funk musical. The annual multi-disciplinary arts event held each spring at renowned New York venues presents groundbreaking performances and storytelling from America’s burgeoning multicultural landscape, sharing stories that interpret our history and current times. The festival will present 16 plays (nine shorts and seven one-acts.) The festival runs Wednesday, June 7th – Saturday, June 24th at The Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 42nd Street). Tickets are now on sale, and further information is available at duafnyc.com

The 2023 DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL features new works by playwrights from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, and California – all presenting issues that have either woven (or in some cases insidiously penetrated) their way into the daily lives of Americans and our collective American experience. These short plays tackle subject matter that a vast majority of the people around us are currently confronted by or grappling with:

- the impact of unexpected deaths and reflection on human existence

- deeper conversations on religion and colonization

- mental health as it pertains to the perception of weakness and depression amongst young black and brown men

- neo-fascist takeover of public-school boards and resulting book bans

- a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and how many believe they must behave in order to be the model minority

- a conjunction of police brutality, systematic racism, moderate politics, and overt ignorance and the conversations we need to have around them.

- an untrusting and uncomfortable interaction between an ICE officer and a detained immigrant separated from her young son – all of whom are Latino

- a dementia diagnosis that leads one man’s boyfriend to dump him

- a young couple’s third date forces them to consider what their role is in another person’s mental health

- a rooftop conversation between two young black housemates bonding over their urban trials and tribulations morphs into a modern retelling of the story of the Buddha and his connection to their struggles. The seed of the conversation is hope for freedom from the cyclical constrictions of their environment

- subtle and passive racism that exists in the workplace - and how many don’t speak up amidst micro aggressions, offensive moments, or when they feel outright slighted so that they can stay in good graces with their colleagues or keep their job

Over the past 20 years, DUAF has presented nearly 300 new plays by over 200 emerging and established playwrights including Dominique Morisseau, Martyna Majok, Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Carl Hancock Rux, Craig MuMs Grant, and Ming Peiffer.

In 2001, the theater program at DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL was founded with the purpose to build a repertoire of new American theater that echoes the true spirit of urban life and speaks to a whole new generation whose lives defy categorizing along conventional lines. That purpose has been realized many times over, as more than 200 writers have created and refined their work for the stage and thousands of inspired audience members have applauded their performances. It has been recognized as "one of the world's best festivals for new works" and described as "not only prestigious, but a slice of heaven for playwrights who want the chance to freely express themselves." (Lisa Mulcahy, Theater Festivals, Allworth Press, 2005). DUAF works have been presented at venues including Cherry Lane, HERE, Joe’s Pub, Abrons Arts Center, Wild Project and Nuyorican Poets Café.

Creative. Vibrant. Passionate. These words aptly describe the past performances, as well as the future direction of DUAF. Its founding program is its Theater series, formerly known as Downtown Urban Theater Festival/DUTF, which was created in 2001 with the purpose to build a repertoire of new American theater that echoes the true spirit of urban life and speaks to a whole new generation whose lives defy categorizing along conventional lines. That purpose has been realized many times over, as 200 writers have created and refined their work for the stage and thousands of inspired audience members have applauded their performances. Theater was inaugurated in 2002 at the HERE Arts Center in SoHo to help revitalize the NYC downtown arts scene, which was experiencing a severe downturn due to the WTC disaster. Theater has been recognized as “one of the world’s best festivals for new works” and described as “not only prestigious, but a slice of heaven for playwrights who want the chance to freely express themselves.” (Lisa Mulcahy, Theater Festivals, Allworth Press, 2005)

The Full 2023 DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL lineup is as follows:

The Bad in Each Other (70 mins)
by Alexander Perez

What begins as a hot fling between Karma, the ultimate artist badass we all wish we could be, and Felix, the soft, privileged soyboy most of us are, evolves into a years-long passionate tug-of-war that consumes both parties as they struggle to reconcile their ideologies, lust, and exhaustion. What is creative success but a means to betray your ideals- What is activism if not a means to apologize for privilege- Can’t we just stay home and watch tv-

