Sunday, May 16, 2021

Billie Holiday Theatre 50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling – 50 Stories from 50 Black Women

Billie Holiday - GettyImages-104476113
Billie Holiday – GettyImages

*(Brooklyn, NY) – The Billie Holiday Theatre is proud to announce the return of its renowned monologue showcase series – 50in50 – with a special fifth anniversary edition of the show – 50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling. In recognition of the historic 2020 election which saw the country elect its first female and first Black Vice-President and in response to MacArthur “Genius” Dominique Morisseau’s curatorial statement, 50in50 will center around the concept of  women “shattering the glass ceiling” and what it means to defy, to shatter the glass and to reach beyond barriers.

For this year’s show, 50 original monologues were selected from women of African descent from across the globe and will be read by 50 women actors to include:  Lisa Arrindell (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Saints & Sinners, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof); Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, The Photograph, The Merchant of Venice); LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Luke Cage, A Raisin in The Sun, Blue Bloods);  Sanaa Lathan (The Perfect Guy, Love & Basketball, The Best Man); Dawnn Lewis (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Dreamgirls, A Different World); Audra McDonald (The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, A Raisin in the Sun); Celestine Rae (Boardwalk Empire, American Gangster, Blacklist); Retta (Good Girls, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Parks and Recreation); Angelica Ross (Pose, Disclosure, American Horror Story); Michele Shay (Seven Guitars, Raisin in the Sun and Reparations at The Billie -director); Gabourey Sidibe (Antebellum, Empire, Precious); Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Women of Brewster Place, Malcolm X); Wanda Sykes (Black-ish, Norman Lear’s The Jeffersons, Ice Age); Pauletta Washington (She’s Gotta Have It, The Old Settler and Autumn at The Billie) and Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, Into the Woods, Soul Food) with music performed by Maritri Garrett.

The show will have its virtual premiere via The Billie’s Facebook Live platform on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 7pm.

“Going into this fifth year of 50in50, it is really incredible to see the movement that has been created with this Series. It is one that has become a safe space and platform for agency and empowerment for Black women from all parts of the world to share their diverse and nuanced experiences and to really tackle the issues that affect us as Black women every day,” said Pauletta Washington, actor. “I am proud and honored to have been a part of this series for all five years and I love that these stories illustrate how Black women are stepping into their power.” 

Dominique Morisseau’s Curatorial Statement for 50in50: Shatter the Glass Ceiling:

In August Wilson’s play, Ma Rainey’s Blackbottom, the blues icon Ma Rainey waits until the very end of the play before she signs a contract to release the songs that she just recorded. Ma knows that once she signs the dotted line, the producers have her voice and will no longer need to treat her with deference or in accordance to her worth. Ma is calculating. She usurps their power throughout the story because she knows that signing the dotted line means relegation to the baseline. This black woman blues singing legend will be given baseline treatment once the industry has what they want from her. As black women writers and thinkers, we know this baseline well.

It is the line that tells us that we are not worthy of being paid equal to men or even white women. It is the line that tells us not to speak out for fear of being labeled “difficult.” It is standing in a room fully in your power and having someone call your confidence “aggression.” It is being talked over on a vice presidential debate stage and having to say, “I’m speaking.” It is having to reclaim your time on the assembly floor. It is being undermined by supervisors who believe themselves to be superior. It is being the continual target of white patriarchal rage and resentment. It is being shot in your own home and having the offending officer be charged with harming the wall in priority over taking your life. It is constantly watching your social currency be measured so low on the scale that it barely moves the needle.

And yet, we are made of resilient defiance. We take up spaces that weren’t intended for us and we thrive. We take the defeat of a questionable gubernatorial election and respond by converting an entire state. We see the glass ceiling and refuse to be obedient to its implications. We forge on because we are needed, mostly by ourselves.

But we are not robots or mythological creatures. Possessing “Black girl magic” does not make us “magical negroes.”  We feel the sting against us and it has all of the potential to exhaust us. And yet, we are often the last ones standing. We are the ones who show up on the frontlines and the home frontiers, stepping in when there is no one else to carry the load. Stepping up when there is no one else to share the vision. We have been these same resilient warriors since our origins.

The Billie’s 50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling is in partnership with the acclaimed Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop.


The AUDELCO and Obie Award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre is artistic anchor to the largest African American community in the nation: Central Brooklyn and one of the last remaining theaters forged in the aesthetic and sociocultural kiln of America’s Civil Rights/Black Arts Movements. Founded in May 1972, The Billie Holiday Theatre is a beacon for world class art rooted in racial justice in the heart of Bed-Stuy: producing, presenting, and commissioning new and classic works and festivals in theater, dance, music, visual arts, and film; providing artistic and institutional residencies; and serving ages 3 to 103 with educational programming. For bold and daring artists and audiences from around the corner and around the world who look to The Billie as a rigorous artistic space that tackles racial injustices, presents new and unapologetic voices, and imagines a world where all people can flourish…welcome home.
source: Nina Flowers



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