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New plays for the new place 

The Black Ensemble Theater does its seventh Black Playwrights Festival

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The Black Playwrights Festival pays tribute to actor and TV actress Regina Taylor on Monday 3/19.

The Black Playwrights Festival pays tribute to actor and TV actress Regina Taylor on Monday 3/19.

This will be the Black Ensemble Theater's seventh annual Black Playwrights Festival—and its first in the company's brand-new, $19 million cultural center. The six-night event features work from the Black Playwrights Initiative, a mentoring program whose mission, according to BE executive director Jackie Taylor, is to usher "talented black artists into the local and national spotlight."

The festivities kick off with a tribute to Regina Taylor, who's probably as well-known by now for writing the gospel musical Crowns as for her roles on TV series like The Unit and I'll Fly Away (Mon 3/19). The rest of the fest is taken up with staged readings of full-length and short plays.

In The Diversion of Barbara Jean Williams (Tue 3/20), Leonard Ferris tells the tale of a man who shuts down emotionally after the death of his wife. Creola Thomas's Sisters from Belzoni details a "simple love story . . . complicated by a generation of secrets and lies" (Wed 3/21). Next comes "BPI Shorties," a program offering one ten-minute play apiece by Wendell Etherly, Loy Webb, and Cory Andre Wright (Thu 3/22). Etherly comes back the following evening with The Red Summer (Fri 3/23), a full-length work about the infamous 1919 Chicago race riot. Finally, a hurricane blows through the town of Bayou Port, Louisiana, in Rueben Echoles's musical Reverend Lee (Sat 3/24).

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