MANSA RA. Born Jiréh Breon Holder, in Memphis, Tennessee. Only child of a first-generation undergraduate and doctoral degree recipient, single mother, and beloved community leader. He made his debut as a playwright with TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET. The New York Times named him a “Marquee Name, Now in the Making” while New Yorker praised him as “a gifted writer who will be amazing to watch as his work grows.”
After the pandemic, he returned to New York City with IN THE SOUTHERN BREEZE (Rattlestick Theater, NYC.) The play pulls from the author’s own suicide letter to give encouragement to other queer Black men. TheaterMania named it one of their "6 Favorite Theater Productions of 2021" while The New York Times praised it as "formally ambitious" and a "tender tribute to previous generations of Black Americans."
His precise poetic realism for the stage has also carried into his work in film and television, which includes NBC’s hit drama NEW AMSTERDAM.
Mansa Ra is the director of The Paradigms, a devising ensemble which seeks to create more equitable and ethical theater. The Paradigms highlight stories about an authentic Black America that begins before slavery and extends well past President Obama. The ensemble utilizes a process-oriented method of creating stories that re-enfranchises the actors in the development process while inviting journalists, choreographers, and communities from the very start. Stay tuned for The Paradigms' first project: A PYRAMID ON THE MISSISSIPPI.
In Spring 2022, the Roundabout Theatre Company will present …WHAT THE END WILL BE, a meditation on generational trauma. It asks a potent question: how can we rebuild our families in the face of tragedy? The production will feature Keith Randolph Smith (JITNEY, Spike Lee's MALCOLM X) and Erik King (DEXTER, OZ) as an estranged father and son trying to reconcile in the face of Covid and cancer.
In 2015, he regrettably began an entity known as Pyramid Theater Company. After a professional split with Ken-Matt Martin (Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater), he has since distanced himself from this misstep. He has also publicly apologized to the artists he introduced to Martin and invited to Des Moines, IA.
Mansa Ra was educated at Central High School, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Emory University, and earned an M.F.A. in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama. He credits Sarah Ruhl and Dr. Alison Ligon as the most influential teachers of his academic journey.
Between plays, he teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
Mansa Ra lives in West Hollywood with his fiancé and their beautiful dog, Harriet.