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Opening doors for Black playwrights, Onyxfest prepares for its debut weekend

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Posted at 7:31 AM, Nov 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-02 07:31:28-04

INDIANAPOLIS — It has been called, an opportunity of a lifetime for Black playwrights. We're talking about Onyxfest.

"Onyxfest is really a hidden gem in the city and not enough people know about it," said Megan Simonton, the Director of “Right Behind You”.

Onyxfest is the first and only theater festival in Indiana exclusively for Black playwrights.

This weekend and next weekend five productions will take the stage.

"We had our biggest crowd ever last year and we look to do the same this year," said Vernon Williams, Executive Director of Onyxfest.

It's a movement that is opening doors for Black playwrights, directors and actors.

"I think that the city needs to actually be aware of the gold mines of talent that we have here in the city," said Simonton.

Back in February, WRTV’s Amber Grigley shared the impact Onyxfest has had since it began in 2011 and how it's changing the game for Black productions in the Hoosier state.

"What we have now and the conversations that are happening around the Black art scene and how it's becoming more vital and it's becoming a vital need in Indianapolis I believe it is going to be what history will call the renaissance of Indianapolis," said Josiah Mccruiston, playwright for “5 Moods of Black Anguish.”

Last March, 41 applicants applied to participate in Onyxfest this year. Five playwrights were selected, each receiving grants to fully fund their productions.

"Even though I live in Atlanta, I still have my hands in obviously the acting world here," said Rasheda Randle.

Randle is a Hoosier native. Following her acting career, she had to relocate to Atlanta.

She said Onyxfest is restoring the production scene and providing opportunities that give black creatives a leg up in the industry.

"Keep it going don't let it die out. Don't let that fire die out, keep putting it in their faces. Keep doing shows like this even if you get 5/10/15 people in the audience keep doing it eventually, they're going to catch on to it," said Randle.

"Several plays have been invited to other play festivals or simply enjoy road trips success after Onyxfest, which is great because it means that somebody saw it somebody liked it and it had growth after Onyxfest," said Williams.

Last year, Onyxfest saw a 63 % increase in ticket sales reaching an all-time high for audience attendance. Wednesday we learned that sales are on pace to hopefully exceed the increase they saw last year.

You can catch productions this weekend at Indy Fringe and next weekend at the Crispus Attucks High School Auditorium. Tickets are $15.

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Onyxfest is the first and only theater festival in Indiana exclusively for Black playwrights.

onyxfest 3.png
Onyxfest is the first and only theater festival in Indiana exclusively for Black playwrights.