Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. and Penn Live Arts set "Our Voices, Our Time," a program of three one-acts.
Works by Cris Eli Blak, Cynthia Grace Robinson and Mona R. Washington will take stage October 19 to November 6 at New York's Cherry Lane Theatre, preceded by world premiere October 8 at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia


October 19 to November 6, 2022
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, West Village
Presented by The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. and co-commissioned by Penn Live Arts at the University of Pennsylvania
SCHEDULE: Previews October 19 & 20 at 7:30 PM. Opens October 21 at 7:30. Runs through November 6 on the following schedule: Th-Sat at 7:30 PM plus Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM (total 16 performances).
Tickets $35 gen. Adm., $25 seniors & students. Buy tix: Audience info: 347-613-8609.
Runs two hours including intermission.
Subway: #1 to Christopher Street
Critics are invited on or after October 20.

NEW YORK, Septemer 29, 2022 -- From October 19 to November 6 at Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) will present "Our Voices, Our Time," a program of three one-acts that have been co-commissioned by Penn Live Arts at the University of Pennsylvania (The Annenberg Center) and developed through the NEC's 22/23 Brownstein Residency for Artistic Innovation there. The plays are: "Clipper Cut Nation" by Cris Eli Blak, directed by Ralph McCain; "What If" by Cynthia Grace Robinson, directed by Daniel Carlton and "I Don't Do That" by Mona R. Washington, directed by Petronia Paley.

Prior to this New York premiere, Penn Live Arts will present the program's debut October 8, 2022 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM at the Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. More info:

The three plays were selected from a pool of over 40 scripts that were submitted from across the U.S. as well as the UK, Morocco and Trinidad-Tobago.

The Plays
"Clipper Cut Nation" by Cris Eli Blak, directed by Ralph McCain
This four-character play is set in a well-regarded local barbershop, where everything is business as usual as the owner opens up shop with the help of his young apprentice. A rising politician, full of hometown pride, comes in, to great praise – that is, until another neighborhood resident enters the shop and accuses the politician of murdering his son years ago in an incident of gun violence, raising issues of forgiveness, redemption, loss, grief and survival.

Cris Eli Blak’s work has been performed Off-Broadway at Urban Stages, in colleges (Columbia University, Academy of Arts University and Wellesley College) and in London, Canada and Ireland. He was awarded judge's pick for Best Play in NEC's Ten Minute Play Competition. He received an Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre and is a selected participant of The Kennedy Center Playwrights Intensive. He is also a screenwriter and performance artist.

"What If" by Cynthia Grace Robinson, directed by Daniel Carlton
In this two-character play, a Black college student’s need to fight for justice unleashes her mother’s fears for her child’s life. It's a story about love, loss and courage as the play pulls back the curtain on the relationship between a mother and her daughter as they experience the invisible personal cost of activism.

Cynthia Grace Robinson is an award-winning playwright, recently awarded the “Not a Moment, But a Movement” commission with Center Theater Group. Works include "Freedom Summer" (NCBlackRep), "Dancing on Eggshells" (Billie Holiday Theatre), "Passing" (New Perspectives Theatre), "Gold Star Mother" (EstroGenius), "Ascension" (NYCFringe) and "Thunder: A Musical Memoir" (NYCFringe).

"I Don't Do That" by Mona R. Washington, directed by Petronia Paley
A play of sexual politics in Black couples. Newly engaged, Norah (African-American) and Simon (Nigerian) are in love. As two of their friends look on and narrate, a thwarted romantic moment spirals the couple into an argument based on stereotypes and power.

Mona R. Washington is a playwright, librettist, activist, and graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies at The Djerassi Foundation, The Ucross Foundation, Dora Maar/MFAH (France), The Ragdale Foundation, and the Jack Kerouac House (their first playwright). She is a 2021 New Jersey Artist Individual Fellowship recipient.

