Opening Weekend at the DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival (Photo Feature)

The 2019 DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival opened last weekend with a dozen performances and previews of what's to come over the course of the 15-day festival.

DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival Founder, Glenn Allen. Photo by Malcolm Lewis Barnes.

The opening weekend of the DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival was a lively family reunion of art, food, music and drama. DCBTAF chair and dancing diplomat Nana Malaya served as ring leader and founder Glenn Allen orchestrated over a dozen performances at the east-of-the-Anacostia performance space THE ARC.

“I put out a call ten years ago when I had only five plays lined up, and I got 140 responses,” said Mr. Allen as he set up mics for the next musical group to perform. “Now we are offering 150 performances over a 15-day festival that includes readings of new works and Monologue competition.” He added that the festival strives to be affordable that that all the proceeds go to the artists.

Highlights of the festival’s first weekend included a riveting performance by Zuhairah McGill of Richard Pierce’s one-woman play Sojourner, and Reginald Jackson’s Baldwin’s Ni**er, a haunting historical vignette of James Baldwin’s encounter with a rich white liberal Civil Rights donor, who wanted to donate more than money.

“Sojourner” performer Zuhairah McGill and DCBTAF Chairwoman Nana Malaya. Photo by Malcolm Lewis Barnes.

But the highlight of the evening was a group of young performing musicians from Camden, New Jersey called the Trumpet Chics who joyously lit up the black box theater with a post-graduation FAME-style performance for the ages in their caps & gowns.

The Trumpet Chics are part of the Performing Artists for College Entrance (PACE) program offered by Camden Public Schools. The group features a marching band of four female trombone players, a xylophone and another eight male band members including seniors Jamar Pratt, Randy Thompson and Mark Ramos who are on their way to colleges from California to New York City.

The DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival runs through July 7. Founded in 2010, the multidisciplinary arts festival features over 150 performances by local and national artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians. For more information, check out their website.

The festival’s theater content includes 100 full-length plays, workshops, a new works reading series, a monologue competition, and a five-day One Act Battle (June 24-28) in which winners advance each night until a One Act Champion is crowned on night five.

The DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival takes place now through July 7 at several locations throughout SE DC including THE ARC – 1801 Mississippi Avenue, SE, in Washington, DC and the Anacostia Playhouse – 2020 Shannon Place, SE, in Washington, DC. For more information and tickets, go online.