Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame
 Alameda County Arts Excellence in Arts Leadership
Theater Bay Area 40/40 Award

Visionary. Artist. Educator.

Invested in the art of excellence.


I create; therefore, I am.

Biography

Ayodele Nzinga,MFA,PhD, is often referred to as a renaissance woman. She is a talented actress, a powerhouse SpokenWord Artist, a lyricist, a published poet, a playwright, film and stage director, producer, recording artist, film writer, and offers a series of engaging motivational lectures, transformative workshops, and collaborative creative sessions, as a means of creating space for group conversation. Nzinga is a California artist, who in the tradition of the Black Arts Continuum, uses performance as a method of inter-intra group communication. She was the Artistic Director of the original Recovery Theater, and its cult classic Marvin X’s “One Day in the Life,” the longest running African American Theater production in North America. She is the founding Artistic Director of The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater, a 100 seat theater built in 2000, to facilitate Nzinga’s desire to use live performance as a form of community engagement. Nzinga is the Founder Producing Director of The Lower Bottom Playaz Inc., Oakland CA’s premiere North American African Theater Company. Under the direction of Nzinga, The Lower Bottom Playaz, served as troupe in residence at The Sister Thea from 2000 to 2013. Under her direction the work of the troupe focuses on creating spaces for engaging diverse audiences in civic dialog through the presentation of theater. She and the troupe became known for Nzinga's modernized site specific productions of Shakespeare and classics from the North American African cannon, and for the professional level of production achieved at a small outdoor theater in a neighborhood known more for violence and cyclical poverty than the arts. Subjects that caught Nzinga’s attention included at-risk youth, extreme poverty, gentrification, systemic racism, intra-group violence, incarceration, and systemic inequity. She focused her theater making on work that allowed immersed exploration of these issues and facilitated space for civic dialog around issues that she felt threatened the quality of life in the rapidly gentrifying community in which the theater resided. That work flowed into the Nzinga’s commitment to produce the works of August Wilson. The American Century Cycle project was conceived in 2010 with the troupe’s first production of “Gem of the Ocean”. Many of the issues that consumed Nzinga coalesced in Wilson’s iconic contribution to the American theater scape. Nzinga’s journey with August Wilson took center stage for the next five years of her artistic career. She produced the work without cuts or adaptation, staring with a second production of "Gem" and marching through the ten play cycle at the pace of two productions a year for the next half decade. The American Century Cycle Project begun at the Sister Thea Bowman and continued in spite of challenges encountered along the way, one of which saw the troupe without a residence midway through a season. When The Sister Thea went dark, Nzinga and her troupe claimed the distinction of being the only theatrical group to fully stage a production, (Fences, by August Wilson), at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland CA. Nzinga and her troupe began residency at The Flight Deck on Broadway in Oakland CA in 2014, and continued The American Century Cycle Project. In January of 2016, Ayodele Nzinga became the only director, the only producer, her Lower Bottom Playaz, the only theatrical entity of any size anywhere in the known world to fully stage the complete works of August Wilson's American Century Cycle in chronological order of the 100 years represented in Wilson's seminal achievement. As a follow up to making theater history, in August of 2016 Nzinga produced, directed, and performed in Oakland’s first Black Arts Movement Theater Festival. The nine day festival featured nine one-act plays in genres from Black Classical through Science Fiction, and Magical Realism. The festival marks a transition for Nzinga into resuming the production of original work. Nzinga will be remounting her original work, Mama at Twilight: Death by Love for production in January 2017. She has a work in development, Beyond the Bars: Growing Home, focused on incarceration and it's toll on community. This work conceived of as a part of a California Shakespeare Artist Investigator project brings Nzinga's talent for research, her connection with timely topics and her skill as a poet and playwright into the same space. As does her current full length book and play project based on first person accounts of the life and times of Glenn Bailey, a lifer at large after over 52 years of incarceration, this work is scheduled for completion in 2018. Nzinga has produced numerous arts-based community events that engaged and helped give voice to urban communities by bringing research, performance, and informed dialog together. Among these projects; Nzinga founded a Summer Theater Day Camp in 2007. The camp focuses on critical thinking, literacy, and activism through the modality of performance. This area of her practice has become the subject of studies on multiple-literacy development, the development of critical consciousness, and offers an enlarged view of the benefit inherent in creative play. Nzinga who has been described by academicians as a rare hybrid of theoretician and practitioner uses this portion of her practice to nurture future performers, engage at risk students, and to help facilitate the seeding of creative innovators. Her book, Performing Literacy: A Narrative Inquiry into Performance Pedagogy in a Marginalized Community, is informed by this work. Nzinga was honored in 2016 for Excellence in Arts Leadership by the Alameda County Arts commission, and by Theater Bay Area for being one of the 40 Bay Area Theater Makers that helped change the face of theater in the Bay Area in the last 40 years.

