Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright whose musicals The Ones, Trigger, (Be)longing, Stuck Elevator, How to Break, Kingdom, Shakespeare: The Remix, and No Lie have won a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute / Time Warner Fellowship, NEA Art Works Grant, NEFA National Theatre Project Grant, Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, Barbour Playwright’s Award, NYMF Most Promising New Musical Award, and multiple MacDowell Fellowships.
Trigger, aka (Be)longing (music by Byron Au Yong) premiered at the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech as part of the 10-year memorial of the Virginia Tech shooting, moved on to MDC Live Arts, International Festival of Arts & Ideas/Long Wharf Theaatre and is currently being developed with director Lisa Peterson.
Stuck Elevator (music by Byron Au Yong) premiered at the American Conservatory Theatre, where it won two San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, including best original musical, and was named “high point of the theatrical year” by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Activist Songbook (music by Byron Au Yong) the third work in Aaron and Byron’s trilogy, was commissioned by the Asian Arts Initiative and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and launched by the Asian Arts Initiative and Montalvo Arts Center.
How to Break (music by Rebecca Hart, Yako 440 & Jacinth Greywoode, choreography by Kwikstep & Rokafella) was developed by Norway’s National Theatre, SPKRBX, Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, HERE, Collective Consciousness, NAMT, HartBeat Ensemble, and the Village Theatre, and is a New Victory Theatre LabWorks selection for 2018-19.
Kingdom (music by Ian Williams) has been produced by The Old Globe (world premiere, Critic’s Choice, San Diego Union-Tribune), Bregamos Theatre and ReVision Theatre (Best Musical and Best Book, Newark Star-Ledger) and was developed by the Public Theatre, Atlantic Theatre, NAMT, NYMF and many others.
Shakespeare: The Remix (music by Gihieh Lee) was commissioned and premiered by TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, and produced by Saratoga Shakespeare Company, Zachary Scott Theatre, St. Louis Black Rep, Collective Consciousness Theatre, and Capital Repertory Theatre (ongoing school tour).
Current projects include commissions from Long Wharf Theatre (Prison, with Antonio Fernandez) and the Asian Arts Initiative (Activist Songbook, with Byron Au Yong); Smooth Criminal – a hip-hop play about a nerdy white kid desperate to liberate his people as soon as he can figure out who they are; and a touring solo show with accompanying workshops – What Is Race and How Did I Catch It?
Aaron is also one of the national playwrights and New Haven organizers of Oregon Shakespeare Festival/One-Minute Play Festival’s Every 28 Hours Project. He worked with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services and dozens of refugees from around the world to create Stories of a New America, a play touring with Collective Consciousness Theatre.
Aaron received his BA in Arts & Social Change from the University of California at Berkeley, studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and received his MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU, where he was an Alberto Vilar Global Fellow in the Performing Arts.
A former Open Rap Slam champion at the National Poetry Slam Championships, Aaron founded The Word poetry-in-the-schools program in New Haven, and teaches hip-hop theatre for liberation in schools, colleges, and organizations nationwide. .