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Ave Maria Cross

As poet, playwright and teaching artist, Ave Maria Cross has practiced her passion and exercised her God-given talents for over 20 years, through researching and writing in particular about the Black experience in America during the Civil Rights Era, as well as African-American history — past and present.

Ave Maria has received funding from THE BROOKLYN ARTS COUNCIL; Assemblyman Darryl Towns, 54th A.D.; CYPRESS HILLS LDC; OFFICE OF THE MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT, C. VIRGINIA FIELDS; LOWER MANHATTAN COMMUNITY COUNCIL/THE FUND FOR CREATIVE COMMUNITIES; and THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION. Ms. Cross has been granted outdoor performance spaces from THE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION for full scale theatrical productions at MARCUS GARVEY PARK in Harlem, and FORT GREENE PARK in Brooklyn, as well as an indoor venue at RIVERBANK STATE PARK. She is presently a recipient of a space-for-art award through New York City’s DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS’ Space for Art residency program in affiliation with NYC’s DEPARTMENT FOR THE AGING/MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S AGE FRIENDLY INITIATIVE, and the BRONX COUNCIL ON THE ARTS, as well as a grant from the Publisher/Editor of African Voices, Carolyn A. Butts.

Her first play for young people utilizing poetry rap and rhyme, The Land of the Inner Cities, won THE NEW FEDERAL THEATRE’S Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Playwrighting Series award in the mid-1990s. During the “Through Her Eyes: Women of Color Festival 2000,” The Land of the Inner Cities was performed at the HENRY STREET SETTLEMENT ABRONS ART CENTER on the Lower East Side. The Land of the Inner Cities has also been performed in several Brooklyn middle schools, Brooklyn’s FORT GREENE PARK, Manhattan’s RIVERBANK STATE PARK, and MARCUS GARVEY PARK, in Harlem. Ave Maria wrote a radio play version of The Land of the Inner Cities for broadcast on WBAI-FM radio, as well.

Ms. Cross excerpted chapters from several classical African-American novels, re-wrote them as “ten-minute plays” and produced them through her production company, GODMOTHER PRODUCTIONS, at Brooklyn’s THIRD STREET “Y” which included Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Boo! A Halloween Birthday Bash, written by Ave Maria, is a coming-of-age play for intergenerational audiences which utilizes poetry, rap and rhyme and which is geared especially toward young people and has been dramatically stage read at HARLEM THEATRE COMPANY, RIVERBANK STATE PARK, THE COUNTEE CULLEN LIBRARY, HUE-MAN BOOKSTORE, and ASHFORD & SIMPSON’S SUGAR BAR, in Manhattan.

Ms. Cross reviewed several books for QBR/The Quarterly Black Review of Books magazine: “Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America 1925 – 1945,” by Beth Tompkins Bates; “The Black Female Body: A Photographic History,” by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams; “Ways of Dying,” by Zakes Mda; “Too Much To Ask: Black Women in the Era of Integration,” by Elizabeth Higginbotham; and, “Twilight Moods,” by Jossel Flowers Green.

“Variations of a Basic Theme” is the banner title of Ave Maria’s latest trilogy of African- American historical plays utilizing poetry, rap and rhyme, entitled Shadow and Substance (Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman) mdash; an excerpt from Shadow and Substance has been performed by Ms. Cross at MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE and THE HOUSE OF THE LORD CHURCH in Brooklyn; Peanut Butter and Yam Bread (Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver) has been dramatically stage read at Co-op City’s DREISER LOOP COMMUNITY CENTER and the HEIGHTS CENTER FOR SENIOR CITIZENS in the Bronx; and, Slavery, Freedom and Glory (Frederick Douglass) mdash; an excerpt from Slavery, Freedom and Glory has been published in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of AFRICAN VOICES.

Ave Maria’s poetic masterpiece mdash; her on-going life’s work entitled History Lesson mdash; is a Black history performance piece which she read at the AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND in Lower Manhattan, CONVENT AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH in Harlem, and at THE THEATRE AT RIVERSIDE CHURCH during a Harlem Arts Alliance assembly meeting.

Ms. Cross is presently writing a play about Bessie Coleman called Black Bird Fly utilizing free verse, prose, poetry, rap and rhyme. Black Bird Fly is scheduled for completion during the spring of 2011. Her first literary endeavor is a work-in-progress entitled Moss.

Ave Maria Cross is affiliated with THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN/Co-op City Division; BRONX COUNCIL ON THE ARTS; NYC DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS; The NYC DEPARTMENT FOR THE AGING; COMMUNITY WORD PROJECT; THE NATIONAL WRITERS’ UNION/SPIN Caucus; SHADES OF TRUTH THEATRE; INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR MINORITY ARTIST AFFAIRS; HARLEM ARTS ALLIANCE; THE NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS; THE FRANK SILVERA WRITERS’ WORKSHOP; HARLEM BOOK FAIR, and “Foretell the Future”, a works-in-progress group under the auspices of George Lee Miles, Executive Producer/Director, which grants playwrights the forum to have their plays stage read and where she acts as dramaturge, as well. Ms. Cross has studied creative writing with George Edward Tait, THE FREDERICK DOUGLASS WRITERS’ WORKSHOP, and is a member of the JOHN OLIVER KILLENS Writing Workshop, facilitated by Louis Reyes Rivera.

Ave Maria Cross is a classical violinist who majored in Black Studies and minored in English Literature, and Theatre & Dramatic Arts at Stony Brook University.

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