Public Theater's "Under the Radar 2023" has returned for its 18th year in person. Showcasing up-and-coming, avant-garde artists from around the world, this unique festival brings forth work from creators who are bound to reshape the future of theater. This year's crop of ideas is as diverse as its creators, featuring works that exorcise the demons of colonization, question colorism and imagine several ways to rid the world of a social media icon.

Four Under The Radar artists share with EBONY what inspired their pieces and how they want their performances to affect the world.

KLII by Kaneza Schaal

KLII. Image: courtesy Under The Radar 2023.

Theater-maker Kaneza Schall aims to exorcise the ghost of King Leopold II, who oversaw the brutal colonization of the Congolese people in the 1800s, through her mytho-biographical performance. “This remixing points towards the flush of revolutionary thought and practice that flooded between black people internationally in the mid-20th century and ignited movements of solidarity between formerly enslaved and colonized peoples around the world... Unless we look at these Leopolds both within us and around us, we are doomed to relive their horrors.”

Otto Frank by Roger Guenveur Smith

Otto Frank. Image: Justin Zsebe.
Otto Frank. Image: Justin Zsebe.

Obie Award-winning collaborators Roger Guenveur Smith and Marc Anthony Thompson have devised a new work inspired by Otto Frank, the father of diarist Anne Frank. In a sense, it was Rodney King who introduced me to Otto Frank. I was invited to Amsterdam to perform a play inspired by Mr. King’s life and times. While in Amsterdam, I was able to visit the Anne Frank House, where she and seven others sought security during the War and where her seminal Diary was written. I imagined Otto returning to that dark empty space, having lost his wife and two daughters. And I imagined him among us still, in conversation with Anne from beyond her time and his own.”

Queens of Sheba by Ryan Cameron Calais & Jessica L. Hagen

Queens of Sheba. Image: Ali Wright.
Queens of Sheba. Image: Ali Wright.

Director Jessica Kaliisa and writer Jessica L. Hagan were inspired to create Queens of Sheba by a conversation they had about misogynoir in 2016, shortly after the infamous DSRKT incident where four Black women were turned away from a Central London nightclub for being “too dark” and “too fat.” Kaliisa brought the idea to Ryan Calais Cameron who agreed it was a powerful story. "Queens of Sheba confronts the intersection of racism and sexism in a bold, hilarious way. It leaves audiences crying—in laughter and in sadness—and determined to make a change in their treatment of black women."

seven methods of killing kylie jenner by Jasmine Lee Jones

seven methods to killing kylie jenner. Image: Helen Murray, ArenaPal.
seven methods of killing kylie jenner. Image: Helen Murray, ArenaPal.

Jasmine Lee-Jones’ seven methods of killing kylie jenner confronts, questions and explores cultural appropriation, online culture and ownership of black bodies in the social (media and IRL) sphere. “First conceived on a group at The Royal Court, my play was born of a rage of Black women being erased past and present. Out of that rage has come a fierce declaration of anger and permission to be angry: as a means to not only survive but thrive as a Black-British woman in the modern world, grappling with the complexities of the past while trying to find space for joy.”

"Under The Radar 2023" runs at the Public Theater in New York City through January 22.