Theater: Lamariya Tackles Mythology of Enslaved Africans

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Playwright Crystal Rae



When Africans were brought as enslaved people to America, they were torn not only from their homes and loved ones, but from their traditions and stories.
In the new play Lamariya, writer Crystal Rae imagines that ancient beliefs not only stowed away on slave ships, but in fact still walk the earth.
Lamariya, a unique science fiction parable set in Jim Crow-era Mississippi, will have its world premiere in New York City’s Midtown International Theatre Festival this summer.
Performances take place from July 19 – 24, 2016, at the WorkShop Theatre in Manhattan. Production details can be found at or on Twitter at @LamariyaPlay, and tickets can be purchased online at
Crystal Rae is the first Houston playwright to be produced at the festival. “I love my heritage, and as an African-American writer, I write mostly from that lens,” says Rae, who is primarily known to Houston audiences as an actor but who was honored in May by the same festival for her play Daniel’s Having a Baby. “Writing Lamariya was a way of reclaiming some of the mythology that we lost in the seas of the Middle Passage. But at the same time, I love the Bible—I find the stories in it especially strange, complex, wonderful, and dark—but as African-Americans, we came to Christianity under strange circumstances. When you are orphaned from your culture, you must tell your own stories. I love the
fables we tell our children, how most of them make no earthly sense and how desperately we cling to them when faced with the more sensitive and uncomfortable moments of life.”
The Midtown International Theatre Festival strives to produce works for diverse audiences, and Lamariya is a showcase for nine African-American actors based in Houston and Atlanta. In the play, Zach and Eliza are the only teachers in Lamariya, a small Mississippi town. As they age, their hopes for a child of their own fade.
But the storks, supernatural beings who crossed the Middle Passage with the townspeople’s enslaved African ancestors, know Lamariya will be the birthplace of a child who will change the world. A war breaks out on earth and in heaven as two families, one ancient and one new, fight the ignorance, fear, and violence that are the last acts of a belief system in decline.
Born in Texas, Rae grew up in the Chicago area. In Houston, she has been seen on the stages of the Ensemble Theatre, Main Street Theater, Theatre Under The Stars, and the Texas Repertory Theatre Company. Her passion for seeing art come to life and to tell the strange tales running amuck in her dreams has led her to pursue and dedicate her energies toward playwriting.
Two of her scripts, Daniel’s Having a Baby and Lamariya, were chosen for the 2016 Midtown International Theatre Festival, and the first received an award. In addition to these pieces, Crystal is working on a one-woman show and a musical. Crystal is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and is a second-grade teacher at Kelso Elementary in Houston ISD.
Troy Scheid is a director and theatre educator from Houston, Texas. She has directed regional premieres by David Henry Hwang, Paula Vogel, and Liz Duffy Adams, and two world premieres by Y York, among numerous projects. Her work has been seen at Black Lab Theatre, Classical Theatre Company, the Landing Theatre Company, Main Street Theater, Opera Vista, the Texas Repertory Theatre Company, the
Houston Fringe Festival, and the Alley Theatre’s Houston Young Playwrights Exchange. She produced and wrote the lyrics for Byzantium: A New Musical, seen in the 2005 New York City International Fringe Festival. She is the founder of Brave Little Company: Theatre for Everyone. At Young Audiences of Houston, she works on the Arts Access Initiative, Houston’s action plan to address inequities in arts education in schools, and manages the Houston Arts Partners Conference. She is a graduate of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Rice University, and recently studied with the UK’s Oily Cart Theatre.


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