Alexander Perez (New York)

Why did I write this play: “The first draft of this play spilled out of me over the course of four days in the fall of 2021 as a desperate attempt to make sense of the pointless argument I'd been having with strangers on the internet. There is no salvation in digital debate, but maybe there is in one another. Maybe”

Career Highlights: Finalist for the 2022 SETC (Southeastern Theatre Conference) Ready to Publish Award and Current member of Playground NY's 22-23 Writer’s Pool

Alexander Perez is a Cuban-American Playwright/Cartoonist/Desk Jockey/Dad making it work in the Big Apple. Since 2015 his plays have been performed in NYC, London, Chicago, and beyond! Recent productions include; Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle (Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective , A.R.T/NY. 2022), The In-Between (Pelmear Theatre, London, UK, 2022). His play Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle and The Bad in Each Other was a finalist for the 2022 SETC Ready to Publish Award. He is a current member of Playground NY's 22-23 Writer’s Pool.

Remembering Morgan (35 mins)
by Annie Brown

Remembering Morgan is a one-act about grief, remembrance, and encountering death too young. After the unexpected death of Morgan Johnson, a high school student, a journal is discovered full of letters she has written to every person she may have wanted to say goodbye to. We experience the impact that death can have on different kinds of people, and how challenging it can be to process death as a teenager. Remembering Morgan explores the undefinability of grief through heartbreak, masked emotions, and unanswered questions.

Annie Brown (New York)

Why did I write this play: “I wrote Remembering Morgan as a reflection on human existence and how to both deal with and neglect the inevitable weight of loss. Starting as a personal project, it soon grew to something much more as this story of love, loss, and pain from all perspectives is continuously amplified.”

Career Highlights: Student at The Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University

Annie Brown is a New York City based writer, director, producer, and composer originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a new work enthusiast, she has had both play and musical pieces produced across the country. Some other works of hers include Heard It From a Birdie: a Tweet-Inspired Musical, Arrivederci: The Nicholas Green Story (in development), Dear Pen Pal, as well as short works Extravagant Toast and Snapshots: a Musical In 13 Minutes. Annie is currently a student studying Theatre with a focus on writing as well as new media in the arts. She loves to share unconventional perspectives of the world through her writing and production styles.

sTrapped (68 mins)
by Bryan-Keyth Wilson and Arelia Johnson

In sTrapped, seven strangers come to the theatre expecting to see Award-Winning playwright Bryan-Keyth Wilson’s new play about gun violence, but they are told by the stage manager the performance is canceled. Tempers flare, and a mysterious, omnipresent voice begins to calm the audience down and interrogate the seven strangers who are upset. Trauma is uncovered as we learn about the seven strangers and deeper conversations on sexuality, religion, and colonization come to the surface.

Bryan-Keyth Wilson (Texas)

Creative Highlights: Founding artistic director of The Creative Co-Lab TX|NYC and author of ten plays.

Dubbed the Literary Prince, Wilson is a noted multi-hyphenate in the theatre and publishing industry. As a theatre artist/producer, diversity, equity and inclusion are at the forefront of every project he takes on. BKW started producing theatre Off-Off-Broadway at The Variety Cafe at Rockefeller Center with shows such as PAMLET and THE SUBWAY SERIES. BKW studied Musical Theatre with a Dance emphasis at Sam Houston State University. He is the founding artistic director of The Creative Co-Lab TX|NYC. BKW is a published author of three novels, ten plays, a choreopoem, and 32 monologues. Wilson is the inaugural winner of the Paterson Performing Arts & Development Council Playwright Residency Award; he received a playwright residency and a virtual showcase of his choreopoem FOR COLORED BOYZ on the verge of a nervous breakdown/ when freedom aint enuff. Wilson was the inaugural winner of the Stories of Diversity Playwright Festival at The Fulton Theatre. Wilson won three literary awards for his choreopoem FOR COLORED BOYZ, and produced a sold-out showcase Off-Broadway at Theatre Row for the Downtown Urban Arts Festival where his show won Best Audience. Wilson is developing his first comic book series, THE TALENTED TENTH, on Wilson Comics/B’s Ink Publishing. He is a five-year faculty member of The Black Writers Reunion & Conference and creator of the LIFT EV’RY VOICE International Playwright & Spoken World Virtual Festival. Wilson is a member of The Dramatist Guild.

