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Ifa Bayeza

Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning conceptual theatre artist, writer, composer and educator. Her acclaimed drama The Ballad of Emmett Till received a Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference fellowship and premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 2008, winning the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Play. The Ballad made its West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles in 2010, garnering the Ovation Awards’ Best Production; Drama Desk Critics’ Circle Award for Best Production; and the Backstage Garland Award for Best Playwriting. Acclaimed productions followed with the Houston Ensemble Theatre, Penumbra Theatre and Ion Theatre, where it earned top honors at the San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel Awards, including Outstanding Dramatic Production. Bayeza has expanded The Ballad into The Till Trilogy, recounting the epic Civil Rights saga now in three distinct dramas – The Ballad, on the journey of the boy, Benevolence, on the story of his killers and That Summer in Sumner on the quest for justice. The second play Benevolence, which debuted at Penumbra Theatre in 2019, was finalist for the Francesca Primus Prize and ranked “Best in Twin Cities Theatre” by the Star Tribune. Supported by a grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation, Mosaic Theater Company of DC will open its 2022 season with Bayeza’s long-anticipated three-play cycle. Presented in rotating repertory with a single ensemble cast, this world premiere of The Till Trilogy will be the first time all three plays are performed together and a world premiere for That Summer in Sumner.

Other innovative works for the stage include Homer G & the Rhapsodies in The Fall of Detroit (Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award); the 2015 Commencement Forum Production at Brown University, String Theory, on the Amistad slave ship; her adaptation of Wallace Thurman’s Infants of the Spring, offering the insider’s view of the Harlem Renaissance; and the musicals: the National Endowment for the Arts Award-winner Kid Zero; Charleston Olio (Fred Ebb Award finalist) and Bunk Johnson … a blues poem, commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Bayeza co-authored with her sister Ntozake Shange, the “gorgeous” (NY Times), “magical” (Elle), “dazzling” (Essence) novel Some Sing, Some Cry, chronicling 200 years of African American music through seven generations of women. Currently, Bayeza is a National Trust for Historic Preservation Artist-in-Residence in New Iberia Louisiana. Commissioned by Trust’s African America Cultural Heritage Action Fund, she is, with a group of eleven African American local residents, reimaging the historic plantation home Shadows-on-the-Teche. African Shadows, Telling the Full Story will premiere as a digital production and live performance in 2022.

The 2018 Humanist-in-Residence at the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bayeza is a graduate of Harvard University with an MFA in Theater from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.