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Shades of Black 

New Black Playwrights Festival hosts back-to-back readings

African-American plays all look alike, at least based on the limited number of scripts you see produced by Atlanta theaters, says Karen Horne, artistic director of the annual New Black Playwrights Festival.

"What you get to see from black writers isn't the full spectrum of what they're writing about," says Horne. "You usually see African-American plays with a hip-hop slant, an urban slant, a civil rights slant -- and while those aren't bad things, they aren't the only stories we have to tell, either."

She's proud to say that the staged readings of two one-act plays presented in this year's festival, July 14-16 at Actor's Express, defy the commonplace. "I get totally different kinds of pieces that reflect the diversity of black writers and what they choose to write about," Horne says. "Under Fire" is a one-man account of the all-black cavalry troop called the "Buffalo Soldiers," written and directed by Anthony Irons, who plays six different roles.

"The Widening Sea and the Welcoming Maelstrom" by North Carolina's Akil Wingate offers a head-spinning blend of history and eroticism with overtones of Greek mythology as a contemporary woman confesses to a crime committed in the distant past. Directed by Robert Connor, the play features Robert Singleton and Theroun Patterson.

The plays will be presented back-to-back each night, in contrast to earlier festivals, which had staged readings of multiple plays over several nights. "I want to give special attention to these two pieces, because in 2003, I want the New Black Playwrights Festival to offer a full production of a play, in addition to the festival of new works," says Horne. "There's not enough black work in Atlanta, let alone new black work, and putting on a full production next year is a way for us to keep moving forward."

The New Black Playwrights Festival presents two one-acts, "Buffalo Soldiers" and "The Widening Sea and the Welcoming Maelstrom" back-to-back July 14-16 at Actor's Express, 887 W. Marietta St. 8 p.m. $7. 404-627-7672.

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