Tag Archives: Black Theater

Maggie Brown on Oscar Brown, Jr. and The Opportunity Please Knock Chorus

Reclaimed Soul’s Ayana Contreras spoke with Jazz vocalist Maggie Brown, daughter of Oscar Brown, Jr. Maggie is passionate about preserving the legacy of her father’s community-engaged artistry.maggiebrown-684x384

The Opportunity Please Knock Chorus (a creative collaboration between singer/writer/playwright Oscar Brown Jr. and the notorious Blackstone Rangers street gang) premiered 50 years ago. Mr. Brown stated in 1967, “They’re not too disillusioned to work hard-if they ever had and illusions at all. It is up to us to give them a better picture of reality.”

oscar brown jr

As we look for solutions to quell today’s violence in our communities and to get kids off the streets, this is a notable model of artist intervention from Chicago’s past.

This was recorded at a live event at Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

click here for more on the Opportunity Please Knock Chorus.

Catch fresh installments of Reclaimed Soul Thursdays at 8pm (CST) on vocalo.org or over the air on 91.1fm

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Passing Strange: a righteous afro-rock opera comes to Chicago!

 “Passing Strange“, the Tony-winning black rock-opera is righteous, and it’s being staged in Chicago featuring  local soul revivalists JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound… and my chica: LaNisa Frederick.  Amen.

Passing Strange is the coming-of-age story of “Youth” (Daniel Breaker), a kid growing up somewhere in LA in the seventies.  He is disillusioned because he doesn’t fit the common definition of blackness.  Floating above the city, getting high in his choir director’s blue Volkswagen beetle, “Youth” decides to uproot himself from everything he’s known in order to find home.

It takes a blurry, nomadic trek across Europe to realize some ultimate truths about where he fits in the world and whom he can count among his tribe.  Features a great live band (book and music by Stew and Heidi) and meaty writing that sometimes billows poetically like blood in water. For anyone who grew up not fitting in, then realized that they fit in perfectly, after all.  Jive on.  Below,  an excerpt from the Spike Lee-documented Broadway staging.

Passing Strange

Featuring JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Chicago Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA)

777 N. Green St., Chicago IL (Google Map)

APRIL 21 – MAY 29, 2011

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @ 7pm


Under the Spell of Red and Brown Water

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water,” now playing at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theater, is an exercise in duality that lends itself to complete immersion, an exercise in which you’re left like a used bag of orange pekoe (feeling purposefully spent).

Reality blends with chorus-driven fantasy, magic with carnality, and comedy with tragedy in this heartfelt display.  Oya, the lead character, is played hauntingly by Alana Arenas.  Ms. Arenas, who I caught lunch with after the show (she likes bruschetta), is a whisper-quiet left hook: a spirit to be reckoned with (in life and on the stage). 

Set in a Louisiana Housing Project, “Water” is a story of a Golden Girl, and how one decision (made at the cusp of womanhood) sends her down a pathway to a more tarnished reality.  Ms. Arenas imbibes an undeniable warmth as Ora, chasing the shadows of potential, of love, and of dashed dreams of creation.  Also stand out in the play were  Jacqueline Willams and Steppenwolf ensemble members K. Todd Freeman and Ora Jones.

Part of the Brother/Sister Trilogy of Plays (all playing in repertory at Steppenwolf), In the Red Brown Water plays until May 23rd.  for more info, visit steppenwolf.org. Jive on!


Tofu Chitlin Circuit presents: Black Thang

THE SYNOPSIS:

“Black Thang” by Ato Essandoh is the story of Sam, a black man, and Mattie, a white woman, and what happens when their relationship progresses from merely a one-night stand to something more…but not without some controversy.

Meanwhile, Keisha (Mattie’s best friend), struggles to hold onto her relationship with her long-time boyfriend Omar, and Jerome (Sam’s best friend), tries to “school” him on the ins-and-outs of interracial dating.

THE CREATIVE TEAM:

Come chat with the innovative and emerging director Sydney Chatman and The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit as they explore location specific productions with a twist: adding technology to enhance the theatrical experience and to create interactive theater.

This is a MUST-SEE two-day event that’s sure to have you wanting more!

THE SPECIFICS:

WHEN: FRIDAY & SATURDAY, JANUARY 29 & 3O, 2010

WHERE: IVAN/CARLSON STUDIOS 2224 W. FULTON Chicago, IL
60612

TIME: RECEPTION 7:00 p.m. CURTAIN 7:30 p.m.

DONATION: until JANUARY 28TH-$15; DAY OF SHOW-$20

about the Tofu Chitlin Circuit: The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit is a theater conservatory located in the Bronzeville district of Chicago that seeks to push the boundaries of staged productions through technology and the integration of a variety of media in their works.

UPDATE: This show has been postponed.  Stay tuned for forthcoming dates and times!


Ten Square: play that portrays ‘a different world’

ten square

In class recently, I played a piece of audio by Damali Ayo called “Living Flag” in which Ms. Ayo attempts to Panhandle for Reparations: collecting from whites, distributing her change to fellow Blacks.  You can listen to the piece here.

 At the culmination of the piece, I tried to convince my teenage students that the idea of Reparations for the Descendants of Slaves is not boring and really does effect them (as does the Lingering Scars of Slavery).  All but one are Black, all but two descendants of slaves.  Maybe I should take them on a fieldtrip…. 

In the world of Shepsu Aakhu’s play entitled “Ten Square” (showing now at Truman College), a grassroots Reparations Movement was ultimately successful, resulting in checks written to the descendants of slaves and the seeds for a new America were sown. Ten Square is one of the cities (the land located South of Roosevelt Road in present-day Chicago, walled off from greener North Chicago) that emerged in “New America”.  In the play, what develops is a Berlin Wall-style scenario, from which more than a few African-Americans have plotted their escape.  What follows is an oft-violent tale of one man trying to balance a boatload of obligations in a new gritty world.

“Ten Square” will be performed as a coproduction of the Pegasus Players and MPAACT Theatre Companies.  The show will go on at Truman College on Wilson Ave. (in view of the Wilson Stop on the CTA Red Line).

Truman College- O’Rourke Theatre
1145 West Wilson Avenue Chicago

Now Thru – Nov 22, 2009

Thurs-Saturday, showtime at 8pm, Sunday showtime is 3pm. Ticket Price ranges from $20–$25 

Tickets are available at: www.pegasusplayers.org or www.mpaact.org

more about Damali Ayo’s Living Flag

A woman sits cimagesCA75SKDIross-legged, panhandling on a busy city sidewalk. She takes money only from white folks, and gives it to blacks who pass by. Her sign reads: “200 Years of Slavery in the United States. Reparation payments accepted here.” damali ayo is a street performance artist. “I offer people a convenient opportunity to pay for the unpaid labor of African Americans,” she quips. The piece is part of her “living flag.”