Travel back in time and be enthralled by unheard, unseen voices of The Harlem Renaissance as they are brought to life in half-hour radio dramas written by playwrights of color.
ICONS: Harlem Renaissance in Motion is produced by The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) and Venus Radio Theater. This series of incredible stories is provided to you for free in partnership with Broadway Podcast Network.
ICONS was curated by CTH's Director of Literary Programs & Dramaturg Shawn René Graham and Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence Betty Shamieh.
Produced by The Classical Theatre of Harlem and Venus Radio Theatre
Podcasts edited and produced by Eric Emma
Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem
NAACP and OBIE Award Winner, Ty Jones, assumed CTH’s artistic and organizational management in 2009 after the financial crisis nearly forced the organization’s closing. Under his leadership, CTH stabilized its finances, grew its donor base and expanded its programming and community-based initiatives. Mr. Jones envisioned and launched CTH’s Uptown Shakespeare in the Park series in 2013, initiated an Uptown meets Downtown collaboration program, implemented CTH’s free monthly Literary Series to support playwrights of color and created educational programs for Harlem youth. In addition, Mr. Jones has assembled an exceptional board and staff and developed an organizational template for similar sized arts organizations to potentially replicate for their own stability.
Artistic credits include: Broadway: The Great Society, ENRON, Judgement at Nuremberg, Julius Caesar, Henry IV; Classical Theatre of Harlem: The Blacks, Macbeth, Antigone, Henry V, Emancipation; Regional: American Shakespeare Theatre Company, Baltimore Center Stage, Guthrie Theatre; Film: Clifford The Big Red Dog, The Taking of Pelham 123, Redacted; TV: POWER, Blacklist, Chicago PD, Madam Secretary. He earned his MFA from the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program.
Betty Shamieh, Mellon Playwright-In-Residence
Betty Shamieh is the author of fifteen plays. Her off-Broadway premieres include The Black Eyed (New York Theatre Workshop, Director: Sam Gold) and Roar (The New Group, Director: Marion McClinton). Roar was selected as a New York Times Critics Pick and is currently being taught at universities throughout the United States. In 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Drama and Performance Art. She is a two-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship. She was selected as a winner of The Playwrights’ Center’s McKnight National Residency and Commission. Shamieh was named a UNESCO Young Artist for Intercultural Dialogue in 2011.
Her European productions in translation are Again and Against (Playhouse Theater, Sweden), The Black Eyed (Fournos Theatre, Greece), and Territories (European Union Capital of Culture Festival). Shamieh wrote and co-starred in her play of monologues, Chocolate in Heat (Director: Sam Gold), in two sold-out off-off-Broadway runs and over twenty university theatres. As Soon As Impossible was developed with Jamie Farr and commissioned by Second Stage through the Time Warner Commissioning Program. The Machine (Director: Marisa Tomei) was produced by Naked Angels at the Duke Theatre in 2007. She began performing in work-in-progress presentations of The Alter-Ego of an Arab-American Assimilationist (a performance art-lecture) at colleges in 2014. Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Studies presented the world premiere of a suite of arias from Territories, an opera based on her play. She was commissioned by Denison College to co-write the lyrics and libretto of Malvolio, a sequel to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night based on her play. Fit for a Queen had world premiere at the Classical Theatre of Harlem in October 2016 (Director: Tamilla Woodard). In 2017, the New York premiere of her immersive murder mystery The Strangest (Director: May Adrales) was selected as one of the season’s “most promising live events” in the New York Times Spring Arts Preview article, “32 Reasons to Get Out & Get Off the Couch.”
Shamieh’s work has been the subject of features in the New York Times, Time Out, American Theatre magazine, Theater Bay Area, the Brooklyn Rail, San Francisco Chronicle, Svenska Dagbladet, Teaterstockholm, der Standard, Aramco Magazine, Kathimeiri, and the International Herald Tribune among others. A cartoon of Roar appeared in the New Yorker’s “Goings on about Town” section.