Arelia Johnson (Texas)

Creative Highlights: Co-writer of sTrapped

Arelia Johnson is a native Houstonian, a product of Worthing High School, and a two-time graduate of Texas Southern University. She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in political science, and from 2004-2008, she was an active and award-winning member on the TSU debate team, was highly involved in the student government association- becoming the first Executive Vice President and became a member of the Nu Alpha chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated Spring 2007. She published her first book, Thick: The Ideal of Beauty, the Social Construction of Perfection, and Their Impacts on Women in 2013 and went on to complete her graduate work in the department of sociology. Arelia defended her master’s thesis: “Bound by Desire; Suppressed by Thought: An Exploration of African American Female Sexuality Through Spoken Word Poetry.” Her master’s thesis focused on how African American female poets performed and maneuvered gender and it catapulted her career in gender and sexuality. In 2013, she formed The Owned Project - a community conscious organization focused on the professional and personal development of women and girls. Her organization has grown and is now a diversity, equity, and inclusion training and development firm. In 2020, Arelia graduated from Howard University with a doctorate in sociology and criminology. Her dissertation, “The Influence of Police Policies and Practices on the Reporting of Transgender Murder Victims from 2015-2018: A Critical Content Analysis,” focused on how law enforcement agents identified transgender victims of murder. This body of research landed her a research assistant position on Mayor Turner’s Task Force on Policing Reform. Dr. Johnson worked as a public-school teacher from 2008-2019 and taught in post-secondary institutions from 2017-2020. She is a certified juvenile probation officer, is a certified basic law enforcement instructor, was a senior consultant for Good Life Outcomes, is a member of the Board of Directors for Tristar National Alliance for Sexual Health, a member on Mayor Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, and a voting member on the Harris County Race and Ethnic Equity Committee. Currently, Dr. Johnson works with Harris County Juvenile Probation Department and is the project manager for equity. In the spring, she created and implemented the first Allyship program within the agency. Additionally, Dr. Johnson is working with The Normal Anomaly and award-winning playwright, Bryan-Keyth Wilson, on a stage play based on her research focused on debunking myths about sexual practices. Dr. Johnson is currently writing an academic publication for a peer reviewed journal: “Situating Gender and Sexuality as a form of Erasure: Why I did not get the sex talk.”

The Former Kings of Clutch City (65 mins)
by Cris Eli Blak

The week after the funeral of their friend who took his own life, a group of high school students are forced to open their eyes to the hard realities of life, realizing their worths, their truth, their regrets, their dreams and the secrets that they can’t keep inside of them much longer.

Cris Eli Blak (New York)
Why I wrote this to play: “I wrote The Former Kings of Clutch City out of necessity. I wrote it for the young Black and Brown people coming up right now, especially the young men, who think that anger is a better option than healing, or that feeling hurt or depression or anxiety is a sign of weakness, when really it's a sign of humanity, and that help is possible and that there are resources for them. We have lost so many people because we do not have the conversations that this show poses, so I wrote this show not only to hopefully cultivate those conversations further, but to maybe change a mind or save a life, just like mine was saved, leading to me being able to have air in my lungs, a beating heart, and the ability to tell this story.”

Career Highlights: Winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative and artist-in-residence at The State University of New York - Oswego

Cris Eli Blak is an emerging Black playwright whose work has been produced Off-Broadway and around the country; on university stages; as well as in London, Australia, Ireland, and Canada. The winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative, he is also currently the artist-in-residence at The State University of New York - Oswego and the recipient of the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. He was a resident playwright with Fosters Theatrical Artists Residency, Paterson Performing Arts Development Council; the recipient of the Michael Bradford Residency from QuickSilver Theatre Company; and was in the inaugural class of fellows for the Black Theatre Coalition.

