Sharon Bridgforth

Sharon Bridgforth

She // Her // Hers, mermaid

[ID: A multi-gendered, gray-haired, African-American lesbian artist poses in front of a bookshelf with a big smile. They are wearing a black shirt and a necklace with a light blue stone.]

Portrait photo by David Maziarz.

Writer and Performing Artist
Inglewood, CA
2023 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

​​Mentored by artists that use art as a vehicle for social justice, Sharon Bridgforth has a long history of bringing people from different backgrounds, life experiences, and artistic aesthetics together for the kind of art making, witnessing, and dialogue that builds loving, strong communities. As a writer, Bridgforth aspires to use the page as a canvas to hold the music that is Black language. Her work is rooted in African-American Southern migration stories that activate African-Diasporic knowings that the past-the present-the future-the living-the dead-and the unborn co-exist. With blues as core to her writing voice, she identifies as a theatrical jazz artist — playing with dissonance, shifting time, calling in all present to respond… to dance, sing, holla, pray, process. To help make the ritual that will bring the jazz of her characters’ worlds to life.

She is a 2022 Winner of Yale’s Windham Campbell Prize in Drama, a 2022–2023 McKnight National Fellow, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and she has received support from Creative Capital, MAP Fund, and the Playwrights’ Center. Widely published, she is a New Dramatists alumnae. Bridgforth’s new book, bull-jean & dem/dey back, published by 53rd State Press, is being produced by Pillsbury House + Theatre in Minneapolis.
  • Artwork by Sharon Bridgforth
    River See, premiere, 2014. Links Hall, Chicago. Photo by Dan Plehal Photography.
    [ID: Two black women, both wearing white dresses, pose on a stage covered in colorful, patterned textiles. One woman leans over the other, who is kneeling, and seems to whisper in her ear.]
Artwork by Sharon Bridgforth


bull-jean/we wake

In bull-jean/we wake the Narrator (they/them) – while grieving the loss of their elders – initiates their own healing by calling forward southernBlack-butch-sheroe, bull-jean. Through a series of dreams, porch prayers and visitations from children that fly and shape shifting ole folk . . . bulljean & dem guide the Narrator towards the realization that they are never alone, and that Love beyond the veil can be accessed as a transformative force of nature during times of loss.

mina had taught the young peoples
how to weave.
make fans.

fans so colorful
the swirl of they
move all sight and sound.

each wave tickle the air.
take you way past
what known.

like on this day
when it came clear
that mina need a healing.

bull-jean son-man boy-child jr
lead all the children mina done passed she fan making on to
pour into mina and bull-jean yard and porch
running and laughing and skipping and fanning and tumbling
they wave the air

till mina come out
sit on porch.

then all the children mina done passed she fan making on to
circle mina and bull-jean house tight tighter
with fans flicking they
wave the air
circle right
drop left
running and laughing and skipping and fanning and tumbling they
flick wave circle drop
flick wave circle drop clap
they twirl
flick wave circle drop clap twirl
they play

till the trees tilt

and out fly angels with fins and black black skin
and long long braids curling round pouring out all over
up and down the road and back singing
and dat black mermaid man lady with fishes and fishes and pearls flowing
all the way down past behind brush through clouds come down