Milwaukee Black Theater Festival

August 23 - September 12

One hundred and seventy-nine bridges connect Milwaukee. The bridge of Theater connects individuals and communities through the empathy produced by both creating and experiencing it. The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival will be Milwaukee’s one hundred and eightieth bridge, connecting Milwaukee’s Black community, its Black theater community, and the rest of the city. By amplifying and celebrating Black voices, this annual citywide event will create highly visible critical mass for Black narratives and focus the energy of theater on the conversation about how Milwaukee can exist as its best self for every Black individual who chooses to call it home.

The Festival is a multigenerational collaborative endeavor between Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Lights! Camera! Soul!, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Black Arts MKE, MPower Theater Group, as well as other notable Black Milwaukee independent artists, and arts leaders

FULL-LENGTH READINGS

KILL MOVE PARADISE

by James Ijames

Directed by Mikael Burke

Inspired by the ever-growing list of slain Black men and women, KILL MOVE PARADISE follows Isa, Daz, Grif, and Tiny as they enter the afterlife and attempt to make sense of their fates and the path ahead.  This deeply moving and urgently topical play reminds us that behind every statistic is a name and that every name represents a full life stopped short.

 

DiMonte Henning (Festival Leadership & Curator) says about the piece;

“A timely piece of theater for the times we are living in. What I love about this play are the two important aspects of American culture. The first being, KILL MOVE PARADISE encourages us to remember the many lives lost due to the senseless killings of Black people because of police brutality. We must never forget that Tamir Rice was a child when he was gunned down. That he had hopes and dreams that would never be realized, because all his oppressors could see was the color of his skin. That Breonna Taylor was asleep in her own home when she was gunned down by the police; only later to find out they had the wrong suspects. And the list goes on, unfortunately. Secondly, KILL MOVE PARADISE holds up a stark and unblemished mirror of how America condones and indulges in the killings of Black men and women even today. This is a play where we must dive in completely in order to see of how systemic racism has plagued the Black community for centuries. I do believe at the end of the play we see that it is possible to heal the divide, but it begins with acknowledging the divide and being purposeful at solving it.” 

STEW

by Zora Howard

Directed by Malkia Stampley

STEW focuses on three generations of Tucker women as they gather to prepare an important meal--but as the layers of the familiar domesticity of Mama’s kitchen boil away, small tragedies, everyday traumas, and years of hard-won living rise to the surface in this celebration of Black women’s perseverance and connection.  Zora Howard is a Harlem-bred multidisciplinary creator and performer. Her work with filmmaker Lisa Russell to turn her original poem “Biracial Hair” into a short film won an Emmy for Outstanding Advanced Media Interactivity in 2009. Since then, her work, both as a performer and writer, has been showcased on HBO, TV One, PBS, and NBC. Her first feature film “Premature”, which she co-wrote with filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green and starred in, was an official selection for the 2019 Sundance NEXT competition. “Stew” made its debut in February of 2020.

 

Malkia Stampley (Festival Leadership & Curator) says;

“I had the fortune of seeing STEW in New York when it premiered and I was captivated by Howard's ability to make her fierce women characters feel like I knew them, and knew them well. STEW will have you reminiscing about the fun and drama in the kitchen on Sundays or holidays and hold tight to the traditions and lessons taught by your loved ones. A kitchen drama is always juicy but STEW left me thinking 'how do we break the cycles that have chained families to pain and a destiny of wounds unhealed?' It's rare to find an all Black female, multi-generational cast in Milwaukee, a cast that digs deep in the emotional well that Howard has beautifully crafted for us. It is simply put, pure joy, to get to share this work with my community.”  

HOME

by Samm-Art Williams

Directed by Sheri Williams Pannell

A powerful, revered classic of Black theater anchored in the Second Great Migration, Samm-Art Williams’ HOME begins on the small farm in North Carolina that Cephus Miles has inherited from his family. Young and strong, he is content to work the land—until his childhood sweetheart rejects him and goes off to college. Not believing in the Vietnam War, Cephus is imprisoned as a draft evader for refusing to serve. By the time he is released, Cephus has lost his land to the tax collector, so he heads north to build a new life. With a good job and a slinky new girlfriend, he finds the big city exciting and rewarding. But the dream soon fades—Cephus loses his job and becomes involved in drugs and prostitution. Impoverished and addicted, he returns to North  Carolina, where he finds his farm and his love waiting for him after so many years.  As much an epic search for acceptance of the self as it is a place to call one’s own, HOME received a Tony Nomination for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award nomination, the NAACP Image Award, and the North Carolina Governor’s Award. 

 

Sherrie Williams Pannell (Festival Leadership & Curator) says;

“"Blessed is the peacemaker...," but how did our society treat those persons who resisted participation in armed conflict during the Vietnam War?  This is a question I had the opportunity to examine as a member of the cast of  Samm-Art Williams' HOME in an earlier production in Milwaukee.  I look forward to revisiting this memory play as the director and hearing the responses of Bronzeville Arts Ensemble members, Navy Veteran Marvin Hannah and Vietnam Veteran Don Pannell, in the talkback which follows the performance.”

“Home” (Samm-Art Williams) is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. www.concordtheatricals.com

Ticketing information will be available here soon.

Milwaukee Black Theater Festival logo designed by local Milwaukee graphic designer, Marquayla Ellison, owner and creative force behind of Ellastic Designs.

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Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is a proud member group of the United Performing Arts Fund.

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