As head of La MaMa's Poetry Electric series, William Electric Black shared in its 2018 Regional Tony Award.

Playwright/director William Electric Black, aka Ian Ellis James, is a seven-time Emmy Award winning writer for his work on "Sesame Street" between 1992 and 2002. He also wrote for Nickelodeon's "Allegra’s Window" and Lancit Media’s "Backyard Safari." Theater for the New City gave him his start in theater, presenting his earliest work, "Billy Stars and Kid Jupiter," in 1980. Now, TNC proudly continues its tradition of supporting and developing Black's unique, thought-provoking theatrical work.

Black's record with "activist" plays is admirable. In 2009, he had directed Theater for the New City's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of America's female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time. Between 2013 and 2018, he created his "Gunplays" series, a series of five plays on the subject of gun violence.

Black also creates delightful musicals for family audiences. These have included "Betty and the Belrays" (TNC, 2007 and 2018), in which three white female singers challenged a racially divided society by singing for a black record label, "My Boyfriend is a Zombie" (TNC, 2010), which was like Grease with a zombie twist, and "American Star!!!" (TNC, 2013), a satire of adolescents' obsessions with celebrity idol TV shows. Black has also written, produced and directed a series of plays and musicals for La MaMa, where he runs the Poetry Electric series.

In a series of multimedia projects, Black has campaigned for exercise and good nutrition for young children, prescription drug awareness and obesity prevention. He has received a Bronze Apple (National Educational Video Award) for directing. He has also received several Best Play Awards and has been published by Benchmark Education, The Dramatic Publishing Co. and Smith & Krauss.

He is a faculty member at NYU’s Tisch School (Dept. of Dramatic Writing/Open Arts, and NYU’s Summer High School Program). He has also taught at The Collegiate School, The Riverdale Country Day School, Southern Illinois University, 92nd Street Y, Teachers & Writers and TheatreWorks USA.

Black is writing, directing, and producing animated videos on stroke prevention with the National Stroke Association and childhood obesity prevention for Hip Hop Public Health under the direction of Dr. Olajide Williams featuring music by Doug E. Fresh, Chuck D, other rap artists. He has completed three short films to educate the Black faith-based community and the Hispanic faith-based community on stroke awareness. In 2015, he published an early reader, "A Gun is Not Fun" (www.agunisnotfunthebook.com) for children's education as part of a national campaign to save lives in cities across America.



Marc Schmied (Acoustic Bass) has been on the New York music scene for the last 25 years. After studies at Juilliard, he began performing in the classical, jazz, and theater worlds. Classical credits include the Albany Symphony, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra. Broadway credits include "King Kong," "Come From Away," "Matilda," "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular," "La Cage aux Folles," "Evita," "On a Clear Day," "South Pacific," "Cabaret" and many others. Since 2012, he has performed regularly with Tommy Tune and is currently gigging with Broadway actor Lauren Patten and her rock band.






Harris White -- John Michael Hersey

Bunk White -- Kamal Sehrawy

Rasheeda White -- Janet Donofrio

Raymond White -- Nathan Keiller

Taylor White -- Emma Bass

Miss Martha -- Eve Packer

Gordon White -- Joseph Sean Murphy

Ujamma Man -- David Rieth

Sugar Washington -- Richard Weber


L: Janet Donofrio and John Michael Hershey as Rasheeda and Harris White. R: Richard Weber as film maker Sugar Washington. Emma Basss as Taylor White.

L: Eve Packer as advice columnist Miss Martha.
R: Joseph Sean Murphy and Kamal Sehrawy as Gordon and Bunk White.

L: Richard Weber as indie film maker Sugar Washington. Right: John Michael Hersey, Kamal Sehrawy and Janet Donofrio as Harris, Bunk and Rasheeda White.

L: Kamal Sehrawy and John Michael Hersey as brothers Bunk and Harris White.
R: Emma Bass as Taylor White.

L: Richard Weber as film maker Sugar Washington.
R: David Rieth as streetcorner barker Ujamma Man.

Eve Packer as advice columnist Miss Martha and David Rieth as streetcorner barker Ujamma Man.




Set design is by Lytza Colon and Mark Marcante. Costumes and props are by Susan Hemley. Stage manager is Marissa Johnson. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Board operator is Megan Horan.


Photos by Jonathan Slaff