Profile Type: Artist
NEFA Grant Recipient
Aaron Jafferis

Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright whose awards include a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute / Time Warner Fellowship, NEA Art Works Grant, NEFA National Theatre Project Grant and multiple MacDowell Fellowships. Aaron is the founding artistic director of The Word youth poetry program in New Haven (modeled after his mentor June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program), which supports young people using hip-hop and spoken word as engines for justice and liberation. Aaron has performed his hip hop poetry at Madison Square Garden, the Kennedy Center, and the National Poetry Slam Championships, where he is a former Open Rap Slam champion. He creates dynamic theatre, poetry and slam performances and workshops for schools and theatres.

Workshops can be booked independently or in conjunction with a performance or excerpt of one of his hip-hop plays and musicals: What Is Race & How Did I Catch It, Activist Songbook, The Ones, Smooth Criminal, How to Break, Kingdom, Stuck Elevator, Shakespeare: The Remix, or No Lie. Workshops range in duration from an hour-and-a-half session to a semester-long project, and combine the study of master works with the creation of new student work. Residencies culminate in a student theatrical performance, staged reading, poetry café, slam, or chapbook publication. Workshops for youth include The Word, Hip Hop Theatre, What Is Race & How Did I Catch It, Forum Theatre, Activist Songbook, Theatre as Social Action, Playwriting Our Selves, ill verses, and Lit Remix. Teacher Trainings include Art Interrupting Injustice, (Mis)Perception at Work, Writing Race, and The Arts of Healing Myself.

Teacher fees listed range from a one-time workshop to a full week residency with multiple classes each day.

Find Me On …

Additional Links: 
How to Break – a hip-hop musical about hospitalized teenagers wrestling with their caregivers over what it means to be “ill.”
The Ones – a choral hip-hop theatre forum about coming of age in an age of guns.

I Have Worked With

  • June 2020

    The Arts & Ideas Festival has presented all 3 works in my trilogy with composer Byron Au Yong: Stuck Elevator in 2014, (Be)longing in 2017, and our latest work, Activist Songbook, in 2020. Each event has built robust partnerships with local groups and individuals creating their own work, Ideas panels, town halls meetings, etc responding to me and Byron's core music theatre works.

  • January 2020

    From 2018-2020, New Victory LabWorks developed How to Break, a hip-hop musical with composers Jacinth Greywoode, Rebecca Hart & Yako 440, and breaking pioneers Kwisktep and Rokafella.

  • September 2019

    Artistic Director of The Word, an artist collective fomenting youth poetry, spoken word, rap and song writing in New Haven and beyond since 2000.


  • NEFA Grantee
  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
writer / performer
Physical Address: 
New Haven, CT 06513
Last Name: 
646 546-9343


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Literary Arts - Spoken Word
Additional Disciplines: 
Literary Arts - Poetry
Literary Arts - Spoken Word
Music - Rap / Hip-Hop
Theater - General
Theater - Children's
Theater - Devised / Artist-Led
Theater - Musical
Theater - Playwriting
Year Founded: 
Populations Served: 
General Public
Immigrant Populations
Incarcerated (or Formerly Incarcerated) Individuals
LGBTQ Populations
School Groups
Languages Available: 
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Arts in Healthcare
Arts Instruction / Lessons
Creation of a Work of Art (Including Commissions)
Curriculum Development
Performance / Concert / Reading
Professional Development / Training
Residency - Community
Residency - In School
Residency - Production / Development
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 

Affiliations and Accomplishments

Professional Associations: 
Dramatists Guild
MFA, Musical Theatre Writing, New York University, 2004 (Vilar Global Fellow in the Performing Arts) BA, Interdisciplinary Studies (Arts and Social Change), University of California, Berkeley, 1997 (Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors)
Creative Capital Award (Stuck Elevator)
Sundance Institute / Time Warner Fellowship
Richard Rodgers Award
NEFA National Theatre Project Grant
Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award
MacDowell Fellowship
Thomas Barbour Playwright's Award (How to Break)
Best Musical, Best Book of 2008-09 (Kingdom), Newark Star-Ledger; 50 Writers to Watch, The Dramatist, 2007; Open Rap Slam, 1997 National Poetry Slam Championships
Connecticut Artistic Excellence Fellowship
Connecticut Arts Hero Award
I am a NEFA Grant Recipient

I am a Touring Artist

Technical Requirements: 
Varies according to workshop.
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: 
State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
Maximum Number of Performers: 

I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Afterschool Program
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Healthcare Facility
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Arts Integration - English Language / Literacy
Arts Integration - English as a Second Language
Arts Integration - Foreign Languages
Arts Integration - Health
Arts Integration - History and Social Science
Ages Served: 
Elementary School-age
Middle School-age
High School-age
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: