This weekend, “Seed” opened at the National Black Theatre on Fifth Avenue between 125th and 126th streets. This dramatic play by Radha Blank is not only staged in Harlem, it is set in Harlem and spotlights the historic significance and sense of community that exists in this amazing neighborhood.

After the opening night performance, I was able to speak to the playwright, the director and people from the two organizations that produced the show, the Classical Theatre of Harlem and the Hip-Hop Theater Festival.

It was an exciting performance, so I was looking forward to delving into how a piece like this came together. “Seed” tells the story of a social worker named Anne, a 12-year-old boy named Chee-Chee, his family and Rashawn, a young incarcerated Black woman.

Blank shared with me why she wrote this dramatic piece. “There were several reasons; I was a teacher for about 15 years in the New York City school system, and depending on what community you work in, sometimes you can feel like a social worker. Because I was a teacher or teaching artist, I didn’t have the power to do much for the children I encountered.”

She continued, “As a teacher, you are known as a mandated reporter, so you just pass the information on but you can’t really do anything. There were so many children whose stories have stuck with me, so through Anne I vicariously get to do something.

“It was also inspired by my concern for the children of Harlem and what’s going to happen with them, in terms of their education and all of the gentrification that’s happening in the community now,” Blank said.

When audiences experience this poignant, riveting piece of theater, Blank wants them to come away with something. “There’s a question in the play: How far are we willing to go to keep a child safe or to keep a community’s future safe? I want people to feel like we should all be invested in the children in this community. When we’re all watching-there’s the characters of Anne and Latonya who are having a tug-of-war over this boy, but I feel when the audience is watching, they feel invested too. I want people to walk out and look at kids differently,” she said.

“I came up in a community in Williamsburg, before I moved to Harlem, where everybody had an eye on your back, and if you were cutting up, you’d better believe Ms. Rodriguez is going to tell your Mama and your Mama is going to tell your Papa. It may sound nostalgic or utopic, but I kind of wish we could go back to that, where everybody would stick out their necks to protect a child. Nowadays, we’re less involved and we feel less connected, like it’s not our problem. I think we should feel it is our problem,” Blank shared.

The play combines dialogue and raps that each character gets to perform. It is an incredible piece of theater, both for the actors and for Niegel Smith, the director. Smith talked about the challenge of fusing together a piece like this. “The greatest challenge is how to create a sense of authenticity through every moment. Radha has given us a fiercely intelligent play that gets into each character’s psyche delicately and then pushes them to extremes, to a place where they have to speak into rhyme, into hip-hop, into poetry.”

He explained, “What becomes difficult in the rehearsal process is creating a space for actors to take a risk and really live out those challenging moments-it’s a lot of pushing or sitting back and waiting and letting them discover. The greatest challenge is allowing the play to explode in the way that it wants to explode.”

Clyde Valentin, executive director of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and Ty Jones, the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s producing director-the co-producers of “Seed”-were excited to share their thoughts on this project. “The collaboration came about around the play. Radha sent the script to us and we thought it was incredible. And she said that Classical Theatre of Harlem is interested in doing a reading and presenting it. So that was the beginning of the conversation,” Valentin said.

“I want audiences to come away with a line in the play, ‘Stick your neck out.’ There’s not enough of us willing to stick our necks out,” he added. Valentin was joined at the opening by Kamilah Forbes, artistic director for the Hip-Hop Theater Festival.

Jones was excited as he remarked, “The Hip-Hop Theater Festival and Classical Theatre of Harlem-we have similar missions, we both want to provide opportunities for artists of color, women. And we want to do it in a comprehensive theatrical form-not just for actors on stage, but for designers, directors and playwrights.

“What the Hip-Hop Theater Festival does is speak to a generation that often is left out of the conversation of theater,” Jones continued. “We love to be able to bring our brand of theater to that generation of folks. We believe that theater belongs to all people.

“It makes sense that the Hip-Hop Festival and us worked together on a play we both independently loved. We have a reading series called ‘Future Classics’ and we chose ‘Seed.’ The Hip-Hop Festival independently did a reading on their own and loved the play.”

Jones feels the play will do well. “The success of a play is when it promotes dialogue and discussion, and I know this play does that. This play will move people in a profound and pleasurable ways.

“The end date is October 9, but we’re hoping that things will be so damn successful that it will extend a couple of weeks and be at a venue where it can have an open run. There are talkbacks after some of the shows with social workers and with young people who are in the child care system.”