JAGfest 5.0 | Radio Plays on Love Stories
Every winter JAG Productions invites 30-50 artists to the snowy mountains of Vermont to develop full-length plays at their new works festival of Black Theatre, JAGfest. They put up 5 companies of emerging and established theatre-makers in cozy dwellings for one week to support the development of audacious and alluring works that illuminate black life and black aesthetics.
In its fifth year, when gathering safely isn’t possible, JAG has decided to produce a festival of short radio plays dealing with the matter of Love Stories. Producing Artistic Director, Jarvis Green and Co-Producer, Raven Cassell say that the critical attention to pleasure, intimacy and healing is timely -- urgent, even-- as isolation, loneliness and violence have been the global motif. “We are showing up to our fight armored in tenderness and passion, firing off with the gentility of a kiss,” declared Jarvis. Raven imagines that, “without the landscape of the stage, we have the opportunity to isolate language and indulge in the poetry and potency of the text.”
The two producing partners have hand-picked a keen roster of writers to draw up the blueprint for these love plays. This year JAGfest 5.0 will feature the work of playwrights Jeremy O’Brian, Loy A. Webb, Raven Cassell, Azure D. Osborne-Lee and Shemika Wardlaw. These writers have been paired with a bold and astute line-up of directors featuring Jonathan McCrory, Kimille Howard, Zhailon Levingston, Jarvis Green, Kirya Traber and NJ Agwuna. The pool of performers include David Glover, Renée Harrison, Michael Oloyede, Nadia Pillay, Raven Cassell, Justin Sams, Avon Haughton, Jarvis Green, Shemika Brown Wardlaw, Rad Pereira, Tigist Helen Schmidt, Yohana Zecarias.
Azure D. Osborne-Lee
Loy A. Webb
Raven Cassell is a theatre artist; an actor, writer, producer and educator based in New York with her fingers dipped in African diasporic communities in Africa and Latin America. Her work lies at the junction of diaspora studies, visual art and storytelling. She's interested in investigating and experimenting with the way we learn, engage and produce stories. She’s earned a BFA in Dramatic Arts with concentration in Acting and Writing from The New School for Drama. Her residencies include The School of Making Thinking, USA; Dramatic Need, South Africa; Thread, Senegal. She’s performed in The Black Joy Project, JAGfest 2.0, BRIClabs, The Fire This Time Festival, NY International Fringe Festival and other self-produced works. “The theater has been a vehicle of transformation, the grounds where I could confront, explore and transgress my intersectional identities.” – Raven Cassell
Jeremy O’Brian is a black gay Mississippi-born, Brooklyn-based playwright and educator. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Tougaloo College before attending and graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a Master of Arts in African and African Diaspora Studies. He is the recipient of the Birmingham Black Repertory Theatre Company Black Queer Fellowship (2020), Liberation Theatre Playwriting Residency Fellowship (2019), Athena Theatre’s Athena Writes Playwriting Fellowship (2018), and the Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voice in Playwriting Fellowship (2016). His plays include: egg; or anythin’ dipped in egg gone soften (Development: Athena Theatre), a curious thing; or superheroes k’ain’t fly (Development: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, JAGFest 4.0), under one roof; or home to mississippi (Development: Liberation Theatre Co.), and boys don’t look at boys (Semi-Finalist: Playwright’s Realm Writing Fellowship).
Loy A. Webb is a Chicago born playwright, tv writer and attorney. Her plays include The Light (MCC Theater 2018/2019, Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play; The New Colony, 2017/2018, Joseph Jefferson Award), and His Shadow (16th Street Theater 2019/2020, Joseph Jefferson Award). She was an inaugural Tutterow Fellow at Chicago Dramatists. Loy holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a J.D. from The John Marshall Law School. TV writing credits include AMC's NOS4A2 and BET's Ms. Pat
Gethsemane Herron is a playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with JAG Productions, The Flea, The Hearth, Magic Time @ Judson, The Ice Factory Festival at the New Ohio Theatre, Playwright’s Playground at Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, The Liberation Theater Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Ars Nova, where she is a Resident Artist with Ars Nova’s Play Group.2020-2022 Member of the WP Lab. Additional residencies from the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts, VONA and the Millay Colony, where she was the recipient of the Yasmin Scholarship. Winner of the Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series. Winner of the 45th Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival. Semi-Finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Finalist for Space on Ryder Farm’s Creative Residency, the Dennis & Victoria Roth Playwright’s Program, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship at the Lark. MFA: Columbia University. Proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild. She’s enamored with Sailor Moon, witches and other magical girl warriors. She writes for survivors.
