NEW IBERIA, La. --- The Shadows-on-the-Teche is thrilled to announce the selection of Ifa Bayeza as the playwright for the project
Bunk Johnson at the Shadows: Historic Interpretation through Dramatic Performance.
Bunk Johnson at the Shadows is funded through a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning theater artist and novelist. Her critically acclaimed drama
The Ballad of Emmett Till premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and was awarded a Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference fellowship and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Play.
The Ballad made its West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, garnering six Ovation Awards, including Best Production; four Drama Desk Critics’ Circle Awards, including Best Production; and the Backstage Garland Award for Best Playwriting. Bayeza has recently expanded
The Ballad into
The Till Trilogy, recounting the epic Civil Rights saga from three distinct vantage points.
The Till Trilogy received its first public reading at Mosaic Theatre Company in Washington, DC in June 2018.
Bayeza’s other innovative works for the stage include
Infants of the Spring, Ta’zieh – Between Two Rivers;
Welcome to Wandaland;
String Theory; and
Homer G & the Rhapsodies in The Fall of Detroit, for which she received a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award. Musicals include
Charleston Olio, a Fred Ebb Musical Theatre Award finalist, and
Kid Zero with music by multiple Grammy-nominee Harvey Mason. Bayeza is also a novelist, debuting with the "gorgeous" (NY Times), "magical" (Elle), “dazzling” (Essence)
Some Sing, Some Cry, co-authored with her sister Ntozake Shange. A graduate of Harvard University and formerly Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and Sr. Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University, Bayeza received her MFA in Theater at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“We are indeed grateful to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for this grant and for the opportunity it provides to work with a playwright of Ms. Bayeza’s caliber,"
says Pat Kahle, Director of The Shadows. "She is eager to learn as much as she can about Bunk Johnson, his life and times, and will bring a fresh perspective to this period in the history of The Shadows and New Iberia. We are very much looking forward to the completed work which will be presented to the public in the fall.”
The one-act dramatic work will focus on William G. “Bunk” Johnson (c. 1880-1949), an accomplished jazz trumpeter, who performed in concert halls and on stages from California to New York with the Charles “Buddy” Bolden band and jazz legends Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. Johnson always returned to his chosen hometown of New Iberia where he was known to practice his trumpet and work odd jobs including as yardman at The Shadows-on-the-Teche.
The project will seek to educate the community about the life of this local legend and expand the interpretation of The Shadows into the 21st century, while also telling a more inclusive story of both The Shadows and New Iberia.
To produce this dramatic work, The Shadows has partnered with the Bunk Johnson Jazz, Arts, and Heritage Festival; City of New Iberia and its Main Street Program; and the Iberia Parish Library.
About AACHAF & DDCF:
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American achievement and activism.
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties. The Arts Program of DDCF focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theater artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them. For more information, please visit
About the Shadows-on-the-Teche:
The Shadows-on-the-Teche, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, opened to the public in 1961 with the mission to preserve the buildings, landscape, collections, and historical integrity of the site; to research and interpret through education programs a 19th century southern Louisiana plantation economy and community and their evolution; and to encourage an appreciation of and interest in historic preservation.
The National Trust, which owns and operates the Shadows, is a private, non-profit organization. The Shadows does not receive funding from state, parish, or city government.
The site supports itself through admissions, special programs and events, and donations to the Friends of the Shadows. For more information, visit