The Fire This Time Festival, the destination for early career and emerging playwrights from the African diaspora, announces its 2020 dates. The 14-day festival, presented in collaboration with FRIGID New York, which annually honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will take place from January 20 to February 2, 2020. This year, seven commissioned dramatists will be presented in repertoire as part of the annual celebration held at the Kraine Theater in the East Village.

The featured playwrights — Cyrus Aaron, Niccolo Aeed, Natyna Bean, Tyler English-Beckwith, Jay Mazyck, Deneen Reynolds-Knott, and Mario (Mars) Wolfe — in TFTT’s signature ten-minute play program wrestle with the pressing social issues that Black and brown communities have grappled with for decades. Some of the themes to be explored in January will include facing change as gentrification makes its way into a community; the psychological toll and skyrocketing costs of being a patient in the antepartum unit at a hospital in the U.S.; Afro-futurism and dystopia through the lens of environmental devastation; and, how we as a society benefit by affirming the lives Black trans women.

The OBIE award-winning company, founded by Kelley N. Girod is recognized as a springboard for Black playwrights, a destination for diverse audiences, producers and artists seeking new possibilities in contemporary theater. Girod further explains, “Building on the promise of the collective work we have steadfastly co-created, I am excited to focus on our organization’s sustainability and development. To secure this smooth transition, joining our producing team is Julienne Hairston (an accomplished playwright and TFTT alum) who will work closely with TFTT producers Cezar Williams and A.J. Muhammad. Our track-record of identifying playwrights and presenting plays in developmental stages that have gone on to successful Off-Broadway, regional and international productions speaks for itself; and building upon the strides we have accomplished together for our playwrights and our community require my laser focused attention as executive director and executive producer. Development and sustainability with a concentration on fundraising will ensure the work of our next-gen playwrights can count on the The Fire This Time Festival as a secure launching pad for their careers and artistic advancement.”

Synopsis of Ten-Minute Plays and Playwright Bios

Panopticon by Cyrus Aaron

Things are heating up outside, and two middle-aged men take a familiar spot in their neighborhood and shoot the breeze. They must face the fact that everything around them is changing drastically, but the one thing they intend to keep is their perspective.

Cyrus Aaron hails from Chicago and is a Brooklyn based creative writer. In 2016, Aaron wrote, directed and produced his first original play “Someday,” about the psychological plight of bias and conventional racism. In 2017 The Flea Theater presented a workshop of his short play “Coping Mechanism.” This play and “Make or Break,” a romantic comedy, were both staged at the Wild Project. His work has also been presented at other New York City venues including BRIC and SOHO HOUSE. When he’s not writing, Aaron spends his time empowering the youth.

One Morning Soon by Niccolo Aeed

“One Morning Soon” is about what happens after a Messiah is killed. It follows a community of believers as the messiah’s religion grows and twists and changes. It’s a play for anyone who wonders: why hasn’t God saved us yet?

Niccolo Aeed is a black/Palestinian writer and director based in New York.  He is half the comedy duo Marina & Nicco, whose sketches have appeared on “The New Yorker” and “Funny or Die.” Recent plays include: “Room 4” (The PIT), “Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark” (HERE Arts) and “If You Do This Right You’ll Probably Break Their Chest” (Ars Nova.)  Nicco is a resident writer at Serials at The Flea Theater. He teaches storytelling with the Moth and sketch comedy at the UCB Theater.

Assumed Positions by Natyna Bean

During the first night in her new home, Naya discovers how easily a little distance can create a huge impact. When she finds herself arrested by the sudden shifts of someone she previously believed to know even better than herself, she is faced with the conundrum of whether or not she is willing – or able – to get to know this newfound stranger.

Natyna Bean is a Blk queer-femme educator-playwright from Philly. She listens, hears, and writes the world around her. The world reemerges in her plays: “malignant,” “outside clothes,” “GRAYS FERRY,” and “the meek,” and more. Her work has been developed in collaboration with Tectonic Theatre Company, Cape Cod Theater Project, Moving Arts Theater, 24 Hour Plays Nationals, etc. She’s a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Natyna’s been published in Beat&Prose; Not Here, Nor There; For Harriet: Soar and SpreadMassLOVE and is the recipient of a Kennedy Center Playwriting Award. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at the New School University.

Maya and Rivers by Tyler English-Beckwith

Maya and Rivers are from a dead earth in search of a new life. They find it together, on the moon.

Tyler English-Beckwith is a recent graduate of the Dramatic Writing MFA program at NYU. She holds a B.A. in African and African Diaspora Studies as well as a B.A. in Theater and Dance from The University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Tyler currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Her plays include Mingus for which she received the 2018 KCACTF Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, was a 2019 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist, and was a finalist for the 2018 Goldberg Playwriting Prize. Her play ”TWENTYEIGHT,” received a world premiere in 2017 at The Vortex in Austin, Texas where it received Honorable Mention on The Austin Chronicle’s Top Ten Plays of 2017. She is currently writing, co-directing, and starring in original content for Meow Wolf’s new narrative chapter, “The Rift” which can be seen online at and in their flagship exhibit House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM.