Azure D. Osborne-Lee (he/they) is a Black queer & trans Brooklyn-based writer from South of the Mason Dixon. He holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice (2011) from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama as well as an MA in Women’s & Gender Studies (2008) and a BA in English & Spanish from The University of Texas at Austin (2005). Recipient of Waterwell New Works Lab’s 2021 Commission, Kilroys List 2020 playwright, recipient of Parity Productions’ 2018 Annual Commission, Winner of Downtown Urban Arts Festival’s 2018 Best Play Award, and the 2015 Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest. Azure’s full-length play “Crooked Parts” will be published in the forthcoming anthology The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays. His full-length play “Mirrors” received its world premiere, produced by Parity Productions, at Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop last winter. Unfortunately, this production closed early on March 12, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Gaspar Marquez
Shemika Wardlaw is an Atlanta-based artist and mother of 3 wonderful children from Anderson, SC. She is the first cousin of the Producing Artistic Director of JAG, Mr. Jarvis Antonio Green, and thrilled to be returning back to the theatre after 12 years!. She began studying acting as a freshman at TL Hanna High School in Anderson, SC, and began training at Project Challenge Playhouse. She continued her studies at Coker College in Hartsville, SC where she earned her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree. Upon graduating, her senior thesis was a compilation of plays, stories, books, and real-life experiences compiled as a one-woman show titled Misunderstood. Misunderstood is a play that delves into the stereotypes we as humans place on each other, whether it be race, culture, status, etc. She has an extensive artistic resume having performed in multiple professional productions throughout Atlanta. Shemika is excited and so grateful to be making her JAGfest debut!
Jarvis Antonio Green
Shariffa Chelimo Ali
Kirya Traber is a nationally awarded writer, performer, and cultural worker. She is a collaborating artist with Ping Chong + Company, and is Curator-in-Residence with Hi-ARTS. She was New York Stage and Film’s 2020 Founders Award recipient. From 2015-2020 she was Lincoln Center’s lead Community Artist in Residence. She is the recipient of a NY Emmy Nomination (First Person PBS), Robert Redford’s Sundance Foundation award for Activism in the Arts, a California Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and an Astrea Lesbian Writers Fund award for Poetry. She has been a commissioned artist of notable New York arts institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, the Morgan Library & Museum, the Orchestra of St Luke's, and La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, among others. Throughout her ambitious performance and writing career, Kirya has continuously utilized her art for social change as a cultural organizer.
Jonathan McCrory is a two Obie Award-winning, Harlem-based artist who has served as Artistic Director at National Black Theatre since 2012 under the leadership of CEO, Sade Lythcott. He has directed numerous professional productions and concerts. He has been acknowledged as an exceptional leader additionally through Craine’s New York Business 2020 Notable LGBTQ Leaders and Executives. In 2013, he was awarded the Emerging Producer Award by the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and the Torch Bearer Award by theatrical legend Woodie King Jr. He is a founding member of the collaborative producing organizations Harlem9, Black Theatre Commons, The Jubilee, Next Generation National Network and The Movement Theatre Company. McCrory sits on the National Advisory Committee for Howlround.com and was a member of the original cohort for ArtEquity. A Washington, DC native, McCrory attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and New York University’s TISCH School of the Arts. To learn more, please visit www.jonathanmccrory.com.
NJ Agwuna is a freelance director of theatre and film who most recently directed scenes for ABC Discovers talent and a hybrid production of Polaroid Stories by Naomi Iizuka at LIU Post. She has worked on a national and international scale exploring classic text, developing new plays, devising theatrical experiences through myth and spectacle, and investigating new ways to explore trauma and mental illness through theatre. Selected credits: The Lover (DirectorFest 2020), Till: A Musical (won Best Direction), Blanks (JAG Fest, Fire This Time Festival), The Tempest (Lenfest), Freedom Train (TWUSA National Tour ‘18, ‘19). She is a Drama League alum, and a teaching artist with Tectonic Theatre Project. Directing MFA - Columbia University; SDC - associate. www.njagwuna.com
Jarvis Antonio Green is the Founding Artistic Director of JAG Productions, a Vermont and NYC based black theater company founded in 2016. He is the recipient of the New England Theatre Conference Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theatre for his work with JAG in its inaugural year. Every year he produces five new plays, nurturing the work of five budding playwrights at JAGfest, one of the nation's leading incubators of new works by Black playwrights. In 2020 he launched the Black Joy Project, a three-tiered project: a Black Theatre methodology, a play embodying the method and a documentary film capturing its inception. Jarvis was acknowledged by Native Son as a Black queer man who impacted the world in 2020 and sees himself playing a key role in bringing actors and stories from all over the diaspora to stages worldwide. He has a robust artistic resume having directed and performed in numerous professional productions all over the country. As an educator and scholar, he created a Black Theatre curriculum for Northwestern University, Notre Dame, and Northern Vermont University. Green is a New England Foundation for the Arts National Theatre Project Advisor and is a founding member of the Black Theatre Artist Council at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. He is currently co-directing a virtual devised theatrical production at Dartmouth College and is thrilled to be making his JAGfest directing and acting debut!
Shariffa Chelimo Ali is an international creative leader committed to advancing radical change through the power of art and activism. She works across disciplines directing films, virtual reality experiences, and plays, and moves her audiences to engage with timely issues touching upon Black, Afropolitan, and African-American identities. Originally from Kenya and raised in South Africa, Shariffa has lectured and directed at NYU, Brooklyn College, Yale University, and Princeton University, productions including Eclipsed, Detroit ’67, Intimate Apparel, and We Are Proud to Present, and an original new musical, We Were Everywhere. In 2020 Shariffa was named Artist in Residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the largest repertory theatre in the United States, where she helmed the world premiere of Karen Zacarías’s The Copper Children earlier this year. Previously she served as assistant director to her mentor Cynthia Nixon for Rasheeda Speaking, Steve (The New Group) and Motherstruck! (Culture Project). Shariffa’s debut virtual reality short ATOMU is part of the official selection at the Sundance Festival 2020.