A matriarch from Chicago’s South Side; an undocumented maid at an El Paso home; two twin girls determined to win a coveted early admission minority scholarship. Below, delve into plays featuring some of the gripping and gutsy roles written specifically for female actors of color.
El Nogalar by Tanya Saracho (US/UK)
(Drama / 4f, 1m)
Set in modern day Northern Mexico, the Galvan family, led by Matriarch Maite, have come back to their pecan orchard to reclaim their land after she has squandered away their money. In the time they were away, however, the Mexico they once knew has slowly been taken over by a drug war. Focusing on the relationships between sisters, and a mother and her daughters, will these women choose to adapt to the world around them or get left behind?
El Paso Blue by Octavio Solis (US/UK)
(Drama / 2f, 3m)
Al has to take the rap for his pal Duane’s botched robbery, but before he goes, he leaves his drunken ex-beauty-queen wife, Sylvie, in the care of his father, Jefe. In the year he is gone, Jefe and Sylvie fall in love, and when Al is granted early parole, he enlists Duane in a mad and murderous hunt for the fleeing lovers. In the course of their search, they meet China, a weird changeling who wields a water gun filled with ammonia and purports to know where Al’s wife has been taken.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange (US/UK)
(Drama / 7f)
Capturing the brutal, tender and dramatic lives of contemporary Black women, this groundbreaking choreopoem offers a transformative, riveting evening of provocative dance, music and poetry.
Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck (US/UK)
(Drama / 2f, 2m)
Having dedicated her life to religious service, Shelley runs a Bronx soup kitchen with unsentimental efficiency, but lately her heart’s not quite in it. Her brisk nature masks an unsettling fear that her efforts are meaningless.
Hookman by Lauren Yee (US/UK)
(Dark Comedy / 5f, 1m)
Freshman year at college is hard when your roommate is weird, you’re feeling homesick, and a hook-handed serial killer is slashing girls’ throats. But if Lexi can discover what really happened to her high school best friend on that car ride to the movies, everything will be okay. In this existential slasher comedy, Lexi and her friends learn what it means to grow up – and it’s not pretty.
Is God Is by Aleshea Harris (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 4f, 4m)
In Is God Is, twin sisters sojourn from the Dirty South to the California desert to exact righteous revenge. Aleshea Harris collides the ancient, the modern, the tragic, the Spaghetti Western, and Afropunk in this darkly funny and unapologetic play.
King Liz by Fernanda Coppel (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 3m)
Sports agent Liz Rico has money and an elite client roster but a woman in a man’s industry has to fight to stay on top. She’s worked twice as hard to get where she is and wants to take over the agency that she’s helped build. Enter Freddie Luna, a high school basketball superstar with a troubled past. If Liz can keep this talented yet volatile young star in line, she just might end up making not only his career, but her own as well. But at what price?
Paradise Blue by Dominique Morisseau (US/UK)
(Drama / 2f, 3m)
It’s 1949 and Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood is gentrifying. The arrival of a mysterious woman stirs up tensions and the fate of a once-vibrant jazz club hangs in the balance. This dynamic and musically-infused drama shines light on the challenges of building a better future on the foundation of what our predecessors have left us.
Peerless by Jiehae Park (US/UK)
(Dark Comedy / 3f, 2m)
Asian-American twins M and L have given up everything to get into The College. So when D, a one-sixteenth Native American classmate, gets “their” spot instead, they figure they’ve got only one option: kill him. A darkly comedic take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth about the very ambitious and the cut-throat world of high school during college admissions.
Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 3m)
Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities they’ll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (US/UK)
(Drama / 3f, 7m, 1 boy)
Lena Younger and her son Walter Lee are at odds: she wants to use her late husband’s life insurance to move her family out of their South Side apartment, and he would rather use the funds to start a business and become an independent man. As their dispute intensifies, the powerful and destructive forces of 1950s America come knocking at the Youngers’ front door.
The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d by Jonathan Payne (US/UK)
(Drama / 5f, 4m)
Karma’s foster brother, Terrell, has gone missing, and she’s trying to find him amidst the inner city chaos that is The Oblong – but his teacher can’t remember his name, his foster mom is still cashing his reimbursement checks, and his ex is glad he’s gone.
The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 3m)
Three days before a wedding, a handsome and mysterious man is fished from the Amazon River. Set once upon a time in a small Brazilian fishing village, The River Bride is a tale of true love, regret and two sisters who struggle to be true to each other and their hearts.
Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 4f, 4m)
The Old South lives on at the MacGregor Plantation—in the breeze, in the cotton fields… and in the crack of the whip. Nothing is as it seems, and yet everything is as it seems. Slave Play rips apart history to shed new light on the nexus of race, gender and sexuality in 21st century America.
Smart People by Lydia R. Diamond (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy / 2f, 2m)
Four of Harvard’s brightest; a surgeon, an actress, a psychologist, and a neuro-psychiatrist, are all interested in different aspects of the brain, particularly how it responds to race. But like all smart people, they are also searching for love, success, and identity in their own lives.
Spell #7 by Ntozake Shange (US)
(Drama / 5f, 4m)
This striking choreo-poem is set in St. Louis in a bar frequented by Black artists and musicians. It is another meditation on the irony of being Black; the artists bare their souls in soliloquies, many of them illustrated by in the mood dances.
Stunning by David Adjmi (US)
(Drama / 4f, 2m)
Sixteen-year-old Lily knows nothing beyond the Syrian-Jewish community in Brooklyn where she lives a cloistered life with her much older husband. Soon, an unlikely relationship with her enigmatic African-American maid opens Lily’s world to new possibilities – but at a huge price. Shifting from caustic satire to violent drama, the play exposes the ways we invent and defend our identities in the melting-pot of America.
What to Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris (US/UK)
(Drama / 4f, 4m)
As lines between characters and actors – as well as observers and observed – blur, a dizzying series of vignettes builds to a climactic moment in which performance and reality collide, highlighting the absurdity of anti-Blackness in our society. Through facilitation and dialogue we must decide how to cope, resist, and move forward.
Wedding Band by Alice Childress (US)
(Drama / 8f, 3m)
It is the summer of 1918 in South Carolina; the growing attraction between Julie, an African American seamstress, and Herman, the white man that has kept company with her for years, accelerates into an affair. They must, of course, deal with the prejudices and wrath of ignorance in early 20th century America.
Image: 2019 Public Theater production of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (Joan Marcus)