LOS ANGELES — Hero Theatre will spotlight the stories of Black women with two new commissions.
Phanésia Pharel joins Hero as the newest commission for Nuestro Planeta, the ten-year multimedia new works initiative created by Hero artistic director Elisa Bocanegra that focuses on educating Latiné film and theater audiences about environmental justice within the Americas. Pharel will focus on the effects of the climate crisis in Haiti, joining previous Nuestro Planeta commissioned writers Diana Burbano, who will pen the Colombia installment; Paloma Sierra, whose project will center on Puerto Rico; and Brian Quijada who will create an original piece with music about climate change in Central America. The ten-part series is the first collaboration between 11-year-old Hero Theatre and its offshoot, Hero Multimedia, newly formed to create and produce scripted film and television narratives around environmental and social justice issues.
Playwright Amina Henry, whose play Troy was commissioned and presented by Hero in 2019, returns to riff on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in a follow-up commission. Henry’s Nothing, Nothing explores the experience of Black women, joy, self-care and love; interracial relationships; and finding commonalities and acceptance in a church community. Hero Theatre will present a three-week run, May 12 through May 27, 2023, as a site-specific production at a local church.As an adjunct to the public performances, Hero will continue the partnership with local shelters it began during Troy, providing women experiencing houselessness and domestic violence with free tickets, a prologue discussion, and private transportation to and from the show.
“These two commissions are dear to all of us at Hero as they are a celebration of resilient and beautiful Caribbean women,” says Bocanegra. “Phanésia and I met as part of the Nexus project at New York Stage and Film. I love her fierce pride in her Haitian community. Amina is Jamaican American and we immediately shared a mutual connection over being raised by Caribbean moms.”
Phanésia Pharel is a playwright who grew up on a dragon fruit farm in Miami. Grounded in poetry and Afrofuturism, she often writes about the divine metaphysical dilemma of colored girlhood. Her plays span revolutions, islands, and explore futures built on love by centering women’s pleasure, safety and joy: hopeful and magical survivor stories for the young, poor, women, colored and those audacious enough to be all of the above. Her full length plays include Lucky (New York Stage and Film) and Black Girl Joy (Frank Moffett Mosier Fellowship for Works in Heightened Finalist Prize, Jane Chambers Finalist, Bay Area Playwrights Festival Finalist, O’Neill Semi-Finalist). Other Honors include City Theatre National Short Playwriting Finalist and Blank Stage “Future of Playwriting” Semi-Finalist. Phanésia is a member of the Obie award-winning EST/Youngblood group. Commissions include City Theatre Miami, the Latinx Playwrights Circle and Pregones/PRTT Greater Good Commission, and Thrown Stone Theatre. Residencies include New York Stage and Film, The Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles, the Playwrights Center Core Apprenticeship and the Inaugural 068 Magazine Thrown Stone Theatre Fellowship. Publishing: Concord Theatricals, Smith and Kraus Best Plays of 2020, Reset Coalition 2020 Anthology and the City Theatre Anthology. Phanésia also writes for TV and audio; recent credits include Single Drunk Female, Blood & Water, Maid, Red Collar and Homecoming. She is the recipient of a B.A. in Urban Studies from Barnard College of Columbia University and is currently an M.F.A: candidate at the University of California San Diego (class of ’25).
Amina Henry is a Brooklyn-based playwright whose plays, in addition to Troy, include Ducklings and The Animals at JACK (Brooklyn, NY); Happily Ever at Brooklyn College; Bully at Baltimore’s Interrobang Theatre; An American Family Takes a Lover, produced by The Cell: a 21stCentury Salon and presented by Theater for the New City in New York, NY; Water at Drama of Works (Brooklyn, NY), The Minstrel Show, produced as part of the 2013 Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival at 13th Street Theatre/CSC. Her work has been developed by and/or presented at The New Group, Clubbed Thumb, The Flea, National Black Theatre, Little Theatre at Dixon Place, The Brooklyn Generator, The Brick, Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the 2013 Black Swan Lab, Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas, TX), The Brick, HERE Arts Center, the Hive Theatre, the Bowery Poetry Club and Brooklyn College. She was a 2012-2013 Core Apprentice playwright at The Playwrights Center and a 2013 finalist for the Leah Ryan FEWW Playwriting Prize for her play Bully. She was a featured playwright at the 2013 Black and Latino Playwrights Conference at Texas State University. Publications include Hello, My Name Is Joe in the compilation 24 Gun Control Plays, published by NoPassport Press. Amina Henry is a graduate of Yale University, NYU’s Performance Studies M.A. program and Brooklyn College’s M.F.A. playwriting program. She has been a member of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers Group, Page73’s writers group, and Ars Nova writers group.
Hero Theatre is a community-based company that uses art to model and bring about social and environmental justice. They invite audiences to envision and experience America as they do. Hero examines classical and contemporary works, ensuring that equity, diversity and inclusion remain in the forefront. Hero Theatre and its offshoot, Hero Multimedia, recently launched Nuestro Planeta, a ten-year multimedia, new works initiative that educates Latiné film and theater audiences about environmental justice within the Americas.
For more information about Nuestro Planeta and Nothing Nothing, go to www.herotheatre.org