A Salute to Indira, Pauletta and Toni Powerhouses in Brooklyn’s Arts and Culture Scene share their agency with 50 women writers

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Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director of RestorationART and the Billie Holiday Theatre, is a producer, scholar and nonprofit arts leader who has worked with institutions across the country and the world. Indira’s passion is exploring the complex intersections between community, performing arts and the topics of our time, leading to models of diverse artistic excellence and sustainability in the 21st century. Indira is a Fulbright Scholar who has received many awards and honors for her work, including being named one of the “40-under-40” national leaders by The Network Journal. Photo Credit: Matthew Septimus

Three women have changed how arts activism looks and what it does. And Brooklyn is the proud beneficiary.

Dr. Indira Etwaroo, executive director of the Billie Holiday Theatre; renowned actress Pauletta Washington and savvy media powerhouse Antonia Yuille Williams have answered a directive wending its way through nearly 50 years — from the hands of such greats as Marjorie Moon, je franklin and the late Ruby Dee – to now.  In 1972, The Billie (Billie Holiday Theatre) was born with a purpose to bring our stories to center stage and empower community theatre as a viable community resource. 

Pauletta Pearson Washington
has worked with such greats as
Jule Styne, Jerry Herman, Jonathan
Demme, to name a few. Her
most recent work includes The
Billie Holiday Theatre productions
of Richard Wesley’s Autumn, for
which she received an AUDELCO
Award for Best Supporting Actress
and the critically acclaimed John
Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler.
Ms. Washington has also done
True Colors’ production of August
Wilson’s Two Trains Running. Onscreen
credits include the Lifetime
Movie MVP: “The Wanda Pratt
Story,” “STEPS in 90 Days” and the
Netflix series of Spike Lee’s She’s
Gotta Have It.

The collective work takes the early mission one giant leap forward to a commitment to bring audiences center stage to the creative arts.  It all comes together this Women’s History Month on Saturday, March 9 when “50in50: Letters to Our Daughters” delivers ancestral and millennial messages in two shows, 3:00pm and 7:00pm at the Kumble Theatre at LIU. (Tickets: $25. See Back Page, this issue, for details.)

In this production, poignant words of 50 community-based women writers with unique points of view … and abundant love … will be read by established stars of the stage, television and film. 

“50 in 50: Letters to Our Daughters,” created by Dr. Etwaroo, is the third annual installment of what’s become a highly anticipated, and sold-out, theatrical reading event. This year, a new group of 50 women “consider both the world they inherited and the one they’d like to create.” 

The evening will feature 50 original monologues written in response to a curatorial statement by award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau.

Selected from hundreds of submissions from women of the African Diaspora from across the globe will be read by renowned actors including Hamilton’s Jasmine Cephas Jones, Tony winner LaChanze and Pose’s Angelica Ross.

“50in50: Letters to Our Daughters” is co-presented by the Billie Holiday Theatre in collaboration with the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop. Performances will take place on March 9 at 3 PM and 7 PM at the Kumble Theater at LIU, Brooklyn.

Completing the lineup of performers will be Marsha Stephanie Blake (Orange is the New Black, The Merchant of Venice on Broadway), Ebony JoAnn (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Broadway, Grown-Ups), Terria Joseph (Empire, Autumn at The Billie), Celestine Rae (No More Mr. Nice Guy, Boardwalk Empire), Michele Shay (Seven Guitars, Raisin in the Sun on Broadway), Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Women of Brewster Place) and Pauletta Pearson Washington (She’s Gotta Have It, The Old Settler and Autumn at The Billie). Live music will be performed by Maritri Garrett.

Toni Williams is a board member
of The Billie Holiday Theatre and
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration
Corporation. She serves as the
Board Chair of the Brooklyn Arts
Council and is also the creator of
Brooklyn Savvy. Toni has realized
a dream to build a communityproduced
talk show that gives voice
to social issues from a woman’s
perspective. For four years, she
hosted Brooklyn Independent
Television’s “Brooklyn Reporter
Roundtable” and received a Telly
Award for “Raising Sons of Color”
that explored the challenges of
raising boys in an urban context.
Toni is also a PR Executive for
a Fortune 500 company and is
heavily involved in a number of
Brooklyn nonprofit organizations
and boards. She is the recipient of
numerous awards and recognition
for her astounding work and tireless
commitment to Brooklyn.

The 50 writers include: Amanda Graham, AriDy Nox, Arielle C. Knight, Ashley Thomas, Benja Thomas, Bridget Doman, Camika Spencer, Colette Boston, Courtney Mericle, Cynthia L. Dorsey, Daphne Busby, Debra Bramlett, Desiree Rucker, Dietra Kelsey, Donna Walker-Kuhne, Elisabeth Giffin Speckman, Eraina Ferguson, Felicia Fitzpatrick, Franceli Chapman, Geraldine Ezigbo, Ife Basim, Jackie Torres, Jameelah Nasheed, Jorjina Amefia-Koffi, Kaypri, Kendra Ann Flournoy, Kim Brandon, La’Needra “Lulu” Cornelious, Lexis Green, Lisa B. Thompson, Lola Cooper, Lyndor Jackson, Marcelle Davies-Lashley, Marcia Pendelton, Marleen Jasper, Marlow Wyatt, Paula Gillison, Penny Middleton, Renee Joshua-Porter, Robin Turner, S. Pearl Sharp, Safiya Bandele, Samantha Godfrey, Shalewa Mackall, Sharlee Taylor, Shemetra Carter, Sylvia Gail Kinard, Tajh, Terria Joseph and Yoreel Fraser Trumpet.

“50in50 is a global platform for Black women that speaks to the intersectionality of class, age, ability, gender identity, nationality and sexual orientation in the 21st century,” said Dr. Etwaroo, executive director of the Billie Holiday Theatre. “I am proud that we are able to provide a relevant space for artistic expression where 50 fiercely brilliant women writers can have their story come to life through live theatre.”

Tickets for the performances are available at thebillieholiday.org and Eventbrite.com.

(Bernice Elizabeth Green with Barbara Bullard)