Karl Williams

The multi award winning play ‘The Black That I Am’ by Jamaican actor and playwright Karl O’ Brian Williams, will have its New York premiere as part of the city’s Black History month cultural celebrations, with a limited run in Queens as well as Off Broadway, from February 25 to March 8.

The production will run at The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Queens, from February 25 through March 1, before moving Off Broadway to the Roy Arias Studio Theater in Manhattan, from March 4 through March 8.

‘The Black That I Am’ is a dramatic exploration of black identity seen from a Caribbean perspective. The 90 minute production unfolds through a series of monologues, woven together with movement and music, and addresses issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and nationalism. The dynamic cast- comprised of seven established and upcoming New York actors – will create nearly two dozen characters bringing the monologues to life, and includes Andrew Clarke, Shayne Powell, Ilana Warner, Jovaun Black, Shykia Fields, Christopher Bazemore, and Alana Barrett Adkins.

The show is directed by Kelly Thomas co-founder of the Akoma Newark Sister Circle, a network of women producing socially and politically relevant programming around Newark, NJ.

While this will be the New York premiere of Williams’ critically acclaimed work, The Black That I Am has had a highly successful production history dating back nearly a decade.

The production earned three International Theater Institute ‘Actor Boy’ Awards including Best New Jamaican Play. Following a highly successful 2011 New York reading directed by Kelly Thomas, the world famous National Theater of Scotland selected four monologues from the piece for one of their major theatrical production series in 2014, earning excellent reviews and giving the play its first international exposure.

For award winning actor and vocalist Andrew Clarke, who performs in the latest incarnation of the show and produces it as well under the banner of his Braata Theatre Workshop, the timing of the 2015 New York premier could not be better.

“Although the show was first produced in Jamaica nearly ten years ago,” he says, “It remains exciting, vibrant and very timely even with relatively minor tweaks from Karl. What we have witnessed in race relations here in the USA in the past two years with Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner and others, is a reminder that we still have much to think about regarding how individuals of different backgrounds can best co- exist in our modern society. The Black That I Am is a true reflection of this dilemma and will give all its audiences much food for thought.”

Additionally, according to playwright Williams, “Caribbean immigrants to the USA have an additional hurdle in fitting into this society, because we are often treated by some as part of the African American community, while in reality, the African Americans themselves do not all regard us as such. So we as Caribbean people have to find our own place in this dynamic and our own ways of coping with being ‘double outsiders,’ if you will. The Black That I Am addresses these feelings of confusion, hurt and yearning to belong. It is a terrific addition to the New York cultural landscape for Black History month, but will generate conversations that will hopefully go on for a long time after that.”

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning is located at 161-04 Jamaica Avenue in Queens, New York. The Roy Arias Studios and Theaters are located at 300 West 43rd Street at 8th Avenue in Manhattan.


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