The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council announced that Houston native playwright Cris-Eli Blak is the first place winner of its second annual Show Me The Monologue Playwriting Competition. His piece BREAKZ was among a group of high-profile projects selected by a jury. As the first place winner, Blak is the recipient of PPADC’s Playwright’s Residency. He receives a financial grant and development aid. This includes working with a playwright, director and other members of the creative team to bring together a mainstage production of BREAKZ as part of the PPADC lineup during the Hamilton Arts Festival (June 17-25, 2022).
PPADC’s residency program was created to expand the diversity of plays produced on the main stage and to create public value through playwrights’ interaction with local communities. According to the Dramatist Guild of America, only 9% of BIPOC playwrights in the US see their work make it into production
“We are excited about this new residency season and especially the work of Chris Eli Blak,” said Denise E. Womack, PPADC Board Chair. “This is a young playwright whose rich, complex characters reach deep into our communities. His writing addresses the complexities of life fraught with the stark realities of simple living while attempting to cultivate dreams big enough to go beyond downtown. She adds, “We feel privileged to be one of the organizations poised to bring his name and work more widely to light, and know that BREAKZ is a piece that will resonate with many people in our community.” will.”
BREAKZ tells the story of a popular rapper who, much to the horror and displeasure of his white publicist, decides to make a public statement after a young immigrant is murdered by police officers for seemingly no reason. “BREAKZ is a play about community, about how our communities can push us out and bring us back together, how we need to protect our streets and our homes because sometimes nobody else does,” says Blak. “I started writing because I didn’t see my community accurately reflected in artwork. I didn’t see my friends and family. I didn’t see myself. I didn’t see the people I lived with. I don’t see the issues coming up every day, but for some reason they’re not being addressed.”
Blak says that as he read the Show Me The Playwriting contest call for entries and saw PPADC’s mission and purpose, he felt a personal connection to the organization. “I look forward to embarking on what will hopefully be meaningful, exciting, and insightful work for a community to experience this summer,” he says.
Blak is a playwright, screenwriter, performer and theater practitioner. He wrote and co-produced the short film The Brother’s Survivor, which received an award at the Worldfest Houston International Film and Video Festival. A two-time poetry slam champion, he was commissioned by the Louisville Arts Network to write the performance piece HOPE: Living as a Black Man in America. His work has been produced, performed and/or published by Illuminate Theatre, Roaming Theater Collaborative, The Logue Lounge, Here We Go Productions, among others.
Show Me The Monologue contestants were asked to submit a script and upload a five-minute video of a monologue from their script. Contestants were encouraged to submit work that presents a unique cultural experience, perspective, and/or social justice issue. A respected jury provided their time and experience to review the submitted scripts and provide constructive comments on each one. The panel consisted of theater professionals, actors, producers, directors, professors and poet prize winners.
The Show Me The Monologue Playwriting Competition runner-up is Michael McGoldrick. He will benefit from PPADC’s playwright residency program through development support and a staged reading of his play Allies, which takes a scathing, satirical look at the tangled intersection of religion, progressivism and capitalism in contemporary culture.
PPADC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to fostering collaboration with other local organizations and community partners to provide greater access and opportunity for artists from diverse backgrounds. PPADC is dedicated to creating pathways for new and veteran artists to develop new work and provide cultural events to communities in Paterson, NJ. PPADC is an associate member of the New Jersey Theater Alliance, the nation’s first statewide professional theater service organization representing a consortium of 40 performing arts and theater companies.