Press Releases

Arts: Poets, Playwrights to Read at Berkeley Arts Festival By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday October 21, 2005

Berkeley Arts Festival will present playwright Wajahat Ali and poets Boadiba, Karla Brundage and Tennessee Reed in a reading by New Voices from the Before Columbus Foundation this Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Arts Festival Gallery, 2324 Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley. Admission is free.  

Wajahat Ali, whose impressive first play, The Domestic Crusaders, premiered at Berkeley Rep, presented by Before Columbus Foundation, was born and raised in the Fremont area of Pakistani descent and describes himself as “neither a terrorist nor a saint.” The Domestic Crusaders, a family drama with humor, portrays three generations of a Pakistani-American family in the Bay Area in the wake of 9/11, celebrating a birthday and hearing family secrets revealed. 

Ali began writing the play in the fall of 2001 while a student of well-known writer and Before Columbus founder Ishmael Reed at UC-Berkeley. Reed has said of Ali: “I think he stands up there with the best playwrights in the tradition of ‘kitchen table drama.’” Ali, now a second-year law student at UC-Davis, is writing a prequel and sequel to his play to form a trilogy. Involved with making plays, sketches and films since childhood, Ali has also performed improv stand-up comedy. 

Boadiba, a poet from Haiti, has had her work published in Beatitude, Quilt, Ishmael Reed’s Konch, Tribes, Gas and Open Gate—as well as in An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry. Her new book, Under the Burning White Sky, will be published late this year by Ishmael Reed’s publishing company. 

Karla Brundage is a Berkeley native, whose poetry and essays have appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Konch, Hip, Mama, and Oahi Review. Her Multi America: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace was published by Viking in 1997, and Adam of Ife: Black Women in Praise of Black Men by Lotus in 1992. She performed with Rhodessa Jones in The Medea Project at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center in 1994. 

Tennessee Reed was born in Oakland and teaches at Merritt College. She has read in England, The Netherlands, Germany and Japan. Her books of poetry include Circus in the Sky, Electric Chocolate, Airborne and Animals and Others. 

“I ran into Ishmael on the street,” said Bonnie Hughes of the Berkeley Poetry Festival, “and asked him what to do about poetry and young people; he came up with this program. He read on Inauguration Day, when we called people to the Downtown BART station, reading ‘Let America Be America Again.’” 

Hughes also talked about the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

“Every day’s a festival in Berkeley; there’s always something going on of somebody’s particular interest,” she said. “I wanted something that would go on longer than a day—for a month—with many different people, about the different things that makes Berkeley percolate. This way, every year, there’s a glimpse at what’s ongoing in the whole scene, and over time, you can see whole works develop—a whole evening of one person’s music, say, rather than just a little taste of it in a festival setting.” 

Hughes added, “Landlords let us use empty storefronts rent-free, and with a volunteer crew, all the money we take in can go to the performers, and we can keep prices low, $10 tops.” 

Hughes also mentioned other forthcoming events, like Saturday’s jazz concert with John Schott’s Dream Kitchen, Richard Hadlock, Suzy Thompson, Mal Sharpe and Ben Goldberg, and the S.F. Mime Troupe’s Ed Holmes and Amos Glick performing their “Dick ‘n Dubya Show (Republican Outreach Cabaret)” on Oct. 27, all at the Festival Gallery.