Paul Oakley Stovall
Paul Oakley Stovall Credit: Courtesy of Black Ensemble Theater

For a week starting April 15, Black Ensemble Theater presents work by members of its Black Playwrights Initiative, a program designed to nurture talent on the company’s stage. The eighth annual Black Playwrights Festival is a showcase of new scripts by BET-affiliated artists—and part of founder Jackie Taylor’s vision to build an “anchor for a transformation” in Chicago.

An opening gala on Mon 4/15 celebrates playwright and Obama liasion Paul Oakley Stovall, whose Immediate Family—about two bickering siblings, both black, one gay—ran at the Goodman last year. The next six events are staged readings—five nights of full-lengths plus a final night of short pieces. Each show plus the gala starts at 7:30 PM.

In Jil Ross’s one-act The Last Word, a mother hides her husband’s death from their two children, who are home from college on winter break (Tue 4/16). Jarrin Davis delves into strife between two sisters, only one of whom is a churchgoer, in Light (Wed 4/17); Loy Webb’s For Alice and August looks at a dejected playwright pursuing what might not be a pipe dream after all (Thu 4/18); and Leonard M. Ferris’s Savages tells the tale of a politician reconsidering his appetite for power (Fri 4/19). The final full-length offering is Katrina V. Miller’s The Holidays, a musical about a matriarch with Alzheimer’s hosting Christmas for her family (Sat 4/20). The fest wraps up with an evening of ten-minute plays called “shorties”—one apiece by five different playwrights—followed by a dance party (Sun 4/21).