MCT Announces the Creation of the First-Ever Annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival
Milwaukee - Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) MCT has continued to diligently explore how best to fulfill our 45-year mission of supporting local artists and deliver to you an inspirational and entertaining 20/21 season as safely as possible amidst the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis. MCT has concluded that the current conditions will not allow a production of the previously announced season-opening production of PASSING STRANGE without unduly jeopardizing the health and safety of our artists, audience, staff, and neighbors. In place of PASSING STRANGE MCT it thrilled to announce the first annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival.
The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival will be a first-of-its-kind partnership between MCT and Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and Artistic Director Sheri Williams Pannell, Lights! Camera! Soul! and Artistic Director DiMonte Henning, and local actor, director, and producer Malkia Stampley-Johnson as well as numerous other Black arts and arts-adjacent leaders. Further details about the Festival will be released throughout July—including play titles, ticketing information, as well as additional artists and individuals involved.
According to Henning, “this celebration of Black stories is an accomplishment for the city, and will leave lasting cultural, educational, and artistic contributions that make a better Milwaukee.” While the festival will grow over time to full productions from multiple local companies and artists, the inaugural Festival will center on readings of three full-length plays illuminating the Black experience accompanied by supplemental material expanding each reading’s themes: short plays, spoken word poems, curated playlists, education programming, scholarly commentary, audience discussions, opportunities to engage more deeply with our community, and much more.
For Pannell, the Festival will reflect the spirit “of those illuminous Black thespians during the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement who used plays and musicals to record history and speak their truth through creative expressions that uplift and inspire positive change.” In order to authentically represent the Black experience, all Festival material will be curated by Black individuals who have been working toward change from perspectives including arts, education, grassroots, corporate, religious, youth-based, elder-focused, criminal justice, and mental health among others. “There is no better time than now to amplify and celebrate Black voices in theater, “ said Stampley-Johnson. “Milwaukee has a wonderful pool of Black artists, arts leaders, and arts advocates who can use theater to connect on socially relevant themes crossing multiple art genres. The Festival can serve as an incubator for these fresh ideas through new works and collaborative efforts.”
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.
MILWAUKEE CHAMBER THEATRE
Founded in 1975, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) produces intimate, high-quality, professional theatrical works of literary merit that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists. MCT performs at the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. For more information, visit milwaukeechambertheatre.org.