Nzinga has lectured, presented, consulted, served residencies, and created programming for various art concerns and schools a short list of which includes, University of California at Berkeley, Opera Piccola, Asa Academy, St. Martin De Porres School, The Beacon Outlet, The Leo Center, and A.L.I.C.E./Black Swan, Sr. Thea Bowman Theater Summer Theater Day Camp, The Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement, K.I.P.P. Bridge Charter School, Stellar Prep., The Y.M.C.A, DetermiNation, Lower Bottom Playaz Literacy in the Arts Program, Ragged Wing Teaching Artist,and McClymonds High School. 

 

Education

         PhD. California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA-

                     Transformative Education & Change

         MFA. New College of California, San Francisco CA-

                     Writing & Consciousness

          M.A. New College of California, San Francisco CA-

                      Writing & Consciousness

  

Published Work Appears in:


Journal of African American Poetry

(Reasons, Remember Me, Madness & Poets (/For Marvin X))

ChickenBones, A Literary Journal

Blessings are due, A Review of Beyond Spirituality by Marvin Jackmon, Poetic Sermons for Sundays,The Art of Counting the Blessings, Blest, Remember Me,I want things, James Joseph Brown Jr., JB-(1939-2006-Forever)

Juice, An online Literary Magazine

(Independence Day, Government Housing, Faith, Sahara’s Poem)

Black Magnolias, A Literary  Journal, Fall 5.3

(The People, Woman)

Say it Loud: Poems about James Brown Anthologyedited by Michael and Mary Weems

(JB. 1939-2006-Forever)

Exhibited:

Oakland Public Library; Photos & Text

Prescott Joseph Center for Community Enhancement; Photos & Text

The Black Dot Performance Cafe and Gallery; Photos & Text

Film:

For Brothers Only- Documentary, (Writer, Director, Producer) We Inhale

Call the Village-Docu-Drama, (Writer, talent), Black Apes Media

Down Here- Music Video, (talent), 393 Films

We dying down here- Music Video, (talent), Black Apes Media

Freedom- Music Video, (Feature), Black Apes Media

Warrior Art Experience - (Live Performance), 393 Films

Search for the Everlasting Coconut Tree-, (Writer), 393 Films

Discography:

Singles

  • Don’t Call Me – J. Definitely
  • Bigger Picture- Inspire
  • Hood Affair- Playa Righteous
  • Look n the Glass-Playa Righteous
  • WordznBulletz-(Prayers of Heretics) We Inhale
  • Freedom-(Hairdoo for the People)Hairdoo
  • Pocket Full of Cowries- (Hunter Poetry)Wolf Hawk Jaguar
  • Dead-In-(Lower Bottom Playaz Hood Mix Vol 1) We Inhale
  • Winter in America-(Lower Bottom Playaz Hood Mix Vol 1) We Inhale
  • Prosperity Movement--(Prosperity Movement) WolfHawkJaguar
  • Water has no Enemies--(  ), Oshunfemi Njeri

Compilations

  • Lower Bottom Playaz Hood Mix-Compilation-Producer-(We Inhale Label)

Albums

  • The SorrowLand Rebellion-Black Apes Music (Black Apes Label)

Editor: The Movement, official Newspaper of Oakland's Black Arts Movement

Awards & Recognition 

2017 Inducted into Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame, Arts & Culture

2016 Theater Bay Area, recognized as one of the 40 faces that contributed to changing the face of Bay Area Theater 

2016 Alameda County Cultural Arts, recognized for Excellence in Artistic Leadership

Serpents Source Grantee

California Playwrights Association

San Francisco Foundation

New College Writers

Clorox Foundation

The East Bay Foundation

Oakland Cultural Funding

National Endowment for the Arts

Tides Foundation