Bringing the Art to the Audience (BATA) is our popular free staged reading series that features works by both emerging and established African American and multicultural playwrights. The readings are performed at various Bay Area community venues, including our ongoing flagship partner, the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco. Other San Francisco venues have included the African American Art & Culture Complex (AAACC), I.T. Bookman Community Center, the San Francisco Main Public Library and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). In the East Bay, readings have been staged at Shotgun Studios in Berkeley, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (EBCPA) in Richmond, Oakland School for the Arts, Eastside Arts Alliance and the Joyce Gordon Gallery in Oakland.





BATA Staged Reading Series

The 2017-2018 Bringing the Art to the Audience (BATA) free staged reading series has ended.  Come back in September for 2018-2019 season staged reading updates.
Venue  Date/Time Play Title

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

685 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94105


Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 2:00 PM

FREE General Admission on Saturdays.

I Was Black Once

by Willie E. Jones III

directed by Aldo Billingslea

An investigation of Black male identity in the 21st century, I Was Black Once by Willie Jones III explores how archetypes are assigned at first glance and what the effects might be on the life of an individual.


The title comes from a quote by the boxing champion Larry Holmes: 

It’s hard being black. You ever been black? I was black once - when I was poor.”  - Larry Holmes



Buriel Clay Theater
African American Art & Culture Complex
 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA

Near Webster Street.  

Limited Parking. 

Close to MUNI 5 Fulton & 21 Hayes

Monday,  April 30, 2018 @ 7:00 PM

FREE Admission. Open to the Public.

Halftime With Don

by Ken Weitzman

directed by Aldo Billingslea

In Halftime with Don, retired NFL player Don Devers has had more surgeries than he can count, experiences violent outbursts, and relies on Post-It notes to offset his struggle with traumatic brain injury.  Living an increasingly isolated existence in an easy-chair corner of his barely furnished home, Don is long past "halftime" and running out the clock while grappling, in varying degrees of lucidity, with the encroaching effects of repeated blows to the head, neck and spine.


Just when things seem their darkest, Ed Ryan, a struggling writer and a professed Dever fan who's been invited into his boyhood hero's household to watch the Super Bowl, arrives at his doorstep. With the help of Don's daughter Stephanie, and Ed's pregnant wife Sarah, the fan and his hero discover they may be able to help one another in a way that neither of them could possibly expect.


The play by Ken Weitzman is a pause for reflection designed to get you thinking about the humanity that's crammed inside the helmet.


A talk back with the director and cast follows the reading.


Halftime with Don was developed during a residency at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference in 2015. Preston Whiteway, Executive Director; Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director
HALFTIME WITH DON was first produced as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by New Jersey Repertory Company (New Jersey), B Street Theatre (California) and the Phoenix Theatre (Indiana) as part of NNPN's Continued Life program.


(NOTE: Reading was rescheduled from 4/23 at Aurora Theater in Berkeley).



Koret Auditorium

San Francisco Main Public LIbrary

100 Larkin Street

San Francisco, CA 94132 

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 2:00 PM

FREE Admission. Open to the Public.


by William Bivins

directed by Jim Kleinmann

Clive is a struggling comic booartist whose series, Scapegoat, once celebrated as a cunning metaphor for the African American experience, is now running thin. When Clive's protégé, an unarmed African American teenager, is shot by police, Clive finds a renewed purpose for Scapegoat. But as sales soar, violence erupts, and Clive begins to question the role of art in the pursuit of justice. The play blends the real and comic book worlds as Clive struggles to separate the real from the imagined.


Bill Bivins conceived and wrote Scapegoat during a time when he was angry, sad, and confounded over a spate of killings of black men at the hands of the police. The enormity of the injustice represented by the episodes-which at one point seemed to occur daily-caused him to think about whether or how art can address the topic of race in America. 


The Scapegoat staged reading is being presented in association with PlayGround where it was commissioned and originally developed (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director).  (Note: Illustration by Ted Naifeh.)



I.T. Bookman Community Center 

446 Randolph Street

San Francisco, CA 94132 

Thursday, March 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM

FREE Admission. Open to the Public.

The Dance on Widow's Row

by Samm-Art Williams

directed by AeJay Mitchell

Photo from production of The Dance on Widows' Row by The American Negro Playwright Theatre in Nashville

The Dance on Widow's Row, Samm-Art Williams’ hit comedic play, depicts four wealthy widows who invite the area's four most eligible bachelors to an intimate soiree for eight. Having already buried nine husbands altogether, they know that neighbors' tongues will wag like the tail of a starving dog with the key to the butcher shop; but they are willing to defy town mores and  endure vicious gossip if there is a chance that they will meet “Mr. Right” tonight. The Dance on Widow's Row is a light comedy about death, dating and superstition - - or, more specifically, about how hard it can be for a woman to get a date after she's buried a few husbands.