Chiquita (30 mins)
by James Bosley

One afternoon in a hotel room in Hollywood, the movie star Steve McQueen met with Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. They were there to discuss a movie idea. All we know about the meeting is that it was not a success. This play is a complete fabrication of that meeting, and includes two fictional members of that hotel staff.

James Bosley (New York)
Why I wrote this play: “A friend dared me to write a play about the time Jim Morrison met Steve McQueen in a hotel room to discuss a movie idea. Not my cup of tea, I thought - until I saw how to make it relevant by bringing members of the hotel staff into the room.”

Career Highlights: Residency fellowships from the Edward Albee Foundation and member of the 2018 Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab

James Bosley is a published, translated, and produced playwright and director. His plays have been produced and performed in theaters across this land and abroad, including MCC Theatre; The National Theater of Belgium at Ghent, The Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Emerging Artists Theater, and Up Theater Company in Northern Manhattan where he is a founding member. He has held residency fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and the Edward Albee Foundation. The screenplay FUN, which he adapted from his stage play, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Bosley was member of the 2018 Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab.

Good Year, Arizona (45 mins)
by Julian Sky

A community divided. A public education system in tatters. When a collection of parents orchestrate a neo-fascist takeover of a public school board, books are banned, fires are set, and only one teacher stands in the way. This fictional dark comedy, told from the confines of a prison cell, focuses in on the challenges of being an educator, the insidious threat of fascism, and one educator’s pursuit of truth and justice.

Julian Sky (New York)

Why did I write this play: “In January of 2022, a Tennessee book burning made national headlines. A year later, school districts and local governments across the country have banned dozens of titles and greatly restricted how history is being taught in public schools. It is on the heels of these current events that I felt compelled to write Good Year, Arizona.”

Career Highlights: Recipient of Teatro TEBA’s 2022 new play commission and recognized by Premio Arte Internacional as an emerging writer

Julian Sky is a Latinx writer, director, actor, and proud Queens native. He is a graduate of Emerson College where he received a BFA in Acting, and has produced for a variety of venues including Town Hall and Theater Row. Julian was the recipient of Teatro TEBA’s 2022 new play commission and was recently recognized by Premio Arte Internacional as an emerging writer. Julian is an advocate for equity in the arts and values diverse representation and previously untold stories in all of his work. He is also a screenwriter - his web series Dining In, and feature film The Rite of Appetites are both currently in development. Julian has also appeared on HBO’s Masterclass where he worked with renowned theater maker Anna Deavere Smith.

The Silver Menace (60 mins)
by Lucy Wang

Be Like Water, but don't make a big splash. Be like Smart Water. Don't Be Like John Waters. All her life, Lucy has tried to Represent! To be a Model Minority. Sit, smile, study. Practice piano. Stir-fry. Bake cookies. Whatever you do, don't make trouble. But with Anti-Asian Hate crimes spiking, it's time to make some waves. It's time to be the Silver Menace.

Lucy Wang (California)

Why I wrote this play: “Diversity is a fact, Inclusion is an Act -- A Comedy Act.”

Career Highlights: Her play JUNK BONDS won an award from the Kennedy Center and Best New Play from the Katherine and Lee Chilcote Foundation

Lucy Wang is an award-winning, produced and published writer across many topics and genres. Her play JUNK BONDS won an award from the Kennedy Center and Best New Play from the Katherine and Lee Chilcote Foundation. She most recently won Outstanding Female Artist in L.A., and will be featured in a Look What She Did! short documentary to be released spring 2020. Her short play Two Artists Trying to Pay Their Bill won an international comedy prize, and inclusion in an anthology Best Ten-Minute Plays 2020, published by Applause Books.

