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Masters at Work | Black Theater Mechanics

Black Theater Mechanics, a collective of Black theater founders and producers, are working to build a stronger bridge between Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ (HBCUs) theater students, alumni, and Black professional artists, as the inaugural members of MoCADA’s Masters at Work Residency program.

A three-year initiative beginning in 2021, the goals for the initiative are to work toward the creation of a pathway for HBCU students journeying toward becoming theater workers and independent cultural producers. This partnership, which is part of MoCADA’s Masters at Work residency program which supports mid-career artists as they endeavor to create their next big project, has received a generous grant from the newly created Black Seed Fund, a national strategic initiative focused on creating impact and “thriveability” for Black theatre institutions.


Summer Play Lab

The Black Theater Mechanics’ Summer Play Lab will focus on developing new plays written by Black LGBTQIA playwrights. Team members include Artist/Producer, Educator/Social Worker and Cultural Strategist Tanisha Christie; Nina Angela Mercer, Founder and Executive Director of Ocean Ana Rising (OAR), an arts education organization dedicated to co-creating social change through the development of theater and multimedia projects alongside vital community engagement and outreach programming; and Eric Ruffin, Artistic Director and Associate Professor, Howard University Department of Theatre Arts.


Nina Angela Mercer, Founder and Executive Director of Ocean Ana Rising (OAR)


Tanisha Christie, Artist/Producer, Educator/Social Worker, and Cultural Strategist


Eric Ruffin, Artistic Director and Associate Professor, Howard University Department of Theater Arts

HBCU Showcase + HBCUX

SoulCenter, a creative content development space based in Atlanta, GA and Montgomery, AL focused on the cultivation of Black creatives between the ages of 18-35, is partnering with MoCADA Museum in BK and Black Theater Mechanics to create a digital showcase to feature HBCU graduates and recent alumni. They honor the legacy and importance of HBCU Theaters and its role in shaping the possibilities of Blk Art now and for years to come.


Erin Michelle Washington, Waymaker at SoulCenter


Toran X Moore, Waymaker at SoulCenter


Dara Prentiss, Waymaker at SoulCenter

Playwright Competition

Changing Perceptions Theater, which produces quality dramatic works written by underground Black playwrights focused on Black people between the ages of 18-35 and their real-life experiences, will facilitate The Black Theater Mechanic’s playwriting contest. This contest will be open to current HBCU students and HBCU graduates from classes 2019 & 2020. Writers will have to write 10-minute-plays that focus on interpretations of the term “Black Space.”  Winning plays will receive public readings at @MoCADA in Brooklyn and be made into content for @burntheater.


Shaun Neblett, Founder and Director of Changing Perceptions/Burn Theater


MoCADA and the members of The Black Theater Mechanics share a deep passion for theater and desire to reinvigorate sustainable ecologies around new Black voices, co-created partnerships with Black institutions, theater programs at HBCUs, and Black performing artists and producers. Within this partnership are HBCU graduates and educators who use their collective experiences to fuel this initiative. The initiative will lay the foundation for a collaborative structure between The Black Theater Mechanics, MoCADA, and HBCU faculty and professional artists that will work with a cohort of students so that they can be more equipped to enter the field.

The first phase of the initiative (2021-2023) will include HBCU Annual Playwrights Festival and competition for students and alumni led by Changing Perceptions/Burn Theater that will take place annual with readings slated at MoCADA; a Summer Play Lab focused on Black LGBTQIA playwrights led by Ocean Ana Rising with Howard University’s Eric Ruffin, associate professor and professional theater director; and SoulCenter will curate an In person and Digital HBCU Showcase featuring graduates of the HBCU Theater Programs to be introduced to Black theater professionals and cultural producers.

Phase one activities will also include Forums with HBCU professors and Master Class Talks with independent cultural producers to share lessons from the field. In the spirit of The Black Seed funding opportunity, the initiative is committed to a Grassroots Funding effort to secure resources for the next cohort of HBCU students. Current HBCU partners include Howard University and the Atlanta University Center Consortium and will expand to engage others.

Phase Two (2024) will focus on advancing the residual impacts of the first three years and building the continued sustainability through research, documentation, and the development of products (film, database, journal), and most importantly, a strategic plan that will outline a Blueprint for a new group of artists to take the helm of The Black Theater Mechanics to continue the work.

MoCADA and Black Theater Mechanics seek to create a vibrant and inclusive space for Black theater that honors and celebrates the Black experience in all its forms and complexities. This union of the realms of digital, visual, theater and performing art catalyzes a fresh effort to merge our contemporary art spaces with existing creative networks to cultivate liberation-driven ideas toward the creation of a dynamic Black arts aesthetic.


For more about these artists, organizations and the initiative, visit Blacktheatermechanics.com.

To learn more about MoCADA’s Masters at Work Residency program, click HERE.

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