A graduate of Harvard College and the Yale School of Drama, Shamieh was awarded an NEA/TCG grant to be a playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre. Shamieh was selected as a Clifton Visiting Artist at Harvard and named as a Playwriting Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. Shamieh has taught playwriting at Columbia/Barnard, Denison College, and Marymount Manhattan College. She is a member of New Dramatists. an affiliated artist at the New Group, and a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. Her works have been translated into seven languages.
Shawn René Graham, CTH Director of Literary Programs
Shawn René Graham is a freelance writer and dramaturg from San Jose, California who has worked with many writers including Dennis Allen, France-Luce Benson, Nilo Cruz, Steve Harper, Walter Mosley, Lynn Nottage, Paul Rudnick, Susan Sontag, Dominic A. Taylor, Judy Tate, and Cori Thomas. She has been a guest dramaturg at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, the Crossroads Theatre Company’s Genesis Festival, the New Professional Theatre, and African American Women’s New Play Festival; and has served on many panels including the National Endowments for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights, the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grants Panel in Playwriting, and the Mark Taper Forum’s New Works Festival. She is currently the resident dramaturg of The American Slavery Project’s Unheard Voices, the Literary Director for the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Future Classics Series and Playwright’s Playground, and founder of All Creative Writes, an artistic assistance service designed to provide individual artists and performing arts organizations with administrative, fundraising and writing support. Ms. Graham holds degrees from the California State University, Los Angeles and the American Repertory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. She joined The Field in 2012 and lives in Bronx, NY.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS
Marcus Scott (he/him) is a playwright and journalist. Selected works: Heartbeat Opera’s Fidelio (Libretto; Baruch Performing Arts Center, The Met Museum, Mondavi Center, The Broad Stage, Scottsdale Center for The Performing Arts; called “poignant” by NY Times, “vital” by The New Yorker and “Highbrow and brilliant” by New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix), Tumbleweed (Dixon Place; Finalist for the 2017 BAPF; semi-finalist for the 2017/2018 New Dramatists Princess Grace Fellowship Award), Sibling Rivalries (Finalist for the 2021 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and the 2021 ATHE-KCACTF Judith Royer Excellence In Playwriting Award; semi-finalist for 2021 Blue Ink Playwriting Award and the 2021 New Dramatists Princess Grace Fellowship Award; long-listed for the 2020 Theatre503 International Playwriting Award), Cherry Bomb (New York Theatre Barn New Works Series; recipient of the 2017 Drama League First Stage Artist-In-Residence; 2017 Finalist for the Yale Institute for Music Theatre). Scott is a 2021 NYSAF Founders’ Award finalist, a 2019 finalist for the Bushwick Starr’s Starr Reading Series, a two-time finalist for NBT’s I AM SOUL Playwrights Residency and a Prospect Theater Company Musical Theater Lab Writer. Residencies and retreats: Prospect Musical Theater Lab (2021), María Irene Fornés Playwriting Workshop (2021), JACK Governor’s Island Artist Residency (2021), Catwalk Artist Residency (2021), The Center at West Park Virtual Performance Residency (2020-2021), Gingold Theatre Group Speaker’s Corner Writer (2020-2021), Liberation Theatre Company’s Playwriting Residency Fellowship (2018), Athena Theatre Company’s Athena Writes Playwriting Fellowship (2018-2019), the inaugural LIT Council at the Tank (2018-2019), Fresh Ground Pepper Artist-In-Residence BRB Retreat (2017), One Co. Writers’ Residency at Little Farm (2017) and Goodspeed Opera House Retreat (2013). His articles appeared in Time Out New York, American Theatre, Playbill, Elle, Out, Essence, among others. MFA: NYU Tisch.
Onyekachi Iwu is a Nigerian-American playwright, filmmaker, director, and poet from Nashville, TN. She is a member of the American Theatre Group Playlab, 2020-2022 and Eden Theater Company Playlab, 2020. Her plays have also been developed and performed with the Classical Theatre of Harlem (Where is Nina Mae?), Two Strikes Theatre Collective (Georgia Rose), Conchshell Productions (Ants and Garlic), and Columbia University (Cotton Harris). Her full-length play, The Magical South, was a finalist for the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers in 2020 and the Crossroads Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative in 2021. Iwu’s work explores themes of Black love, Black womanhood, communal healing, and radical escapism.
