Born and raised in Washington Heights, actress Jocelyn Bioh, now based in Harlem, found great success as a playwright with School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, a comedy about girls at a boarding school in Ghana competing for entrance to a beauty pageant. The Ghanaian-American Bioh returned to MCC Theater (which debuted School Girls in New York) in October 2021 with Nollywood Dreams, another comedy about an aspiring Nigerian actress who also works at her family’s travel agency. Now, Bioh’s new play, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, is having his world premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club, on through November 5. The production, directed by Obie winner Whitney White, is set in Jaja’s bustling hair braiding shop in Harlem where every day, a lively and eclectic group of West African immigrant hair braiders are creating masterpieces on the heads of neighborhood women. During one sweltering summer day, love will blossom, dreams will flourish and secrets will be revealed. The uncertainty of their circumstances simmers below the surface of their lives and when it boils over, it forces this tight-knit community to confront what it means to be an outsider on the edge of the place they call home.
Brittany Adebumola and Dominique Thorne in Jaja’s African Hair Braiding