The NIU School of Theatre and Dance is presenting a Black Playwrights Reading Series, beginning Sunday, November 1 at 7 p.m., with Tanya Barfield’s “Bright Half Life.”The first reading will be streamed free and open to the public on Zoom at 7:30 p.m. November 1. “Doors” will open at 7 p.m. Following the reading the same link can be used to participate in a talkback with the cast and director Mikael Burke. The running time of “Bright Half Life” is about 90 minutes. Follow the Zoom link and use the passcode: 023785 to attend.

The series features three readings of works by contemporary writers Tanya Barfield, Dael Orlandersmith and Ike Holter, directed by Chicago-based director, deviser and educator Mikael Burke and featuring talented alumni and students from the School of Theatre and Dance.

November 1 – “Bright Half Life” by Tanya Barfield, 7:30 p.m.
November 8 – “Yellowman” by Dael Orlandersmith, 7:30 p.m.
November 15 – “Sender” by Ike Holter, 7:30 p.m.

Bright Half Life

About the playwright:
Tanya Barfield’s plays have been seen off-Broadway and around the country. She is a recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award, a LAMDA Literary Award, a Lilly Award recognizing extraordinary women in theatre, the inaugural Lilly Award Commission and a Helen Merrill Award. In 2016, The Profile Theatre devoted their entire season to her work. In 2020, in addition to TV writing, Barfield will succeed Marsha Norman as co-director of The Juilliard School’s Playwrights Program. Barfield’s play Bright Half Life has been seen at multiple theaters around the country since premiering at WP Theater Off-Broadway; it also received a Lambda Literary Award.

Jessica Arends (Vicky) has her BFA in acting from NIU. Her previous NIU credits include: The Trojan Women, Elizabeth in Queens of Will, Monica Murray in By the Bog of Cats, and Miss Prism from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Rachel K. Jaco (Erica) is an NIU BFA in acting candidate who will be graduating in December. Their previous roles on the NIU stage have been Betty Dulfeet in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Quickly in Queens of Will, Alice in Wonderfully Alice, Tiresias in Bakkhai, Librarian in Middletown, and Miss Bott/Mrs. Lindley in Blue Stockings. Rachel hopes to one day pursue their MFA and go on to teach and direct.

Alfonso Tucker (Stage Directions) is a third-year BFA in acting candidate here at NIU. He has previously been seen in The Shipment and Time of Your Life. Alfonso is excited to further his experience and talent on the stage. He is working to be the best actor he can be, working to inspire people all around the world.

Production Profiles:
Brandon Sapp (Preshow Playlist) is 24 years old from Chicago, Illinois. His passion for acting stemmed from High School, being involved with the IHSA speech and debate team, where he learned the fundamentals of public speaking and competed in regional, state, and national competitions. Currently, he is a senior BFA in acting candidate at NIU. His play credits include: The Flick by Annie Baker, NIU’s devised production of Wonderfully Alice, The Shipment by Young Jean Lee, Your Excellency by James Henry Gooding, and Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. Brandon is happy to help with the cast of Bright Half Life and looks forward to supporting the Black Playwrights Reading Series.

Rachel Seabaugh (Poster Design) is a second-year MFA in scenic design candidate from St. Louis, Missouri. She received her Bachelor’s of Art in theatre in May 2019 from Truman State University.

Mikael Burke (Director) is a Jeff-nominated director, deviser, and educator. A Princess Grace Award winner in Theatre and graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing), Mikael has most recently worked with Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Jackelope Theatre Company, About Face Theatre, First Floor Theater, American Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, and The Story Theatre in Chicago, and regionally with Asolo Repertory Theatre, GEVA Theatre Center, and Indiana Repertory Theatre. A former Victory Gardens Theatre Director’s Inclusion Initiative Fellow, he recently served as Northlight Theatre’s inaugural artistic fellow and also serves as head of the directing concentration of the Summer High School Training Program of the Theatre School at DePaul University. Mikael is an adjunct faculty member of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and a faculty member in the theatre division of the National High School Institute (Cherubs) at Northwestern University. Recent directing credits include At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen by Terry Guest; Beauty and the Beast by Lucy Kirkwood & Katie Mitchell; This Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers; and Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm.

Kay Martinovich (Producer) is associate professor of acting and head of performance here at NIU. She has produced the SoTD MFA/BFA Actor Showcase at Chicago’s Chopin Theater for the past six years. Her NIU directing credits are Lisa McGee’s Girls and Dolls, which was recently streamed live; A Bright New Boise by Samuel D. Hunter; A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh; Middletown by Will Eno; Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek by Naomi Wallace, The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, and Women In To Light (devised). Kay has a Ph.D. in theater historiography from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and an M.Phil. in Irish theater and film studies from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. She is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).