MANSA RA was born Jiréh Breon Holder and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. On October 1, 2020, he changed his name and committed himself to black radical love. He made his debut as a playwright with TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET, a moving drama about a 1960's college student who shocks his family when he joins the extremely dangerous Freedom Rides. The New York Times named Ra 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.” His plays have won numerous awards including the Laurents / Hatcher Foundation Award, Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers' 2017 Bryan Foundation Award for Drama.
Ra has written and produced on over two-thousand hours of network television. Most notably, “A Seat at the Table” (New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 11) which took his own experience with police to reveal why Dr. Reynolds (played by Jocko Sims) chose to be a surgeon.
His latest Off-Broadway production …WHAT THE END WILL BE (NYT critics’ pick) is currently running at the Roundabout Theater until July 10. The New York Times applauds it as “everything that is meant when we say that Black lives matter” while The Wall Street Journal calls it “an undeniable pleasure.” …WHAT THE END WILL BE stars Keith Randolph Smith (Broadway's JITNEY, Spike Lee's MALCOLM X) as an estranged father trying to reconcile with his son before he dies of cancer. Click here to purchase tickets.
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.
Mansa Ra was educated at Memphis 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.