Home » Review: The Fire This Time Festival spotlights LGBTQ love that rings true and an unintended spoof of transgender identity

Review: The Fire This Time Festival spotlights LGBTQ love that rings true and an unintended spoof of transgender identity

by The Grio

James Baldwin’s celebrated essay collection, “The Fire Next Time,” has inspired numerous artistic works since its 1963 release. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ instant classic, “Between the World and Me,” and Jesmyn Ward’s race-themed anthology of 2016, “The Fire This Time,” are among them. Earlier this month, a New York celebration began serving up Baldwin-esque food for thought, and a few days remain to experience the cultural event.

Making statements about race, colorism, female agency and queer identity, the 15th annual The Fire This Time Festival – running at The Wild Project in the East Village of Manhattan until January 28 – extols the resilience of Black theater.  Kelley Nicole Girod founded the Obie Award-winning festival to support the work of rising playwrights. 

The event features a series of 10-minute vignettes from six up-and-coming African American playwrights, and this year The Fire This Time Festival focuses its mini-productions on Black women and the Black family. Director Cezar Williams reprises what’s known as the Ten-Minute Play Program. The idea debuted in 2017 to give emerging writers of color the platform to workshop their underrepresented stories for future development.

Employing a small troupe of actors –including Marinda Anderson, Danielle Covington, Benton Greene, Larry Powell and Shayvawn Webster – some plays’ themes overlapped, and a few clichés crept into the writing, but the ideas were all worth mulling.

“It’s Karen B****!,” written by Brooklyn-based playwright Taylor Blackman, takes the “Cosby Show” scenario of a liberal, upper-middle-class, two-parent household raising a socially aspirational daughter and turns it on its head. When the daughter asks her parents to prepare for a self-revelation, they comically assume the announcement will be of the LGBTQ variety – hanging a Pride flag and rocking rainbow T-shirts. Instead, she arrives home in a blond wig confessing that she…

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