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A place for African-American playwrights

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  • Jaron Marquis Garrett
The inaugural Onyx Fest, the city's only festival devoted to the work of African-American playwrights, will present three premieres this weekend at the IndyFringe Theatre: Jaron Marquis Garrett's Betsy on E. 10th Street, the story of an elderly veteran who becomes a first-time homeowner in a neighborhood on the brink; Lisa Sims' When You Least Expect It, concerning a certain Tonya, whose problems include a fiance who may or not be who he says he is, a mother addicted to gambling and a brother indebted to a loan shark; and Nicole C. Kearney's re-Entry, about a man attempting to reconnect with the outside world after spending nearly half his life in jail.

We'll borrow from the press release to be precise about the philosophy behind Onyx Fest: "Like DivaFest, [IndyFringe's festival for new plays by woman playwrights] which just completed its third year, Onyx Fest is another step towards institutionalizing the IndyFringe Basile Theatre's commitment to provide support and a performance venue that is inclusive of all playwrights who make up the Indianapolis community."

We chatted briefly with Garrett to get a sense of his new play, which he says is entirely the product of invention, though "he later met someone whose story paralleled the main character's very closely." Betsy on E. 10th Street is based in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood on the near east side, where he grew up, attending Arsenal Tech High School before moving away for college.

Garrett notes that the play is more of a biographical study than a dissection of the politics of the area; or in other words, as he puts it, "Politics are only seen in the subsidies that the well-deserved main character benefits from to acquire the property." Garrett is the co-founder of the Indianapolis Urban Theater and Dance Company, which strives to "give more opportunities to professional performers of ethnic and diverse backgrounds."

Plays run one hour, with each play performed three times through the weekend (May 18-20). Check indyfringe.org for complete showtimes; tickets run $10 for adults and $8 for students.

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