The KC Melting Pot Theatrewill hold their third annual Black Playwright Festival beginning Friday, July 8. The festival will showcase three plays written by Black playwrights and will be performed over the course of three days ending with a panel of judges declaring the winner on Sunday.
The festival will take place at Just Off-Broadway Theatrein Penn Valley Park, where the KC Melting Pot is the anchor company for the theater space. For this year’s festival, the theater received over 100 submissions from Black playwrights across the country.
Lewis Morrow, the director of the festival, said the festival is a celebration of Black playwrights and anyone underrepresented in the arts.
“For people who want to support Black art and theatre, this is truly where it begins,” Morrow said. “Supporting the playwrights, and actors from the ground floor and helping them get this to a full-scale production, it’s important.”
The festival will consist of two nightly performances and one Sunday matinee with audience interaction and questions for the actors and crew following each performance. Because it is a playwright festival, the performances are staged productions, meaning the actors will be reading and performing in character but there will not be any set design or costumes. Snacks and drinks will be provided as well and audience members are encouraged to stay following the performance to interact with the cast and crew of each play.
“We have a really lively cast and the talkbacks after the shows will be really engaging,” Morrow said. “As an audience member, you’re going to see three, brand news plays rehearsed and read dramatically from some of the best up-and-coming Black writers.”
Best of all the event is free, although donations are strongly encouraged.
The three featured plays are:
July 8, 7 p.m. – “Welcome to the Blue Swan” by Paris Crayton III
Jimmy Earl Brown and his entourage at the Blue Swan, a hole-in-the-wall lounge in St. Louis, MO, ready themselves for a championship dart game with four grand on the line. But when Sugar, a recently released ex-convict, gets hired as an exotic dancer, darts aren’t the only games being played. Trying to escape past traumas, Jimmy Earl must decide between holding on to a turbulent long-term relationship or leaving behind the only life he knows.
July 9, 7 p.m. – “Willy Bobo” by Layon Gray
“Willy Bobo,” a two man show, is a spin off of the iconic play “A Raisin In The Sun” … both Willy and Bobo are friends of Walter Lee Younger. The three of them had discussed an idea of opening their own liquor store. In a pivotal emotional moment Bobo tells Walter Lee that Willy has run off with the money Walter gave him to invest in the liquor store deal. WHAT IF …. In this suspenseful ” two man” show, does a “dream deferred sag like a heavy load… or does it Explode!!!
July 10, 2 p.m. – Hairy & Sherri by Adrienne Dawes
Hairy and Sherri are an “adorkable” interracial couple living in gentrified East Austin. When they very graciously and publicly open their home to Ryshi, a 12-year-old former foster care youth with special needs, Hairy and Sherri are confronted with the ugly realities of their marriage and “good” intentions.
“Hairy & Sherri” is a dark comedy that exposes the limitations of the Texas foster care system and the evils of very well-intentioned people.
The KC Melting Pot Theatre was founded by Harvey and Linda Williams in 2013. After self-producing one of his original works, Harvey was inspired to broaden his vision to include other under-represented works by local theatre artists and offer opportunities and a platform to any underrepresented, local playwrights or performers. Currently, the company stages work focused on stories of African-American life. They include at least one stage production from a local playwright during each of their seasons. The company also supports local talent by focusing on using cast and crew from the metro area.
“We saw that a lot of the other theaters in the area were bringing in outside talent,” Linda Williams said. “But we also found that we had plenty of capable people in Kansas City, so it just became our mission to give access to Black artists in Kansas City.”
This company will kick off its seventh season with a production of last year’s winner of the Black Playwright festival, “Dying to Party” by playwright Shashone Lambert Short on August 24 – 27, followed by Kansas City playwright Lewis Morrow’s own production, “Mother/Son”.