Michael Bradford is currently Vice Provost for Faculty, Staff and Student Development at the University of Connecticut. Prior to this position he was the Department Head of Drama and Artistic Director of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. As a playwright, his work has been produced in New York (The American Place Theatre, the LARK Play Developmental Center, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the HERE Art Center) and regionally (eta Creative Arts Foundation, Inc., Chicago, Il.; the Playhouse on Park, Hartford, Ct.; ACT, Seattle, Wa.) and internationally (Teatro Rita Montaner, Havana, Cuba; Brixton East Theatre, London, UK). His workshops and readings include The Negro Ensemble Co., The New Black Fest, Urban Stages and Liminal Studios (London, UK). His residencies and fellowships include the Manhattan Theatre Club Fellowship, Connecticut Office of the Arts Fellowship, and various residencies with the LARK Developmental Theatre (NYC). He is a 2010 Fulbright Research Scholar (Granada, Spain). His work is published by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc., Smith and Krause and Dr. Cicero Press.
Chima Chikazunga: actor/writer/ director. FSU graduate.
The Eye of the Wake (Ecclectics Festival, MITF ,Best American Short Plays 2018-2019 ), Me or You ( The Breath Project, Best Men’s Monologues 2022 Anthology), Sophies Sweet 16, For Chance, The Accidental Kiss (TFNC DREAM UP FESTIVAL 13,14,15).SELECT READINGS: Touch My Heart Masterpiece(CTH, TFNC), NOT JUST YOU (AND Theatre Co., TFNC) A Things Called Balance (INTAR) Chantels Dilemma (Negro Ensemble Company, Best Women’s Monologues 2022 Anthology).An Icons Belief in Fallen Solidiers (Icons CTH Commission) Echoes of a Lost Son (2019 PATV WINNER), 3 The Hard Way (semi-finalist 2014 Mentor Project, 11th Annual Downtown Urban Theatre Festival), The Detention Hours (DUAF Finalist).https://newplayexchange.org/users/9921/chima-chikazunga
Andrea Ambam is a multihyphenate theatre artist (actress, playwright, and cultural facilitator) whose roots sprout from Cameroon. As a politically engaged storyteller, Andrea best intersects spaces where community, transformative justice, and truth-telling pulsate. Currently, Andrea is an Artistic Fellow at Signature Theatre, a PenAmerica Writing as Activism Fellow, a Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist-In-Residence, and a Lead Facilitator and Mentor for Broadway Advocacy Coalition’s Reimagining Equitable Productions workshops and Artivism Fellowship. She has developed her practice as an Inaugural Artivism Fellow with Broadway Advocacy Coalition, an Artist-in-Residence for Anna Deavere Smith, an EmergeNYC Fellow at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and as a competitive public speaker/performer where she has been awarded 10 national championships including “Top Speaker in the Nation” three times. She’s collaborated with Level Forward/Slave Play, Classical Theatre of Harlem/Playbill, gal-dem, Abrons Arts Center, NYU Prison Education Program, Artists’ Literacies Institute, Centre for Social Innovation, and others. Her plays include R(estoration) I(n) P(rogress) (NYU New Plays For Young Audiences Festival 2021; Ashland New Plays Festival 2021 Semifinalist), Rehearsing Justice (Broadway Advocacy Coalition/The Fellowship Hall), and other works in development. Andrea holds a Master’s degree in Art & Public Policy from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Kaaron Briscoe is a New Orleans native with an MFA from ART/MXAT/IATT at Harvard University. As a playwright, her work has been featured by Project Y, Classical Theater of Harlem, Inviolet Theater, and others. She is a former member of Project Y’s Playwriting Group. Her play, “Tallahassee” was a semi-finalist for the 2020 O’Neill Playwright’s Conference.Kaaron is also an accomplished actor, having performed on stages in London and Moscow, as well as on screen. She often works with Little Lord Theater Company and the Working Theater.She has directed for various organizations. Including the Playwright’s Center in Minnesota.Kaaron was a 2015 fellow of Target Margin Theater’s Institute. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, and the 52nd Street Project.