(NOTE: Photo from Production of The Dance on Widows' Row presented by The American Negro Playwright Theatre in Nashville, TN)


Shotgun Studios

1201 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94702

Monday, February 5, 2018 at 7 PM

Free and Open to the Public.

The Drinking Gourd

by Lorraine Hansberry

directed by Timothy Bond

The Drinking Gourd of the title is the Big Dipper. For a slave in the South it pointed the way North, the way to freedom. Hannibal, the main character, is a slave about 19 years old who is thinking about running awayHannibal says the only good slave is a bad slave. To keep his human dignity he breaks tools, works slowly, plays sick and often disappears for hours at a time.  Because his mother is the master’s most trusted slave – she cooks for him – the master never comes down hard on Hannibal. But then, he gets old and sick and his 30-year-old son Everett takes over and works the slaves harder and longer because the soil is giving out. He hires an overseer who makes an example of Hannibal with devastating consequences.


The Drinking Gourd (1960) was an American television show about slavery written by Lorraine Hansberry for NBC which never aired and did not see print until 1972. 


SPECIAL THANKS to Dr. Lue Doutit and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for their collaboration on bringing this reading to the public.  


VENUE: Shotgun Studios at 1201 University Avenue (@ Curtis) is close to North Berkeley BART.  Street parking available.

(NOTE: Illustration by Sally K. Green)


Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

685 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94105


Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 2:00 PM

FREE & Open to the Public.         

General Admission to MoAD is free on Saturdays in February in honor of Black History Month.  

The Long Long Ride

by Brian Thorstenson

directed by Aldo Billingslea


couple unknowingly on the run, a mother and her troubled son, and a storm collide on the Oregon coast. A dark comedy about the surprises of looking for hope.


The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre at MoAD is a collaboration that connects theater and the visual arts, bringing both audiences together, making each art form more accessible and relevant to both constituencies and providing context across art forms. Each reading is followed by an audience discussion with the director and cast.


(NOTE: Graphic image by Gina Snow)


I.T. Bookman Community Center 

446 Randolph Street

San Francisco, CA 94132 




Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM

FREE Admission. Open to the Public.

The Urban Retreat

by A. Zell Williams

directed by Aldo Billingslea


In The Urban Retreat, a supernova rap star has taken a retreat in Marin County to write his memoir…at 25, so he can stand where Tupac stood. He selects as his ghostwriter an adversary from his past...his high school English teacher.


Fiercely funny, gripping and raw, A. Zell William’s, THE URBAN RETREAT is a powerful new American play about Chaucer Mosley, an English teacher and long-rejected writer, hired by a publisher of Urban Lit to turn the grandiose ramblings of a rap superstar into a compelling memoir. Unimpressed by the material but desperate for money, Mosley takes on the assignment. But when the rapper turns out to be a former student that Mosley unknowingly failed, the writing process becomes a surprising and deeply honest exchange about survival, selling out and what it means to be a black man in America today.

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

685 Mission Street

San Francisco, CA 94105


Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 2:00 PM

FREE with General Admission to MoAD: $10 Adults, $5 Students & Seniors

Entry Free for MoAD Members & LHT Subscribers


by Sigrid Gilmer

directed by Aldo Billingslea


(Photo: The Pavement Group production of Harry and the Thief, Chicago, 2013, Brittany Barnes)


In Harry and the Thief, Mimi's cousin Jeremy has a PhD in physics, a brand new time machine and a plan. He's sending Mimi, a professional thief, back to 1863 to change history by providing Harriet Tubman with modern day guns. Lots and lots of guns.

Cast Size: Diverse Cast of 10 Actors


“Audacious, hysterically funny, irreverent and joyful. Filled with humor and humanity it boldly encourages us to re-imagine our collective memories."   -- Suzan-Lori Parks




Play Title

I.T. Bookman Community Center 

446 Randolph Street

San Francisco, CA 94132   

Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Single Black Female

by Lisa Thompson

directed by Aldo Billingslea

cast Rolanda Ro Dene Bell (SBF 1) and Dezi Solèy (SBF 2)
Soara-Joye Ross (left) and Riddick Marie in "Single Black Female" performed in NYC in 2006.
Nominee! 2004 LA Weekly Theater Award, Best Comedy
Single Black Female is a two-woman show with rapid-fire comic vignettes that explore the lives of thirty-something African American middle-class women in urban America as they search for love, clothes, and dignity in a world that fails to recognize them amongst a parade of stereotypical images. SBF 1, an English literature professor, and SBF 2, a corporate lawyer, keep each other balanced as they face their fears of rejection, hopes for romance, and reminisce about black girlhood wounds. While embodying a variety of characters, the girlfriends discuss the absurdities of interracial dating, the lure of recreational shopping, and the merits of college reunions for bolstering one’s self-esteem. After reviewing their escapades in past relationships and confessing their own mounting anxieties about commitment and the possibility of motherhood, the pair realize their best chance at love may be found closer than they ever imagined.





























