Courtesy of Heritage Theater Ensemble

The Heritage Theater Ensemble will perform a collection of student-devised works titled “Black Futurity” in the Saybrook Underbrook at 8 p.m. this Friday.

While the group usually performs published plays, “Black Futurity” consists entirely of student-written work, said Alexus Coney ’20, who is HTE’s managing director and the show’s stage manager. The performance will feature three pieces written by current group members Irene Vazquez ’21, Logan Klutse ’22 and Branson Rideaux ’20. These works will be presented alongside a staged reading of a “Wings,” a short play written by previous members of HTE.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the ensemble. Coney said it is an important time to reflect on the group’s history and explore how black art fits into the world.

“[The show is] thinking about what it means to think forward as people whose identity is often relegated to the past,” Coney said, “and how black artists have struggled against different preconceptions of black art in the past, how that is always evolving and how we can look into the future as artists.”

Coney said that the production showcases different styles and provides a special chance to see student-written work.

“A core function of HTE is to help foster new artists within our group,” Coney said.

Rideaux’s piece, a futuristic play about a woman and her husband who go to the edge of the solar system to start a new life, was inspired by a short story he wrote in the eighth grade and rewrote as a play in high school.

Rideaux explained that his piece takes an alternative approach to black futurism by engaging with its challenges and potential limitations. Rideaux’s work discusses the difficulty of finding freedom, even in a future world. The play explores a distant world in which land and ownership are very important, and it is still a struggle for a black person to get the resources needed to live a free and good life.

Rideaux said this piece gave him a chance to “interact with blackness in a way that wasn’t in respect to whiteness.”

According to Rideaux, “Black Futurity” offers an opportunity to think about theater as a process rather than a final product. Most of the pieces in “Black Futurity” are readings rather than fully staged performances, emphasizing an ongoing creative process.

Rideaux added that he appreciated the opportunity to create art alongside the other ensemble members, who provide different perspectives and support.

Vazquez, who will be performing a spoken word-style monologue, said that her work was inspired by her interest in French-Caribbean poetics and the Haitian revolution. Carried out by self-liberated slaves, the Haitian revolution created the first black republic and was considered impossible even as it was occurring. Vazquez said that her piece explores how to tell stories about things that seem impossible.

“The cool thing about HTE is everybody brings their own skill sets and viewpoints and life experiences to the table to create art from,” Vazquez said.

In addition to performances and workshops, HTE works with Yale Pathways to Arts and Humanities to hold theater workshops for local high schools.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, HTE will host a reading of “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” by Lynn Nottage. The event is the first in the new study-break reading series “Black Play Sundays,” which is held in collaboration with the student wellness program Yale Well. Copies of the script will be provided.

Heritage Theater Ensemble was founded in October 1979.

Carrie Zhou |