The Dandiest Duo (18 mins)
by Marcus Harmon

Set in an alternative reality where Donald Trump is King and racism is the norm, two brothers come face to face with their morals and dignity while on the Broadway Stage.

Marcus Harmon (New York)

Why I wrote this play: “I wrote The Dandiest Duo to shine light on the subtle and passive racism that exist in our world today within many fields. I think many people may feel the need to hide their dignity in order to stay in good graces or to keep a job. It’s necessary to talk about these realities even with a bit of humor.”

Career Highlights: 2021 City Corp NYFA and Chain Theater Play Festival Audience Award recipient

Marcus Harmon is a playwright, actor, and singer from Columbus, Ohio, now based in Brooklyn, New York. He has staged award-winning plays for the Chain Theater (20th Anniversary), NY Theater Festival (Edin), & the 2022 Off-Broadway DUAF Festival (20th Anniversary).

Collide (55 mins)
by Marita A. McKee

The city of Ascension is in turmoil after the killing of a Black teenager. A journalist, community activist, and policeman sit down for dinner. Will they find common ground- Or will their personal traumas force them to collide- Collide explores what it truly means to have a seat at the table on issues of racism, social justice, and police brutality.

Marita A. McKee (Maryland)

Why I wrote the play: “Many times in conversations regarding police brutality, social injustice, or prejudice and racism against Black Americans, these debates are often initiated and championed by Black people. I wanted to explore what this conversation might become if it included the group that, whether through moderate politics, overt ignorance, or somewhere between the two, is typically not a part of the dialogue: the white male.”

Career Highlights: BroadwayWorld Atlanta Award for Best Play and recipient of the Georgia Theatre Conference Best Featured Performer Award

Marita A. McKee is a performer and writer. Other plays include The Dreaded Truth (commissioned by Two Strikes Theatre Collective), In Passing (Glass Ceiling Breakers 3 Festival selection), Check Please , and …word to Ahmad. As a performer, her theatre credits include No Child (recipient of the Georgia Theatre Conference Best Featured Performer Award), Packing Up Polly (BroadwayWorld Atlanta Award for Best Play), and Intimate Apparel (Actor’s Express). Television and feature film appearances: Bounce TV’s “Finding Happy”, Oxygen’s “Snapped”, and a major supporting role in Brigid Turner’s We Are Family. She is the creator of the unscripted web series, Kitchens & Convos (Spring 2023), and cofounder of Bamboo Summer, a women-led production company.

Caged (15 mins)
by Mel Nieves

An illegal immigrant finds herself in a detention center holding cell, separated from her young son when a guard approaches her and tries to assure her that she and her son will be safe even though they both know this is far from being true.

Mel Nieves (New York)

Why I wrote this play: “I had read several articles about ICE agents (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) and discovered that the majority in that position were Latino, so connecting this fact with the previous administrations horrifying separation of children from their families at the border the seeds of a play were born.”

Career Highlights: Member of the LAByrinth Theater Company and The Actors Studio Playwright-Director Unit

Mel Nieves is a NYC based actor-writer-arts educator. A member of the LAByrinth Theater Company and The Actors Studio Playwright-Director Unit. His plays, "Prospect Avenue", "The Spirit, The Body & The Blood", "In Da Boogie Down" are published by Next Stage Press.

Our Little Secret (50 mins)
by Rollin Jewett

Darlene is surprised late one night by an armed intruder kicking in the door of her apartment. The police arrive soon after and surround the building, going door to door in a search for the miscreant. Darlene soon discovers that the intruder is not what he seems and a relationship develops between them. As the police close in, Darlene must decide whether to help the stranger or turn him in.

Rollin Jewett (North Carolina)

Why I wrote this play: “I wrote OUR LITTLE SECRET because I wanted to write an old-fashioned laugh out loud screwball comedy, where as the play progresses and the stakes get higher, the characters are constantly challenged to rise to the occasion and must use all their resources to overcome their obstacles and succeed. I also wanted to write a play where the female character is the main protagonist and takes charge of a situation where she begins on the defensive and ends up on the offensive by using her wits, strength and courage.”