2016-2017 BATA Staged Reading Series Archives




Play Title

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
685 Mission St (at 3rd)

San Francisco, CA 94105


Free entry for MoAD Members and LHT Subscribers


General Admission to MoAD $10, Students & Seniors $5

Non-LHT subscribers and non-MoAD members must pay regular admission fees which give access to the museum for the entire day.

Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM


Ceremonies in Dark Old Men

by Lonne Elder III

directed by Steven Anthony Jones

Compared to A Raisin in the Sun by many critics, this drama shows us a family who aspire to better things but who go about in it in the wrong and tragic way. The father has a barbershop but no customers, and two sons and daughter. The sons are shiftless, and try to make a fast buck with home brew. It is the daughter who works and supports them all. Other characters of the family's Harlem neighborhood complete this portrait of one urban community at a pivotal time for the politics of race, business, and real estate.


"A drama of power and importance. The best play of the season." - N.Y. Post


"Reminded me irresistibly of O'Casey. Its mood, poised between comedy and tragedy, is identical, intensity of feeling and love of language are similar, and there is a common cause in its undercurrents of rebellion. A remarkable play." - N.Y. Times


"Exciting drama, filled with meaningful insight and original comedy."-NBC TV


The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre at MoAD is a collaboration that connects theater and the visual arts, bringing both audiences together, making each art form more accessible and relevant to both constituencies and providing context across art forms. Each reading is followed by an audience discussion with the cast.



I.T. Bookman Community Center

446 Randolph Street

San Francisco, CA 94132

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:00 PM  

Zooman and the Sign

by Charles Fuller

directed by Steven Anthony Jones

Zooman and the Sign was first presented Off-Broadway by the Negro Ensemble Company under artistic director Douglas Turner Ward and Managing Director Gerald S. Krone.  It was presented at Theater Four in New York City on December 7, 1980 and directed by Douglas Turner Ward.


446 Randolph Street

San Francisco, CA 94132

Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:00 PM


Searching For Willie Lynch

by Layon Gray

directed by Steven Anthony Jones

On the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712, a slave owner named Willie Lynch allegedly read a letter to teach his methods to slave owners on how to keep black people divided for 300 years. Searching For Willie Lynch is set in Louisiana centering around three families in 2008, 1965 and 1925 that have lived in the same house over the years and how a door could be a portal to the past and a celebration to the future.


Playwright Layon Gray has spent more than two decades writing, directing and developing stage plays and films that reflect a wide array of African-American cultural movements, creating new paradigms for the stage. Focusing on creating conversational dialogue in his works, Layon continues to make his mark in traditional African-American theater.  Additional information about Layon is on his website



  • "Wonderful reading. Terrific play about family, history, spirituality and realistic problems of black men."
  • "Great event. Story is rich in consciousness."
  • "Love, love, love, love, loved it!"
  • "Very talented readers.  Each were believable."
  • "Issues were portrayed in a clear manner."
  • Great! The spirituality involved and the fusion of unity was refreshing.  Reminds me to never forget the past and to always instill love. Loved it!"
  • "Great story of the spirituality of our African heritage."
  • "Fabulous! Provoked many emotions common to all humans about family, home, respect, history."

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

685 Mission St (at 3rd)

San Francisco, CA 94105

Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM  

Run Home

by Jennifer Nelson

directed by Steven Anthony Jones


RUN HOME consists of three short plays linked to the theme of baseball in the lives of three teenage girls in three different eras: in 1863, the mid-1940's and early 1960's.

There is something almost metaphysical about team sports. Baseball's particular role in American culture serves as an apt metaphor for so much of what has transpired in this country dating from its "first pitch."  With relative objectivity, race, gender and class issues are represented, as are respect for competition and “may-the-best-player-win” philosophy.  Although professional ball has become mired in capitalism, the game is still beloved. Baseball represents the enduring hope that regardless of the outcome of one game, there is the possibility that the next "at-bat," the next game, the next season, will lift the team, and thereby, its fans to a level where all vicariously transcend the ordinariness of our daily lives. Is it any wonder then that sports heroes are elevated to the status of demi-gods?

African American Art & Culture Complex (AAACC)

762 Fulton Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 2:00 PM  

Blooming In Dry Season

by Eljon Wardally

directed by Steven Anthony Jones


Set in a rum shop in the Spice Isle of Grenada, Rose, an oppressed housewife, has lived life for her husband, Fitz and daughter, Garland. When a once in a lifetime opportunity for her daughter presents itself, Rose realizes she's put her own dreams on hold long enough and she is forced to make a decision; should she stay or should she go?

Through Blooming In Dry Season, the playwright's aim is to demonstrate that women stuck in traditional roles in the Caribbean can break free and create their own path, no matter their age. How do gender politics affect a nuclear family in the Caribbean especially when a suppressed member of the family decides enough is enough? In the case of Blooming In Dry Season, that person is Rose, a mother and devoted wife who on the surface, represents the traditional role of a woman.  When she sees her daughter going down the same path, she decides to make a change.