The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep) in conjunction with Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity and Wake the Arts Initiative, along with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, have announced dates for the world premieres of two plays whose playwrights each won a $10,000 commission from the Finding Holy Ground: Performing Visions of Race and Justice in America project.

The plays written by JuCoby Johnson and Eljon Wardally will receive their world premieres during NC Black Rep’s International Black Theatre Festival (IBTF) in Winston-Salem, NC, July 30-August 3.

JuCoby Johnson
Commissioned Playwright
Eljon Wardally
Commissioned Playwright

Jackie Alexander, Producing Artistic Director of the NC Black Rep, says, “We’re very excited to present these world premieres at IBTF. Shepherdess, which features an all-Black female cast and design team, and Heritage, which explores the relationship between the church and LGBTQIA+ community, confront conflicting messages of love and hate sparking healing dialogue between worshippers of all faiths.”

Funded by a $250,000 grant received from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Finding Holy Ground project’s aim is to highlight and share stories from underserved communities, while also championing the creation of new and challenging theatrical works. The project will also produce ancillary community events of dialogue and engagement that critically examine the intersection of religion, racism, sexism, and justice in America

HERITAGE, written by JuCoby Johnson, directed by H. Adam Harris

Fusing traditional Black gospel hymns and punk rock, Heritage takes place in the world of a small storefront church in a rapidly changing neighborhood facing the threat of demolishment after their beloved Pastor/Patriarch dies suddenly. After being aways for many years, Mahalia (the Preacher’s daughter) returns, reopening old wounds and asking a times questions: “Can you ever really escape your past?” (Wake Forest, The Ring Theatre; more info HERE)

About the Playwright: JuCoby Johnson is a New York-based playwright, actor, and screenwriter who grew up in Jacksonville FL. He is a first-year playwright in the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program.

I AM… A SHEPHERDESS, written by Eljon Wardally, directed by Bianca La Verne Jones

At a wedding rehearsal, four women navigate the trials and tribulations of being Black women in America while finding humor and solace with the bonds of their sisterhood. When an outside incident threatens to tear them apart, they must confront what haunts them, in order to heal each other. (Wake Forest, Harold C. Tedford Mainstage; more info HERE)

About the Playwright: Eljon Wardally is an award-winning Grenadian Italian American playwright and screenwriter who was born in New York and raised near Manhattan’s Little Italy. She received her MFA from Fordham as part of its inaugural Playwriting class.