Ralph McCain ("Clipper Cut Nation") recently directed the play "Thurgood," whose star, Doug Wade, won a 2020 AUDELCO Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as "The Chickens Come Home to Roost" by Laurence Holder for New Federal Theatre and "A Raisin in the Sun" at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City. His acting roles have included the role of Jim Bono and Gabe in "Fences," Boyd Henry in "Sundown Names Night Gone Things" and Sunday in New Federal Theater’s production of "The Most Dangerous Man in America." Television credits include "One Life to Live,""Another World" and "The Sopranos"; and independent film "Flowers" (SXSW Film Festival), and a soon-to-be-released short film "un•bind."

Daniel Carlton ("What If") is an award-winning Harlem-based actor, storyteller, playwright, poet, director, and teaching artist who has appeared on New York, national, and international stages. His work has also been presented in schools, jails, homeless shelters, libraries, and every imaginable place there is to perform. Recent projects include writer/director of "March On" (Apollo Theater, National Black Theater Festival, York College, Playhouse Square Wilmington, Community Tour) and "Pigfoot Mary Says Goodbye To The Harlem Renaissance" (Metropolitan Playhouse, Negro Ensemble Company Tour Showing, Community Works School Tour, Kumble Theater, and more).

Petronia Paley ("I Don't Do That") is an award-winning actress, director, playwright and teacher. Some of her recent directing credits include "Henry IV, Part 1," Purchase College 2022; "Three Mothers" (staged reading) Capital Reparatory Theatre 2022; and "Looking for Leroy," New Federal Theatre 2021.

The Penn Live Arts/Negro Ensemble Company Residency
The residency between Penn Live Arts and the Tony® and Obie Award-winning Negro Ensemble Company, NEC’s first with a major institution, brings together one of the most important Black theater producers in the United States and the University of Pennsylvania’s nexus of the performing arts, two legacy organizations that share a mission of advancing innovative, contemporary theater. The goal of this yearlong residency is to discover authentic, edgy stories of the Black experience and to inspire meaningful and thought-provoking conversations on the far-reaching role of Black artists in shaping art and culture in our country.

In addition to the Our Voices, Our Time: One-Act Play Festival, the residency also includes development of a new multidisciplinary theater work (TBA) that merges live music, dance, civil rights era poetry and contemporary writings that reflect on our nation’s recent racial reckoning, with additional inspiration from Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed theater piece, "for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf." It will premiere at Penn Live Arts February 14-18, 2023. The residency will be rounded out with collaborative community activities with NEC artists and Penn students and faculty, notably Penn Professor of English and Africana Studies Herman Beavers, who teaches, with instructor Suzana Berger, the arts-based community service course entitled "August Wilson and Beyond."

Penn Live Arts, Celebrating 50 Years
In June 2021, the Annenberg Center launched a new brand identity, Penn Live Arts (PLA), to reflect a deeper integration with the University and an expanded canvas for presenting performances. This year PLA, the leading presenter of innovative and transformative performing arts experiences in Philadelphia, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its home, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. A vital resource for the performing arts at the University of Pennsylvania, PLA is an artistic crossroads joining Penn and the greater Philadelphia region through world-class music, dance, theater and film on campus and at venues throughout the city. PLA emphasizes artistic and intellectual excellence and diversity in its offerings; prioritizes broad inclusiveness in the artists, audiences and groups it serves; and expands arts access by actively engaging a wide range of school audiences and inclusive communities from campus, the West Philadelphia neighborhood and the surrounding region.

The Negro Ensemble Company Residency in the 22/23 season is made possible in part with support provided by the Penn Live Arts Accelerator Program at the University of Pennsylvania. NEC is the 22/23 season artist-in-residence of the Brownstein Residency for Artistic Innovation. This project is funded in part by an ArtsForward grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, made possible through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support has been provided through an Extended Artist Residency grant from The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation.

# # #

Critics are invited to the Cherry Lane Theatre run on or after October 20.