NBT Selects Five for 2023 – SOUL Series LAB Residency Program
color photo of a young black person wearing glasses, a yellow/gold scarf around their head, large earrings, and a black crew-neck shirt
DG member a.k. payne

New York, NY — Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre (NBT) is celebrating its 56th season with the theme “Defiance Of Our Bloom.” The celebration includes the selection of five early career artists for the SOUL Series LAB (Liberating Artistic Bravery) Residency Programs, which comprises three signature programs: the SOUL Playwright Residency, SOUL Producing Residency, and SOUL Directing Residency. Additionally, NBT is providing support to fifteen playwrights through micro-development in its Keep Soul Alive Reading Series.

“The nurturing and growth of playwrights, the launching of new directors, and the guidance of budding producers require a safe and supportive environment. Every year, our program advances in capacity and in the dynamics of black artists. It’s been ten years now, and I still marvel at the accomplishments of our program.”

– Belynda M’Baye, Soul Series LAB and Special Projects Manager

2023 Soul Series LAB Cohort

Through the SOUL Series LAB, NBT strengthens the artistic relationship between historically Black theatrical institutions and cutting-edge artists. It’s a creative laboratory and home for Black artists, dedicated to accelerating and creating innovative cultural productions based on NBT’s pedagogy forged in 1968. The program's goal is to diversify the narratives, points of access, and possibilities being developed and produced around the Black lifestyle in American theatre.

2023 Cohort
a.k payne (SOUL Playwright Resident)
jeremy o’brian (SOUL Playwright Resident)
Zola Dee (SOUL Playwright Resident)
JaMario Stills (SOUL Directing Resident)
Phoebe Moore (SOUL Producing Resident)

a.k. payne (she/they) is a playwright, artist-theorist, and theatermaker with roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She plays love on and engages Black lives and languages beyond the confines of linear time to find/remember stories that might create conditions for our collective liberation(s). They hold a B.A. in English and African-American Studies from Yale College and an MFA in Playwriting under Tarell Alvin McCraney from fka Yale School of Drama. Their work has been a finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. She is a recipient of the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, the Kemp Powers Commission Fund for Black Playwrights and Atlantic Theater Company’s Judith Champion Launch Commission. Their work has been developed with the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference,  The New Harmony Project, Great Plains Theater Conference, Manhattan Theater Club’s Groundworks Lab. They are a proud graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools; grandchild of the Great Migration; descendant of a music teacher and a carpenter, who both march every year with their unions in Pittsburgh’s Labor Day parade; a queer & nonbinary abolitionist affected in community by the ‘New Jim Crow;” and of a great lineage of Black women storytellers and living-room archivists; all of which deeply informs, uplifts and amplifies their work as a playwright, community organizer and spacemaker. 
jeremy o’brian is a playwright, songwriter, and theatre-maker from Lambert, Mississippi, whose work centers the experiences of black gay boys while drawing from the poetics of the black south, black popular culture, and the black vernacular tradition. He is an HBCU graduate of Tougaloo College and received his Master of Arts in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He has received the New York Stage and Film Founders’ Award (2021), Liberation Theater Company's Playwriting Residency (2019), Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voice in Playwriting Fellowship (2016), and more. His plays include: egg; or anythin’ dipped in egg gone soften, a curious thing; or superheroes k’ain’t fly, under one roof; or home to Mississippi, and boys don’t look at boys. Jeremy is an adjunct professor and Associate Writer with Tectonic Theater Project.
Zola Dee is a playwright, screenwriter, and performer whose works are deeply invested in exploring Black Americana, African diasporic religions, and imagining freer worlds for the Black collective body. Her most notable work GUNSHOT MEDLEY: Part 1 was Ovation Award recommended and published in Routledge’s Contemporary Plays by Women of Color. Her other plays include SMILE, GODDAMNIT, SMILE, Rain, River, Ocean, and Father, Father. Her work has been seen and/or developed with Antaeus Theater Company, CalArts Center for New Performance, Collaborative Artists Bloc, East West Players, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hi-Arts, The Playwrights’ Center, Rogue Machine Theater, and Skylight Theater. While most of her artistic career has been based in Los Angeles, she is currently living in Minneapolis where she is a 2022-2023 Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. Other accomplishments include: member of Playwrights' Center Many Voices Fellow 2021-2022, CTG Writer’s Workshop 2019-2020, 2017-2018 Core Apprentice at The Playwrights’ Center and the 2018 Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights Diversity Fellow. Zola is a graduate from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Acting and a minor in Creative Writing. She is currently a freelance writer for Meow Wolf and loves busting a move to some old school R&B and funk music. She is currently managed by Management 360 in Los Angeles.
JaMario Stills is a transdisciplinary artist from Jacksonville, Florida (Duval). His creative praxis intertwines playwriting, acting, digitalmedia, music, and movement. The scope of JaMario’s projects center and highlight Southern Black Futurity as a form of protest and liberation, and is in direct opposition to normative storytelling practices which often conflate the lives and experiences of those of the Afro-diasporic. Directorily, JaMario’s work includes immersive experiences, solo-shows, classical works ranging from Black folklore to the European cannon, multimedia works, and dance theater. His work as a writer have been produced at Brown University/Trinity Rep (Soul Tapes) and The Wilbury Group (22|16 The Remix of a Global Experiment.) With an active career as a performer, Stills has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The McCarter Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. JaMario’s residencies and fellowships have been with The National Black Theater, The Mercury Store, Williamstown Theater Festival, Brown Arts Initiative, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville.As an educator, Stills is a professor of practice at the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he has innovated and implemented new course curriculums. Holding BFA in acting from The Juilliard School, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from Brown/Trinity Rep– JaMario has studied screenwriting and scenography at the Rhode Island School of Design, and weaves these skills into his creative practice and artistic mission.
Phoebe Moore (she/her) is a producer, designer, and creative in the event, communications, education, and nonprofit spheres from Nashville, Tennessee. With a background in event production, she has had the honor of being a former fellow with the Black Theatre Coalition in partnership with Columbia University and Disney Theatrical Group, a 2022 Theatre Producers of Color: Producing 101 Fellow, and most recently the 2050 Development Fellow for the 2022-23 Season at the New York Theatre Workshop. Phoebe passionately advocates for Black creatives, promoting inclusive frameworks of diversity, equity, and accessibility in any space she enters. She is a proud graduate of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University.

