Join The Milwaukee Repertory Theater In Their Celebration of Black History Month!

From the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s website explaining their contribution to Milwaukee’s Celebration of Black History Month:

all photos courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

We are excited to present four free virtual events this February as part of “We Rise: MKE’s Celebration of Black History Month.” The celebration will honor the tremendous contributions that African American artists, administrators, and audiences have made to Milwaukee Rep and the City of Milwaukee. Events will take place on Monday nights at 7pm CT via Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

To Be Young, Gifted and Black: A Celebration of Lorraine Hansberry
Monday, February 1, 7pm CT

The night will feature an original poem performed by Wisconsin’s poet laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton; interviews with icon in African American film, television and theater Phyllis Yvonne Stickney and Tony and Grammy Nominee Valisia LeKae who played Lorraine Hansberry in the Off-Broadway production of Sweet Lorraine; and a reunion of the artists from Milwaukee Rep’s 2012/13 Season production of A Raisin in the Sun including Mildred Marie Langford, Greta Oglesby and Director Ron OJ Parson.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Monday, February 8, 7pm CT

Hear from African American artists, past and present at Milwaukee Rep who are onstage and behind-the-scenes showcasing the many roles that create art in Milwaukee. The evening features Natrea Blake (Assistant Choreographer The Color Purple), Costume Designer Kara Harmon (Eclipsed and our upcoming production of Toni Stone), Stage Manager Tara Kelly (West Side Story), actor and hair/wig designer Nikiya Mathis (The Mountaintop) and Milwaukee Rep staff members including Chief Diversity Officer Tammy Belton-Davis, Associate Director of Engagement N’Jameh Camara, Associate Artistic Producer, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj and Educator Hope Parow. This event will be emceed by 88Nine’s Tarik Moody

It Takes A Village
Monday, February 15, 7pm CT

Join us for a town hall with members of the Milwaukee Black Theater Community to showcase their work and discuss the plethora of contributions African American artists and administrators have made over the years in Milwaukee. Featuring La’Ketta Caldwell from LUMIN Schools; DiMonte Henning founder of Lights! Camera! Soul! and Milwaukee Rep EPR alum; Chiké Johnson actor and founder of Cheeks Films; Dr. Donte McFadden of Milwaukee Film Fest Black Lens, Sheri Williams Pannell Producing Artistic Director of Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and Malkia Stampley actor, director and co-founder of Milwaukee Black Theater Festival.

It Takes A Village event sponsored by: Sam’s Place

The Ground on Which I Stand
Monday, February 22, 7pm CT

The evening honors the prolific life and legacy of August Wilson in the American Theater. Keynote speaker Ebony Jo-Ann will kick things off detailing her personal and professional relationship in collaboration with Mr. Wilson over her 40+ year career in the entertainment industry.  Presentations from past and current August Wilson Monologue Competition participants will then take center stage followed by a discussion on the Women of August Wilson and the power of his characters with panelists including actors Sadé Ayodele, Ebony Jo-Ann, Greta Oglesby and Malkia Stampley

Hope that I’ll ‘see’ all of you there!

Have You Discovered Red Bull Theater? It’s Time To Give Them A Try!!

Despite missing live theater, I will admit that I have found solace in various virtual presentations and readings around the internet. And somewhere, somehow the Red Bull Theater came into my life…I am not 100% sure where…but probably on Facebook as I was transitioning from political writing to arts writing. And I have already enjoyed a couple of their offerings…really enjoyed them…and I guess I should have written about them but I haven’t. But I want you to have the same opportunity to experience their excellent theater making too!

Red Bull Theater describes themselves as such:

Off-Broadway theater company specializing in plays of heightened language, with a unique focus on the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

RED BULL THEATER is named for the rowdy Jacobean playhouse that illegally performed plays in England during the years of Puritan rule, and was the first London theater to reopen after the Restoration. This bold spirit is central to our identity. With the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as our cornerstone, Red Bull Theater is New York City’s destination for dynamic performances of great plays that stand the test of time. The company also produces new works that are in conversation with the classics.

