During 2021, producers Marguerite Hannah and LaWanda Green at Horizon did a nationwide search requesting applications to participate in creating plays that would become part of their ongoing seasons. They sought Black woman identifying playwrights to create entirely original content. This content would be inspired by conversations with at least 100 Black women. Their mission was to seek out emerging and professional playwrights to speak to the plurality of the Black Southern women’s experiences. Out of this search, nine playwrights were identified, and the project Black Women Speak was mounted. During the course of the project National New Play Network joined as a co-producer.
The two of us had a recent conversation about our experiences with Black Women Speak and shared the following sentiments:
Among the highlights of working with Horizon Theatre on the Black Women Speak Project is that not only were we paid to write the plays we want to write, but we were also invited to participate in weekly zoom conversations with each other and with other Black women across the country. We both center Black women’s experiences in our work and one of our goals for this project is to amplify the voices of Black southern women. In weekly two hour zoom conversations, we discussed topics that ranged from gun violence, healthcare, desire, motherhood, education, and mental health. These overt conversations led us to more pointed topics like breast feeding, responses to the pandemic, societal expectations on Black women, the myth of the strong Black woman, interpersonal relationships, and more, which highlights how the personal is political. It was a silver lining that these conversations were a balm to us and that during the pandemic we became part of a vibrant and supportive community of Black women.
The plays written for Black Women Speak will have workshops and a public reading in the 2022/2023 season at Horizon.