Cris Eli Blak — recently announced as SUNY Oswego’s spring 2023 Artist in Residence to teach in the Theatre Department as well as the English and Creative Writing Department — will bring students’ voices to the stage with a contemporary, collaborative production that he calls “half straight-play and half docu-drama.”

“It is their stories that are being represented," Blak said. "Imagine 'The Laramie Project' meets 'The Breakfast Club.'” The production will integrate student testimonial in a new, original piece titled "If These Walls Could Talk, They’d Sing Hymns of Glory."

An award-winning playwright whose work has been performed and produced internationally, from universities and off-Broadway venues to stages in London, Australia, Ireland and Canada, Blak is an inaugural-year fellow with the Black Theatre Coalition as well as the recipient of the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship with the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre Company.

He has also collaborated with Company One, American Stage, Rattlestick Theatre and The Road Theatre, and is currently developing work with The Negro Ensemble Company, Pipeline Theatre Company, Et Alia Theater and the Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Self-described as “a proud Black playwright,” this multifaceted artist’s work includes prior residencies with Fosters Theatrical Artists, Paterson Performing Arts Development Council, Quick Silver Theatre Company, Yonder Widow Theatre Company and La Lengua Teatro en Español/AlterTheater Ensemble.

Beyond these highlighted collaborations, Blak’s work as a playwright, screenwriter and theatre practitioner spans 29 short and one-act plays read or produced at a long list of venues, 15 full-length plays and three well-received performance pieces as well as other innovative projects including short films, a dance piece with the Louisville Ballet, a Los Angeles-based spoken word project, a bilingual video with Teatro Milagro and an audio piece commissioned by Ignition Arts. Beyond playwriting, Blak’s publishing credits also feature poetry and award-winning short story work. 

At SUNY Oswego, Blak’s work will comprise an examination of the fact that “no experience is monolithic and still, every angle of these stories deserves to be heard and seen.” His student-centered project will deliver the message that “what we are, where we come from — these things aren’t what matter the most. What matters the most is who we are, and how far we can go together if we just see eye to eye and reach out a hand.”

Students interested in studying theatre with this luminary artist in the spring 2023 semester can register for “THT 470: Special Topics: Devising Performance” or “CMA 401: Artistic Integration and Collaboration” (Section 810/CRN: 15812). Those interested in creative writing can register for “CRW 207 Introductory Playwriting” with Blak.

To learn more about Cris Eli Blak, visit his website.

-- Submitted/written by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier of the English and creative writing faculty