*Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre ( NBT ) has selected two Black playwrights for its I Am Soul residency program, the nation’s premier theatrical program dedicated solely to the development of Black playwrights, with a commitment to a workshop production of their new works.
Angelica Chéri and Derek Lee McPhatter were chosen for the fourth round of the program as part of a competitive national selection process for the 18-month residency that will focus on the creation of a new play to be produced in 2018.
“Playwrights are key architects of culture. They craft new narratives that ask us to inspect society as we know it. It is through the I Am Soul program that NBT is able to imagine the future of theater, as playwrights conjure a new world, generate possible solutions and craft stories that let us see who we are,” said NBT Director of Theatre Arts Jonathan McCrory. “It is with honor and excitement that we award this honor on Angelica and Derek, two unique artists who use their work to complicate, celebrate and redefine the notion of Blackness not traditionally seen in mainstream America.”
Angelica Chéri is a prolific playwright and a California resident whose work has been produced and developed by the Billie Holiday Theater, the Pershing Square Signature Theater and Fire This Time Festival. She has done residencies at Goodspeed Musicals and the Two River Theater. Chéri’s play “The Sting of White Roses” will be produced by the Prophet Cycle this fall at the North Carolina Repertory Company.
Derek Lee McPhatter is no stranger to NBT, having developed two full-length plays at the theater’s Keep Soul Alive reading series. McPhatter’s works have been presented by the Fire This Time Festival, Harlem Stage, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
He was a semifinalist in the 2015 Disney Writing Program and received a fellowship in the Guy A. Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting Program at the University of Southern California. The Pickerington, Ohio, native now splits his time between New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
On Thursday, September 1, the duo will officially start their residencies and begin to develop their new plays. Each will receive a commissioning fee, administrative and dramaturgical support, in-house readings, office and rehearsal space, and a 29-hour developmental workshop.
Each residency will conclude with a public showing of the developed work as a limited engagement workshop production in February 2018 as part of NBT’s 49th season. Through this program, NBT is able to strengthen the artistic relationship between historic Black theatrical institutions and Black playwrights to help diversify the narratives being developed and produced about Black lifestyle.
NBT recently announced that the 48th season will include two workshop productions by third-cycle I AM SOUL playwrights in residence: Dennis A. Allen II’s “Manhood” in February 2017 and Nambi E. Kelley’s “Blood” in March 2017. Additional information about the workshop productions will be released later this year.
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About the Residents
Angelica Chéri is a playwright, musical theater book-writer/lyricist, screenwriter and poet. She wrote, directed and produced her first full-length play, “Solitaire,” at the age of 16. Chéri’s “The Sting of White Roses,” part two of the Prophet’s Cycle, will be produced this fall at the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. Part one of the Prophet’s Cycle, “The Seeds of Abraham,” was produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre and workshopped at the Pershing Square Signature Center under the mentorship of playwright Lynn Nottage.
Other works include “Slow Gin Fits,” a short play produced in the Fire This Time Festival and published in “Indie Theatre Now”; “Gun & Powder,” a musical that was the inaugural workshop production of the Tisch NYU Center for New Musicals; “Yin & Yang,” a Columbia University workshop production that is currently being adapted as a mini-web series; and “A Letter to Auntie Rosa,” a short children’s play commissioned by Diverging Elements Theatre Company.
A former producer of the Obie Award-winning Fire This Time Festival, Angelica has had residencies at Goodspeed Musicals and Two River Theater, written for the Obie Award-winning 48 Hours in Harlem Festival and was the Master Playwright in the Frank Silvera Writer’s Workshop Inaugural 3in3 Playwright Festival. Chéri received her BA in Theater from UCLA, MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University and MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU.
Derek Lee McPhatter
Derek Lee McPhatter is thrilled to join Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre as a 2016–2017 I Am Soul resident playwright. McPhatter has developed two plays in NBT’s Keep Soul Alive reading series: “This App is Not the Business” and “Life Hack.”
Other lead projects include “Bring the Beat Back,” in development with Earthseed Visions. Derek is an inaugural playwright with the Obie award-winning the Fire This Time Festival, and has co-created several projects with his team at Under the Spell Productions, Inc., including “It Goes Unsaid,” which has been presented in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and London, and has been supported by the United States Embassy, the Harlem Arts Alliance and the University of California, Los Angeles, among others.
His plays have been supported by numerous theaters and organizations including: Harlem9, Harlem Stage, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), JACK (Brooklyn) and Lyric Opera of Chicago. For more than five years Derek worked at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, helping develop programming such as the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival and “Dream Girls at the Apollo.” Derek holds degrees from Morehouse College and New York University.
About National Black Theatre – NBT
Founded by visionary Dr. Barbara Ann Teer in 1968, National Black Theatre (NBT) is a nationally recognized cultural and educational institution. Dr. Teer pioneered “the healing art of Black theatre as an instrument for wholeness in urban communities where entrepreneurial artists of African descent live and work.” In 1983, Dr. Teer expanded the vision of NBT by purchasing a 64,000-square-foot building on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue (renamed “National Black Theatre Way” by local law in 1994).
This was the first revenue-generating Black arts complex in the country, an innovative arrangement through which for-profit businesses who shared NBT’s spiritual and aesthetic values rented retail space to subsidize the arts. Out of her vision, NBT houses the largest collection of Nigerian new sacred art in the Western hemisphere and is considered the authentic representation of a model whose time has come. NBT is partially supported by grants from the City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, Ford Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts and private donations.