2023 Soul Series LAB Finalists

Playwrights: LaDarrion Williams, JuCoby Johnson, Kirk Washington, Marissa Joyce Stamps, and Thaddeus McCants
Directors: Daniel Boisrond, Lamar Perry, Melissa Mowry, Raecine Singletary, Reva Stover and Sideeq Heard 
Producers : Brandon Kazen-Maddox, Katasha Acosta, and Poala Alexandra

The residents were selected through a five-month peer selection process, fully administered by NBT for all three SOUL programs: Playwright, Directing, and Producing residency. This year's cohort of artists will officially commence their residencies on Tuesday, September 5th, 2023. Each resident receives a financial stipend, professional development opportunities, dramaturgical and developmental resources, a complete production team, and two 29-hour workshops.

SOUL Playwright Residency Program

Launched in 2012, the SOUL Playwright Residency Program uniquely serves the best and brightest emerging Black playwrights from around the nation, with a commitment to producing a workshop presentation of a new and original text over eighteen months. 

About NBT

Founded by visionary Dr.Barbara Ann Teer in 1968, National Black Theatre (NBT) is a nationally recognized cultural and educational institution. Dr. Teer pioneered “the healing art of Black Theater” as an instrument for wholeness in urban communities where entrepreneurial artists of African descent live and work.” In 1983, Dr. Teer expanded the vision of NBT by purchasing a 64,000-square-foot building on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue (renamed “National Black Theatre Way” by local law in 1994). This was the first revenue-generating Black arts complex in the country, an innovative arrangement through which for-profit businesses who shared NBT’s spiritual and aesthetic values rented retail space to subsidize the arts. Out of her vision, NBT houses the largest collection of Nigerian New Sacred Art in the Western Hemisphere and is considered the authentic representation of a model whose time has come. Throughout its rich history, NBT has maintained a strong commitment to creating a space in which new and diverse perspectives on the myriad critical issues of equity and social justice that affects our nation today. During the past 50 years, NBT has produced over 300 original works, toured globally and launched international extensions, like the National Black Theatre of Sweden. NBT is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, Time Warner Corporation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Andrew Mellon Foundation, City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, Columbia Service Society and private donations. Visit www.nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on Facebook (@NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre)