As its final digital film of the theater season, Theater Alliance presents a world premiere production of acclaimed artist Psalmayene 24’s The Blackest Battle. A love story that calls attention to Black-on-Black gun violence, the film is set in the future, when reparations have been made and youth get high on a drug called Hope.
With songs composed by Nick tha 1da and visual art from Wesley Clark, Camilla King, Maliah Stokes, and Rodney “Buck” Herring, the film is half music video, half graphic-novel-come-to-life, and utterly unlike any other work of digital theater that has come out of the past year.
“Working with Psalmayene 24 on this commission has been a tremendous gift,” says Raymond O. Caldwell, who directed the film. “Theater Alliance committed to this play four years ago — we knew then that it would be a powerful, dynamic, and significant work of theater, and it has become even stronger with every draft. Theater Alliance is proud to support and produce local playwrights like Psalm.”
The Blackest Battle was commissioned from Psalmayene 24 and Nick tha 1da in 2017. In the years since, it has been written, developed, workshopped, and revised through Theater Alliance’s Hothouse New Play Development program — with performances at the John F. Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage New Play Festival, as well as the Word Becomes Action Festival. Originally slated for live performance in summer of 2020, the production has been reimagined for the screen.
“Our digital production team has grown in leaps and bounds over this season’s work,” says Caldwell. “It is thrilling to bring this film to audiences, knowing we are at the forefront of innovative storytelling — pushing the boundaries of what theater is and can do.”
Under the guidance and expertise of photography directors Kelly Colburn and Dylan Uremovich, as well as art director Jonathan Dahm Robertson, Theater Alliance has again recreated the intimate theatrical nature of its work for the camera. The production has been pre-recorded, utilizing stringent safety precautions.
The Blackest Battle premieres on July 31, 2021, and will be available for scheduled online streams through the month of August. Tickets (General Admission, $25 – $30; Seniors/Students/Military, $20 – $25; Radical Neighboring, $15) are available online or by calling 202-241-2539.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Psalmayene 24 (a.k.a. Gregory Morrison) is an award-winning playwright, director, and actor. Psalm—as his colleagues call him—is currently The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Mosaic Theater and The Doris Duke Artist-in-Residence at Studio Theatre. Directing credits include PASS OVER by Antoinette Nwandu at Studio Theatre, NATIVE SON by Nambi E. Kelley at Mosaic Theater Company, WORD BECOMES FLESH (recipient of five 2017 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Direction of a Play) by Marc Bamuthi Joseph at Theater Alliance, and THE SHIPMENT by Young Jean Lee at Forum Theater.
Psalm is currently the host of Psalm’s Salon at Studio. Produced by Studio Theatre, Psalm’s Salon is an online interview-based series that celebrates and examines culture through a Black lens. He is one of the writers of Arena Stage’s coronavirus pandemic time capsule film, MAY 22, 2020, and he wrote “Double Entendre,” the fifth episode of Roundhouse Theatre’s ten part pandemic influenced web series HOMEBOUND. His play LES DEUX NOIRS (2020 Charles MacArthur Award Nomination for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical and Venturous Capital Grant recipient) is inspired by a legendary 1953 confrontation between famed writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin in a Paris café and received its world premiere production at Mosaic Theater Company. THE FREDERICK DOUGLASS PROJECT — his play inspired by Frederick Douglass’s 1845 trip to Ireland and co-written with Irish playwright Deirdre Kinahan — was the first play to be produced on a pier at The Yards Marina in Washington, DC, and was the recipient of six 2019 Helen Hayes Award nominations.
Psalm has received commissions from the African Continuum Theater Company, Arena Stage, Imagination Stage, The Kennedy Center, Theater Alliance, Solas Nua, Mosaic Theater Company, and Theatrical Outfit. His one man play FREE JUJUBE BROWN! is recognized as a seminal work in Hip-Hop Theatre and is published in the anthology Plays from the Boom-Box Galaxy: Theater from the Hip-Hop Generation (TCG).
With the premiere of CINDERELLA: THE REMIX at Imagination Stage, Psalm completed his critically acclaimed Hip-Hop Children’s Trilogy that explores the past, present, and future of hip-hop culture. Also having premiered at Imagination Stage, the other two plays of the trilogy are ZOMO THE RABBIT: A HIP-HOP CREATION MYTH and P.NOKIO: A HIP-HOP MUSICAL. Among other awards, the plays of the trilogy have earned two development grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Walt Disney Corporation grant, and two Helen Hayes Award nominations for Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences.
Psalm directed The Welders’ world premiere production of NOT ENUF LIFETIMES by Caleen Sinnette Jennings and the Mead Theatre Lab production of READ: WHITE AND BLUE by The Hueman Prophets. He has also directed theater ensembles in India, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Arena Stage’s Voices of Now program. He was the assistant director of The Living Stage Theatre Company.
Psalm is the recipient of the Imagination Award from Imagination Stage (past recipients include Christopher Reeve, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Dennis Haysbert). He has also received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Boomerang Fund for Artists Inc.
THE BLACKEST BATTLE | CAST
RINGMASTER Kelsey Delemar
BLISS Gary Perkins
SGT. PEPPER Bayou Elom
TY Emmanuel Kyei-Baffour
DO OR DIE Louis Davis
DREAM Imani Branch
BONITA Jade Jones
THE BLACKEST BATTLE | PRODUCTION TEAM
Director Raymond O. Caldwell
Director of Photography Kelly Colburn
Art Director / Technical Director Jonathan Dahm Robertson
Assistant Director Sean-Maurice Lynch
Lighting Designer Dylan Uremovich
Sound Design Matthew M. Nielson
Additional Music The Curious Music Co.
Costume Designer Jeannette Christensen
Props Designer Amy Kellett
Graphic Art Wesley Clark, Camilla King, Maliah Stokes
Background Art Rodney “Buck” Herring
Master Electrician Elliott Shugoll
Assistant Costume Designer Pablo Guillen
Production Assistant Genny Ceperley
Production Manager Rachel Walsh
THE BLACKEST BATTLE | EDITING TEAM
Editing Kelly Colburn
VFX Supervision Dylan Uremovich
Animation Jeremy Bennett, Deja Collins, Dylan Uremovich
Visual FX Artists Kelly Colburn, Deja Collins, Jonathan Dahm Robertson, and Dylan Uremovich
Audio Post-Production Matthew M. Nielson
ABOUT THEATER ALLIANCE
Theater Alliance develops, produces, and presents socially conscious, thought-provoking work that fully engages our community in active dialogue. As the resident theater company of the Anacostia Playhouse since 2013, Theater Alliance is proud to produce professional, award-winning work in Anacostia. Through our work, Theater Alliance hopes to create an audience laboratory where the myriad perspectives of DC are face-to-face, confronting issues and tackling difficult questions that affect our diverse community.
Locally, Theater Alliance has twice been a fnalist for the Mayor’s Arts Award; featured in the Greater Washington Catalogue for Philanthropy; received the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s Keller Award for making signifcant, ongoing contributions to the life of the community; and awarded the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ UPSTART Grant for capacity building. Nationally, we have received the American Theatre Wing’s National Theater Company Grant as well as became a member of Theatre Communications Group and the National New Play Network. Theater Alliance has received 95 Helen Hayes Award Nominations and 22 Helen Hayes Awards.