Career Highlights: Three-time 2022 Broadway World Award nominee

Rollin Jewett is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, singer-songwriter, poet and author. Rollin is very excited to be a part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival (DUAF) again this year. His last DUAF play, Socky Tells All, was nominated for three 2022 Broadway World Awards, including Best New Off-Broadway Play. Mr. Jewett’s feature film credits include Laws of Deception and American Vampire and his poetry and stories have been published in numerous books and magazines. Many of his plays have been performed Off-Broadway and internationally.

Overdose (10 mins)
by Sarah Congress

Ted and Laila are having the BEST third date ever...until they walk into Ted's apartment to find his roommate, Mike, overdosing on Oxy. What is our role in another person's mental health-

Sarah Congress (New York)

Why I wrote this play; “I wrote Overdose to explore modern dating. In our fast-paced, wounded, post-pandemic world, what sort of baggage does one bring to a third date-”

Career Highlights: Her play A Thanksgiving to Remember was published in the anthology Borderless Thalia: A Multilingual, Pandemic Comic Collection.

Sarah Congress’s comedy KARMA will be produced this Winter in the Queen's Secret Theatre one-act play festival. Her play A Thanksgiving to Remember was published in the anthology Borderless Thalia: A Multilingual, Pandemic Comic Collection. Her play DRACULA...in DENVER! was produced in the 2022 Secret Theatre One Act Play Festival (Queens, NY July-August 2022) and in the 2022 Your Worst Nightmare Theatre Festival (San Francisco, CA, April 2022). In 2021, her play FRESH KILLS was selected to be a part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival (NYC, June, 2021) and her full-length play The Angel Manual was read in the 2021 HB Studio Playwright's Reading Series (virtual, June, 2021).

By the Light of the Ghetto Moon (45 mins)
Susan Justiniano (aka RescuePoetix)

By the Light of the Ghetto Moon is an exploration of self as Jane comes to terms with her past traumas growing up in a patriarchal strict Puerto Rican household. Her perspectives are shared with the most consistent presence through her childhood, the Moon. As she processes vivid memories of growing up in Paterson NJ, she accepts that each one helped free her into adulthood.

Susan Justiniano (aka RescuePoetix) (New Jersey)

Why I wrote this play: “There are no stories like this one being told where many (or all) Puerto Rican women experienced this… and our young ones still do. It’s time to tell this story.”

Career Highlights: Twice honored as Poet Laureate of Jersey City

Susan Justiniano (aka RescuePoetix) is a self-taught bilingual globally published performing poet, advocate, spoken word artist, recording artist and teaching artist.

In 2006 RescuePoetix emerged as a professional artist entrepreneur. As a published performing poet, she has performed on stage and recorded poems to music, in English and Spanish, is deeply immersed in the Arts across communities and is developing a body of work that focuses on the rich linguistic poetry.

She is twice honored as Poet Laureate: First Puerto Rican woman Poet Laureate of Jersey City, NJ (2020-2022) and State of New Jersey Beat Poet Laureate (2022-2024).

As an arts advocate, she serves on the boards of several of for profit and nonprofit arts and committees throughout the USA with a focus on equity and equality in the Arts.

Ellsworth (17 mins)
by Taj Rauch

Ellsworth follows two young black housemates bonding over their urban trials and tribulations. What starts as a conversation on a rooftop morphs into a modern retelling of the story of the Buddha and his connection to their struggles. The seed of the conversation between the two housemates is a hope for freedom from the cyclical constrictions of their environment.

Taj Rauch (Pennsylvania)

Career Highlights: Co-founder of the theater company, Speakeasy 932

Taj Rauch is a playwright, filmmaker, installation artist and designer with an appetite for creating voyeuristic commentaries on nihilistic worlds. Every piece he creates must contribute to the larger story that he’s trying to tell. From the possibilities of divinity to the human mind’s ability to manufacture truth to the nature of Blackness, Taj is obsessed with letting worlds play out long enough to reveal themselves as dystopias.

