Furlough's Paradise

By a.k. payne
Originally produced at Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, GA
January 31 - March 3, 2024

Synopsis: Winner of the 20th annual Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, Furlough’s Paradise is a poignant new play examining the dynamics that shape our lives and lead us to where we make our homes. Cousins Sade and Mina, raised like sisters but now leading very different lives, return to their childhood town for the funeral of their mother and aunt. While Sade is on a three-day furlough from prison and Mina experiences a brief reprieve from her career and life on the West Coast, the two try to make sense of grief, home, love, and kinship. But traumas and resentments from the past, both real and surreal, threaten to pull them apart, all as time ticks towards the correctional officer's arrival.   

Artistic Statement: The feedback was unanimous from the Kendeda Competition’s first readers and the final selection committee of national artistic directors: “This is the most exciting new voice I have read in a long time.”  

Truly one of the most magnificent voices in the American theatre, a.k. payne has created a masterpiece of a play which shines a spotlight on conversations of grief, nature vs. nurture, social safety nets or the lack thereof in the wealthiest country in the world, prison system reform, and what it is to be a Black woman in America -- all within a tight 80-page play set in a small apartment with no set changes and two actors. 

Furlough’s Paradise is important right now as we closely interrogate the prison system and income inequality in this country and what it means for the United States to be the wealthiest country in the world while simultaneously having the highest rates of incarceration and the largest income inequality. What does it mean that our Brown and Black brothers and sisters are incarcerated at least five times the rate as whites? What does it mean that white people who commit white collar crime rarely serve jail time while Black and Brown people with minor drug offenses and misdemeanors face maximum prison sentences? 

a.k. and I are compelled by the questions “What makes a community survive, and how do we embrace new definitions of community that serve Black, women+ individuals on their terms?” The pandemic magnified the impact of isolation and separation for the average American – a state of trauma that historically has disproportionately affected many Black families due to poverty and the criminal justice system. These voiceless citizens are still Americans who deserve to have their stories remembered before it is too late and there is no community to come back to.  

Furlough’s Paradise is a play that needs to be told right now, and the Alliance is proud to be the theatre helping to tell this story. - Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, Alliance Theatre Artistic Director and director of Furlough's Paradise

Grant Statement: The Alliance Theatre’s production of Furlough’s Paradise will open on our 200-seat Hertz Stage on February 7, 2024, as the culminating event to a week of new play readings, workshops, and events at the Alliance, locally known as Kendeda Week. Furlough's Paradise is the winning play of our 20th annual Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, a nationally recognized new work development program investing in a full production of an emerging career playwright who has recently completed their MFA in playwriting.

With an additional week of rehearsal, Furlough’s Paradise will rehearse from January 2 to January 30, 2024, with 31 performances from January 31 to March 3, 2024 (opening on February 7). Support from the Edgerton Foundation is enabling us to extend Furlough’s Paradise’s rehearsal period from a budgeted three to four weeks.

Creative team:

Costume Design: Shilla Benning  
Projection Design: Milton Cordero 
Movement Integration: Julie B. Johnson 
Sound Design: Chris Lane
Emotional Wellness Consultant: Laura Morse 
Scenic Design: Chika Shimizu
Ashley Thomas, Dramaturg
LX Design: Thom Weaver


Stage Management Production Assistant: Samantha Honeycutt
Stage Manager: Amanda J. Perez 

Director: Tinashe Kajese-Bolden


Mina: Asha Basha Duniani
Sade: Kai Heath
Mina Understudy: Cymiah Alexander
Sade Understudy: Makallen Kelley

Additional funders: Warner Bros. Discovery