SERIES AT THE TANK
The 2018-19 Lit Council Inaugural Cohort. Clockwise from top left: Marcus Scott, Benjamin Colón, Mel Nieves, Akin Salawu, Ja’Michael Darnell, Nikhil Mahapatra, Beto O’Byrne.
ABOUT LIT COUNCIL
In partnership with The Tank, LIT Council is a development intensive for Male Playwrights of Color. During their time with the Council (September 2018 through April 2019). The intent of LIT Council is to provide an affinity space for male-identifying playwrights of color to create and interrogate this specific identity while engaging with their creative process. Writers will develop a new play during this time and will also be in conversation, both within the group and through outside expertise, in regards to how our social locations shape our work, both in regards to challenges, privileges, leadership, expectations, and more. The program will culminate in a reading workshop of each participant’s play, and in order to further promote collaboration and communication, each play will be attached to a female director of color, chosen from a group of professionals and mentors, who will be an active presence throughout the process. Facilitated by Beto O’Byrne and Akin Salawu.
ABOUT THE 2018-19 SELECTION PROCESS
LIT Council is proud to announce the talented playwrights selected for an 8-month development intensive for male playwrights of color. During their time with the Council (October 2018 through April 2019), writers will be in an affinity space with one another, developing a project and having in-depth conversations around their identity as men of color working in the theatre field as playwrights. In order to further promote collaboration and communication between genders, each play will be attached to a female director of color, chosen from a group of professionals and mentors, who will be active presences throughout the process. The program will culminate in a public presentation of this work, hosted at The Tank.
“Sometimes you have to create the thing you want to be a part of,” explains LIT Council Founder/Creator, Akin Salawu. “In the theater world, men of color are really still the junkyard dogs chained to the side of the house to bark at strangers. And rarely admitted inside. I wanted to create a space where we no longer have to justify our presence in the room. The planets aligned with a simple facebook message to Meghan Finn (Co-Artistic Director of The Tank) telling her I had this pipe dream...” Finn’s immediate reply was “I can say without a doubt The Tank would love to support!”
No stranger to the hustle, Beto O'Byrne (LIT Council co-Creator/ Facilitator) was up for the challenge: “My career as a theatre-maker and writer has been largely defined by me looking for a space for my work, not finding it, and making my own. It's been a lot of work to manifest this particular opportunity with Akin, but I am so very excited to be in fellowship with such an amazing pool of writers and can't wait to see what work we create."
The 50 applicants were evaluated by an exceptional panel of female theater makers of color which included:
Alex Beech (playwright)
Yadira de la Riva (actor, playwright)
Guadalís Del Carmen (playwright)
J.J. El-Far (producer/ creative strategist)
Monet Hurst-Mendoza (playwright)
Tia James (actor/ director)
Young Jean Lee (playwright/ director)
Rebecca Martinez (director/ theater maker)
Nina Mehta (actress/ theater maker)
Meropi Peponides (producer/ theater maker)
Taylor Reynolds (director)
Melissa Tien (playwright)
Jillian Walker (playwright/dramaturg)
J.J. El-Far recalls, “I wanted to be part of the LIT Council from the moment I heard about it because it so clearly identified an area of need within our field, and society, A safe and supportive space for men of color to express, feel, share, and connect is exactly the antidote we need to eradicate systems of oppression that have influenced our society for too long.”
Along with facilitating the development of 7 new works, LIT Council will also help the playwrights foster the necessary professional relationships that are historically challenging for members of underrepresented communities. LIT Council’s Inaugural members gathered at The Tank on October 20, 2018 for their first meeting. The seven playwrights pitched their projects to each other and began an ongoing discussion on power, privilege, and race. Before leaving the theater, the 7 playwrights agreed to help each other become better writers and committed to helping each other become better men.
THE 2018-19 LIT COUNCIL INAUGURAL COHORT
With Beto O’Byrne and Akin Salawu joining the five selected playwrights for the bi-monthly meetings at The Tank, the seven members of LIT Council’s Inaugural cohort are:
Benjamin Colón is a playwright and screenwriter from the Bronx. Benjamin is drawn to plays about familial duty and is among the first in his family to go to college. His work has been read at The Playwriting Collective and The Bechdel Group.
Ja’Michael Darnell is an actor and playwright from Hearne, Texas. As a 2015-2016 Fulbright recipient, he studied physical theatre at Atelier Teatro Fisico in Italy. During his time there, he developed his play, Exile Blues, an absurdist take on James Baldwin’s 1949 Parisian suicide attempt and The Self-Portrait of the Soul as a Young Man, a one man show. As a writer, Ja’Michael aims to share the voices of those highly melanated beings screaming from the nooks and crannies of this country and give them a home within the American theatre. BA, Theatre: The University of Texas at Austin.
Nikhil Mahapatra is a writer originating from India and Singapore who now resides in New York City. He graduated with a MFA in playwriting and screenwriting from the New School for Drama in 2018. Notable works include Carnal, produced at the New School for Drama New Voices festival and American Hunger, read at the Cherry Lane Theatre & The Lark.
Mel Nieves was born and raised in New York City, and is a graduate of the William Esper Studio and a long time member of the award winning LAByrinth Theatre Company and The Actors Studio Playwright-Directing Unit.
BETO O’BYRNE (FACILITATOR | CO-CREATOR)
Beto O’Byrne hails from East Texas and is the co-founder of Radical Evolution, a multi-ethnic, multi-disciplinary producing collective based in Brooklyn, NY. The author of 20 plays, screenplays, and original TV pilots, his works have been produced in San Antonio, Austin, Los Angeles and New York City, where was the most recent playwright-in-residence at the Stella Adler School of Acting and a 2050 Playwriting Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. In addition, O’Byrne is an advocate for the performing arts field, having worked with organizations such as Theatre Communications Group, La Cooperativa of Latinx Theatre Artists of NYC, and the Latinx Theatre Commons. MFA, Dramatic Writing: University of Southern California. www.betoobyrne.com
AKIN SALAWU (FOUNDER | CO-CREATOR)
Akin Salawu is a writer, director and editor. He is also a two-time Tribeca All Access Winner with a BA from Stanford and a Screenwriting MFA from Columbia. At Stanford, Akin founded ergo student theater troupe and was awarded the Sherifa Omade Ego Prize for mounting culturally diverse theater. Akin was a member of The Public Theater’s Inaugural Emerging Writers Group, Ars Nova’s Uncharted Musical Theater residency, & and his first musical was part of The University of the Arts’ 2017 Polyphone Festival. Additionally, Akin wrote 2 short plays on Ferguson for Chicago's American Theater and wrote Chapter 5 in the book, The Obama Movement.
Marcus Scott is a playwright, musical theater writer and journalist. Plays include: Tumbleweed (finalist for the 2017/2018 Humanitas Play LA Workshop, Playwrights Foundation's 2017 Bay Area Playwrights Festival and the 2017 Austin Playhouse Festival of New American Plays; semi-finalist for the 2017/2018 New Dramatists Princess Grace Fellowship Award), Cherry Bomb (recipient of Drama League’s 2017 First Stage Artist In Residence; 2017 finalist for the Yale Institute for Music Theatre), Malaise (2017 DUAF at Cherry Lane Theater), Blood Orange (2018 Downtown Urban Arts Festival at Theater 80 St. Marks), among others.