Otis and Anna (18 mins)
by Emma Denson

When Otis, a talented NYC scenic designer, is diagnosed with dementia and subsequently dumped by his partner, Matthew, his world implodes. Anna, his former student, is also living in the city when she gets the news, and immediately moves in with Otis to help him cope. During the eight years that she serves as his carer, they develop their own language through a shared love of art, allowing them to communicate even as Otis is slowly robbed of his speech.

Emma Denson (New York)

Why I wrote this play: "Otis and Anna is a tribute to the two different families in my life. It's written to honor my maternal grandmother, who we lost a number of years ago to frontotemporal dementia, and to my found family: specifically the queer men who've mentored me along the way, and from whom I've learned so much about the communal healing of art."

Career Highlights: Artist-in-residence at Mississippi State University, Spring 2023

Emma Denson is an Alabama-born, Brooklyn-based writer and director of theatre. Selected credits: Hunger Staged Reading (Director, Irish Arts Center), sub[vert]way (Director/Playwright, IATI’s Mujerstory 2023) The Taming of Kate (Director, Triskellion Arts), Emily (Director, The Chain), Top Hate (Director, Staged Reading at Arts on Site), I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Director, Stagedoor Manor), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Assistant Director, Classical Theatre Harlem Young Company), Blanche and Stella(Assistant Director, Columbia University). UPCOMING: Hunger Staged Reading (Director, Ukrainian Museum), When David Buckel Saved the World (Associate Director, BRICLab Residency), BURN (Director, Alabama Fringe Festival on the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Mainstage), Artist-in-residence at Mississippi State University Spring 2023.

Willie Gets Naked!
by Willie the Genius
(65 mins)

WILLIE, a brilliant performer, finds themself flailing in the wind after the sudden death of their mother and an HIV-diagnosis sends them spiraling into an addiction to crystal meth. They invoke the spirits of their ancestors and spiritual guides in a ceremony that sends them into their "dark night of the soul". WILLIE then journeys through their "shadow world" using the sage advice of their spiritual guides, the audience as well as stories passed down from their elders to navigate their way towards the truest redemption of all, self-love and acceptance by baring it all.

Why I wrote this play:
"I created WILLIE GETS NAKED!, because I needed to survive. This show is my sobriety program.”

Willie Dean, professionally known as WILLIE the GENIUS, is an entertainer, producer, and community resource activist from Chocolate Bayou, Houston, Texas currently residing in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York. Their work has been called both radical and revolutionary. “I want my work to challenge social norms and to completely dismantle the current social system to create space for a new all-inclusive, equitable society through music, film, and all other mediums of art,” says Willie of their praxis.WILLIE is a 2023-2024 artist-in-residence at the People’s Theatre Project where they are currently writing, producing, and starring in their solo-theatre and late-night talk show, “WILLIE GETS NAKED!" touring New York City Housing Community developments and public spaces summer 2023 ahead of its Off-Broadway debut Fall 2023. 2023-2024 artist-in-residence at the People’s Theatre ProjectCareer Highlights

The DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Arcos Communications is a Founding Sponsor of DUAF. It is presented by Creative Ammo Inc., receiving support as part of the Coalition Theaters of Color, a New York City Council initiative to support the operations and programming of theaters and cultural organizations primarily in communities of color.

CREATIVE AMMO INC. is a nonprofit community development organization for artists focused on building stronger communities founded in 1998. CA has created solid programs to strengthen communities, foster creativity and celebrate life through art. Artists are an important leverage point in its work. Its mission is to cultivate vibrant communities by connecting artists with the skills and services they need to develop their talent into a marketable skill to pursue a career in the arts. Its programs are inclusive, open and embrace diverse ideas and art forms, and target communities of color and other underrepresented multicultural, women and LGBTQ populations.



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