Profile: Ifa Bayeza 

Ifa Bayeza (born Wanda Williams) is a playwright, producer, and conceptual theater artist. She wrote the play The Ballad of Emmett Till, which earned her the Edgar Award for Best Play in 2009. She is the sister of Ntozake Shange, and directed Shange’s A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, which was a part of the Negro Ensemble Company’s 2015 Year of the Woman Play Reading Series in New York City.

Personal life

Bayeza was born Wanda Williams, into an upper middle-class African-American family in Trenton, New Jersey. She changed her name to Ifa Bayeza;  she has stated that the name change was a way of claiming her heritage and described it as a rite of passage. Bayeza claimed that she was “embracing an Africanness that I didn’t know, but I felt. But I still keep the essence of Wanda.” he was raised by her parents, Paul T. Williams, a physician and fervent advocate for the underprivileged, and Eloise Williams, an educator and psychiatric social worker.

Bayeza grew up in the Lawrenceville section of Lawrence Township, Mercer County, New Jersey and graduated from Lawrence High School and Harvard University

Career

Bayeza and Shange co-wrote Some Sing, Some Cry, a 600-page novel about seven generations of black women and their personal identities. Her works for the stage include Amistad VoicesClub HarlemKid ZeroHomer G & the Rhapsodies, and The Ballad of Emmett Till.

The Ballad of Emmett Till is about a 14-year-old boy who was tortured and killed in rural Mississippi because he whistled at a white woman. This play led to Bayeza getting an artist-in-residence fellowship from Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theater and Providence Black Repertory Theater. Amistad Voices is set in 1839, and is about 53 Africans who revolted on a Spanish slave ship, battling over the legality of slavery. Bayeza went to Ethiopia to work on a personal project, creating images of ancient religious sites along the Nile. She was the original set designer and original dramaturg for Shange’s production of For Colored Girls at New Federal Theatre and The Public Theater.

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