 If Men Were Flowers by Jay Mazyck

Three flowers and a tree have noticed that the plants in their garden has been decreasing in numbers. As their vitality is put into question, they realize their sweet gardner, Dalia, is hiding a truth that will shake the very ground they call their home.

Jay Mazyck is from Brooklyn, NY. He is currently receiving acting training at Rutgers University. He starred in the Off-Broadway production of Chisa Hutchinson’s “Surely Goodness and Mercy” (Keen Company) after having participated in many college/high school shows and readings. A reading of his first full length play, “MAD,” was included in the Corkscrew Theater Festival. He is an alumnus of LaGuardia High School.

Antepartum by Deneen Reynolds-Knott

Two pregnant women navigate bedrest and broken expectations in a hospital’s Antepartum Unit.

Deneen Reynolds-Knott has developed work with Liberation Theatre Company’s Writing Residency, Project Y’s Playwrights Group, Rising Circle’s INKtank Development Lab and Frank Silvera Workshop’s 3in3 Playwright Residency. Her full-length play, “BATON,” was selected for the 2018 Premiere Play Festival and received a workshop reading at Premiere Stages, the 2017 Playfest at the Orlando Shakespeare Company and finalist for the 2017 PlayPenn and Bay Area Playwrights conferences. Deneen is a member of Clubbed Thumb 2019/2020 Early-Career Writers’ Group and was a finalist for their 2018 Open-Application Commission. Deneen is the co-creator and executive producer of “BULK,” a web series about friendships and romances within the gay bear community in New York City. She received her MFA in film from Columbia University.

I Wish I Could P. (Pay It No Mind) by Mario (Mars) Wolfe

Ariel and Jamil consider the next steps in their future, while Marsha P. Johnson shepherds the lost back home.

Mario (Mars) Wolfe is a genderqueer playwright, librettist, and performance activist from central Florida. Mars’s plays – “Bus 74”, “Middle ‘merica Mutations,” and “Click Fate” – have been read and performed at Victory Gardens, The Arc, Studio@620, and NoMads Art Collective. Mars was recently featured in the ArciTEXT Festival (“Goddess, Forbid”), Activate: Midwest Festival (“1st Imani 22nd Six”), and the Uncharted Festival with The New Colony (“Bertha Van Ation 3.0”). Mars’s plays “Party Goin On LIVE” and “Turnt the Screw; or a trigger warning” are currently being developed in Chicago. Education: The Theatre School at DePaul (2016); Juilliard (2018); Carnegie Mellon, MFA (upcoming 2022).

About The Fire This Time Festival:

The Fire This Time Festival was founded in 2009 by Kelley Girod to provide a platform for playwrights of African and African-American descent to write and produce evocative material for diverse audiences. Since the debut of the first 10-minute play program in 2010, presented in collaboration with Horse Trade Theater Group, The Fire This Time Festival has expanded into an annual theater festival which includes a flagship 10-minute play program, staged readings, a panel discussion and other programs.

Notable playwrights whose work has been featured by The Fire This Time Festival over the past decade include Katori Hall (book writer for “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”; “The Mountaintop”; “The Hot Wing King,” “Our Lady of Kibeho,” “Hurt Village”), Dominique Morisseau (2018 MacArthur Fellow, book writer for the Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” “Confederates,” “Paradise Blue,” “Pipeline,” “Skeleton Crew,” and “Detroit ’67”), Marcus Gardley (“The House That Will Not Stand,” “X: Or Betty Shabazz v. The Nation”), Antoinette Nwandu (2017-2018 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award; Colt Coeur 2017-2018 Commissioned Playwright; “Tuvalu Or, The Saddest Song,” “Pass Over”), Jocelyn Bioh (“School Girls, or the African Mean Girls,” “Nollywood Dreams,” “Goddess”), James Anthony Tyler (“Artney Jackson,” “Some Old Black Man,” “Dolphins and Sharks”), Jordan E. Cooper (“Ain’t No Mo'”); Jireh Breon Holder (“…What The End Will Be,” “Too Heavy For Your Pockets”); Aziza Barnes (“BLKS”); Charly Evon Simpson (“Behind The Sheet,” “Stained,” “Jump”); C.A. Johnson (“All The Natalie Portmans,” “The Climb,”),  Jonathan Payne (“A Human Being, of A Sort,” “The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d”) and Nathan Yungerburg (“Esai’s Table”).

About FRIGID New York:

FRIGID New York at The Kraine Theater (formerly known as Horse Trade) is a theater development group dedicated to incubating and producing boundary pushing theater all year round at its East Village base. Through its Resident Artist Program, FRIGID New York at The Kraine Theater offers residence to a select group of independent theater artists by pooling together a great deal of talent and energy while focusing on their individuality as independent companies. FRIGID New York is an outgrowth of the annual FRIGID Festival, the first and only festival of its kind in New York City to offer artists 100% of their box office proceeds and The Kraine Theater, a self-sustaining theater development and management group.

For more information on The Fire This Time Festival, visit:

The Fire This Time Festival