Their virtual presentations have been free and pay what you can. So take the opportunity to experience a company you might not be familiar with…you will enjoy them…and then drop a few dollars in the hat when you see it being passed around! And so far, their productions have lived streamed at a particular day and time and then remain available for a few more days as on demand streaming events!!! So you aren’t locked in and can watch to suit your schedule.

And now, here’s a good place to start. This Monday evening, January 25th, Red Bull Theater will be performing The Woman Hater by Frances Burney.

Directed by Everett Quinton and featuring Bill Army, Arnie Burton, Veanne Cox, Rebecca S’Manga Frank, Cherie Corinne Rice, Matthew Saldivar, Jenne Vath, Nick Westrate.

Frances Burney’s rarely seen 18th century proto-feminist satire is a hilarious story of broken engagements, excessive romanticism – and one massively misguided misogynist.

Sir Roderick has turned frantic misogynist for two reasons: he was jilted 17 years previously and his sister had the gall to marry his ex-fiancee’s brother. Burney’s outrageously witty comedy of manners bursts into life with the introduction of the former fiancee, Lady Smatter, who has turned into a voracious and addle-brained bookworm.

With its unforgettable characters and delicious absurdity, The Woman Hater is a lost comic treat.

Want more information? Just follow this link…then order your ticket!

And next week, let me know what you think!

APT: Smart People

It would never be my intention to create best of lists of plays or concerts. My intention it to just record my responses and share them with you. But: OH. My. Goodness. If there was ever one play that I saw in person in 2020 or viewed virtually online that I want to see again, it is Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People. Immediately!

Because I am a professional grade procrastinator, I didn’t watch this online until its run was at its end (or get around to writing about it until now). So I didn’t leave myself the opportunity to watch it again. But I do want to see not only this play again…soon…but this exact virtual American Players Theatre’s Out of the Woods reading as directed by Melisa Pereyra. (So note to APT and Brenda DeVita: this is a perfect candidate for a reprise during Black History Month).

Smart people is about smart people. Four of them to be exact. And we know that they are smart because they work in and around Harvard. And in the contemporary vernacular they are ‘woke’ people when it comes to racism and sexism. Our four smart people are Ginny Yang, an Asian American psychologist played by Amy Kim Waschke; rising Black actor Valerie Johnston played by Cassia Thompson; Black surgical intern Jackson Moore played by Rasell Holt; and white neuroscientist Brian White played by Jeb Burris.

screen shot from virtual presentation

Over the course of the two act play they interact with each other on a one to one basis and eventually they all eventually meet. They are all acutely aware of racism and sexism and the full variety of stereotypes and push back promptly and directly when they find themselves on the receiving end.

But then it gets confusing, because during their initial interactions with one another, we see that they too are willing and able to apply stereotypes to strangers, and don’t see themselves doing it. This is probably the biggest takeaway from this play…our best intentions aren’t always enough…we need to be on guard against doing these same things in our own lives.

And finally all four of them come together for a dinner party at Brian White’s apartment…and they realize that they have all met at one time or another…and have all mistaken the intents and identities of the others…and the evening ends in a huge and painful meltdown…and a great deal of that hinges on the fact that Brian is…well I won’t go into spoiler mode here but playwright Lydia R. Diamond brings this to a heady and fraught climax…and leaving some big questions for us all to take to heart.

screen shot from virtual presentation

Now if this all reads as very contemporary, well it surely is. But the under story is that this is written for the period during the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama…so we clearly see that we haven’t progressed as much as we’d hoped.

This virtual presentation was performed live by APT on November 20, 2020 and was then available for viewing on PBS Wisconsin through December 31, 2020. It is part of their series of readings written by BIPOC writers, and created by BIPOC artists. It deserves to be exhibited again in the future, sooner rather than later!