“HANDS UP” – Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre announces new production about Black lives in America

Speakeysie News Desk June 15 2020

In association with Spelman College 

As part of its 2020/21 season the Alliance will produce HANDS UP in association with Spelman College. Across seven monologues written by seven Black playwrights, HANDS UP depicts the realities of Black America from the perspective of varying genders, sexual orientations, skin tones, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

“I have yet to see a show that engages with the Black American experience in a way that is as raw and demanding of the artists and audience as HANDS UP,” said Co-Director Alexis Woodard.  “This is a piece that everybody needs to experience.  I want to believe when we are confronted with the pain of another human’s experience, it is our natural reaction to respond with empathy and love.”

In 2015, the New Black Fest commissioned the script in response to a police officer killing Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager from Ferguson, MO. 

In late 2019, Spelman College students reimagined the original monologues as a full ensemble performance.  The project was submitted to the Alliance’s Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab and was chosen as one of the three projects for development.  In light of the national movement for justice, it became clear that this project should be produced as a full production in the fall of 2020 as part of the Alliance’s new season, replacing another production in the schedule.  It will be the third Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab project to receive a full production by the Alliance.  

“Unfortunately, this work still resonates, which means there is still work to be done,” said Co-Director Keith Arthur Bolden.  “Hard conversations need to be had, and we have to sit on them in order for us to come out on the other side with real change. Anything less, and the results will be the same. HANDS UP is a transformative piece that alters your capacity for compassion, and I’m proud to introduce it to a wider audience and go into spaces where the conversations are not being had.  Welcome to what revolution feels like, looks like and is.”

Lead artists for HANDS UP are Spelman Alumna and Alliance Spelman Fellow Alexis Woodard (Co-Director), Spelman Professor Keith Arthur Bolden (Co-Director), Lorenzo Moore (Sound Designer), and Keri Garrett (Choreographer). 

“The Alliance is honored by Spelman College’s partnership on this production,” said Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director.  “Atlanta theater has long been the recipient of the extraordinary contributions of the College’s students and faculty.”  

In addition to producing this piece, the Alliance Theatre is committed to creating more opportunities to amplify the voices of Black artists and lift contemporary stories of the Black experience. More initiatives will be announced in the coming days.  

HANDS UP will be produced in the fall of 2020 as part of the Alliance’s 2020/21 season. Exact production dates and ticketing information will be announced at a later date.


In light of the police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, among others, The New Black Fest commissioned seven emerging Black playwrights to write 10-15 minute monologues that explore their feelings about the well-being of Black in a culture of institutional profiling. 

The collection includes:

Superiority Fantasy by Nathan James

Holes in My Identity by Nathan Yungerberg

They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared… by Idris Goodwin

Dead of Night… The Execution of… by Nambi E. Kelley

Abortion by Nsangou Njikam

Walking Next to Michael Brown by Eric Micha Holmes

How I Feel by Dennis A. Allen II


In 2013, the Alliance Theatre launched the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab to support and provide opportunities to artists of multiple theatre disciplines looking for a producing home for undeveloped work. Each year, the Alliance extends an open call for Atlanta artists to submit their projects for consideration. Three projects are chosen by a panel of judges representing local and national artists of varying disciplines.  Each project receives $10,000 to use toward further exploration and development, as well as access to the Alliance’s artistic, educational and production staffs, and rehearsal spaces. In its inaugural year the Alliance received 68 applications, representing 204 individual artists. 

It is the goal of the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab to celebrate the breadth and vision of Atlanta-based artists, to encourage collaboration among Atlanta’s artistic community, and to seed projects that will be produced here in Atlanta. The outpouring of applications for inclusion in the inaugural year of the program shows the vibrancy of the artistic community living in Atlanta and the need for further support of local art. 


Founded in 1968, the Alliance Theatre is the leading producing theater in the Southeast, reaching more than 165,000 patrons annually.  Under the leadership of Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, 

Alliance received the Regional Theatre Tony Award® for sustained excellence in programming, education, and community engagement.  In January 2019, the Alliance opened its new, state-of-the-art performance space, The Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre.  Known for its high artistic standards and national role in creating significant theatrical works, the Alliance has premiered more than 116 productions including nine that have transferred to Broadway.  The Alliance education department reaches 90,000 students annually through performances, classes, camps, and in-school initiatives designed to support teachers and enhance student learning.  The Alliance Theatre values community, 

curiosity, collaboration, and excellence, and is dedicated to representing Atlanta’s diverse community with the stories we tell, the artists, staff, and leadership we employ, and audiences we serve.  www.alliancetheatre.org

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