Theater Notebook: ‘Uplifting Black Voices,’ holiday concerts among December events

Playwright Cris Eli Blak
Cris Eli Blak is one of two playwrights featured this week as part of Common Ground Theatre’s “Uplifting Black Voices” play-reading series.
(Courtesy of Cris Eli Blak)

This week’s news from Common Ground, Lamb’s Players, New Village Arts, Cygnet and Diversionary theaters


Next weekend, Common Ground Theatre will present “Uplifting Black Voices,” two evenings of free online play readings by Black male playwrights.

It’s the first of the “Uplifting Black Voices” productions programmed by Common Ground’s new artistic director Yolanda Franklin. She also plans to produce a tribute to Black women playwrights in the future. Franklin is directing all three plays featured in the weekend series.

The first event, at 4 p.m. Dec. 5, will spotlight nationally acclaimed playwright Robert Alexander’s work “Speaking Truth to Power,” a story about three roommates discussing race, class and Black and White privilege after seeing the murder of George Floyd on television while sheltering at home due to COVID-19. Over the past 40 years, Alexander has written more than 30 plays on the Black experience, including “Servant of the People” and “I Ain’t Yo’Uncle: The New Jack Revisionist Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

At 4 p.m. Dec. 6, two one-act plays by Louisville playwright Cris Eli Blak will be performed, “Boy” and “Burden of Proof.” “Boy” is a raw and revealing conversation between a father and son as the young man plans to leave home one night. “Burden of Proof” is about the conflict between a husband who teaches high school in the inner city and his lawyer wife, who has been appointed to defend a White supremacist. Blak is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, actor and songwriter whose works include the musical “Liberty Bleeding” and the play “Concrete Jungle.”

The combined casts of the readings includes Monique Gaffney, Laurence Brown, Rhianna Basore, Victor Morris, Ronson Hawkins, Zack King and Katelyn Bowman.

To register for the free readings, visit

Lamb’s to stream Christmas concert

Lamb’s Players Theatre’s ongoing concert series continues this month with “Lamb’s Christmas Celebration,” a new, filmed and socially distanced concert featuring a cast of veteran Lamb’s singers and musicians.

The 90-minute concert, which streams from Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, features singers Angela Chatelain Avila, Bryan Barbarin, Kiana Bell, Megan Carmitchel, Charles Evans, Jr., Caitie Grady, Rebecca Jade, Cris O’Bryon, Leonard Patton, Nathan Peirson, Brandon Sherman, Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Fernando Vega.

A 48-hour streaming link is $20 and can be purchased at

Kevin "Blax" Burroughs
Kevin “Blax” Burroughs is featured in New Village Arts’ “Holly Jolly Cabaret.”
(Courtesy of Kevin “Blax” Burroughs)

New Village plans holiday cabaret

New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad will present a streaming production of its “Holly Jolly Cabaret” from Dec. 14 through 31. This year’s filmed show will feature performers Natasha Baenisch, Chris Bona, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, Jasmine January, Patricia Jewel and JD Dumas.

Tickets are $10. Visit

Cygnet heads ‘Home for the Holidays’

For the December edition of its Musical Monday series, Cygnet Theatre will present “Home for the Holidays,” a fundraising seasonal concert featuring performers Megan Carmitchel, Melissa Fernandes, David Kirk Grant, Kürt Norby, Anise Ritchie and Racquel Williams. The concert streams at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7. Tickets are $15 per household and can be purchased at

Playwright and performer Isaac Oliver
Playwright and performer Isaac Oliver co-stars in Diversionary Theatre’s “A Very Special Diversionary Pandemic Christmas Spectacular” on Dec. 11 and 12.
(Courtesy of Isaac Oliver)

Diversionary plans live ‘Christmas Spectacular’

Diversionary Theatre is planning to present three live performances of its annual online holiday show, this year titled “A Very Special Diversionary Pandemic Christmas Spectacular,” Dec. 11 and 12.

This year’s show will feature comedians Jenn Harris and Isaac Oliver and will feature local and national special guests, including Linda Libby and Bridget Everett.

Harris, an actor, writer and producer, is the co-creator of the 2017 web series “New York is Dead,” which won best comedy at the New York Television Festival. Her short film “Island Queen” is now on the festival circuit. Oliver is a playwright and performer whose book “Intimacy Idiot” was named one of National Public Radio’s best books of 2015. He’s also a contributor to The New York Times and HBO’s “High Maintenance.”

Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 and 7 and 10 p.m. Dec. 12. A recorded version of the show will be available for streaming through Dec. 29. Tickets are $35 at

Pam Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at