Skylight Music Theatre Announces "From Skylight with Love: A Concert for Unity"
Milwaukee — Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger announced today the upcoming concert From Skylight with Love: A Concert for Unity to open the first-annual Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival. The virtual production is free and available for streaming beginning Sunday, August 23 at 7 p.m. (CDT) through September 12, 2020.
From Skylight with Love will present an exciting program of music performed by Black Milwaukee artists who have been part of shows at Skylight. The concert features a wide range of musical styles, including Broadway classics, pop standards, Gospel, swing, rhythm and blues, in addition to original music, spoken word and dance. Among the composers represented are Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Quincy Jones, George Gershwin and Chris Crain. The concert was conceived as a music theatre love letter for healing the community as it deals with issues of systemic racism. Performers recorded their pieces remotely to assure social distancing for both artists and audience, with the final concert edited together.
Sheri Williams Pannell, one of Skylight’s favorite collaborators, will direct the concert. “Talented Black artists have been performing at Skylight Music Theatre since 1961, when Milwaukee soprano Carol Haywood was invited by founder Clair Richardson to perform in the Bernstein opera, Trouble in Tahiti,” said Pannell, who will also perform in the concert. “From Skylight with Love features local Black artists who often perform at Skylight offering repertoire that affirms our culture and uplifts the community.”
Christie Chiles Twillie will music direct the concert. She has music directed Skylight’s productions of Five Guys Named Moe, Newsies and The Gospel at Colonus. “I can’t think of a better way to help bring some real Skylight and community love to Milwaukee than to present this concert,” said Chiles Twillie, who will also perform in the show. “The best part is we get to hear many Skylight and Milwaukee favorites sing songs they love and further demonstrate black artists’ eclectic knowledge of various musical genres.”
The list of Skylight artists scheduled to perform in From Skylight with Love include Cynthia Cobb, Chris Crain, Cecilia Davis, Raven Dockery, Krystal Drake, Tosha Freeman, Marvin Hannah, Krislyn World Heil, Shawn Holmes, Bill Jackson, Byron Jones, Tasha McCoy, Sheri Williams Pannell, Kevin James Sievert, Christie Chiles Twillie, Una D. VanDuvall and Dontrell Williams.
“From Skylight with Love: A Concert for Unity came about as a way for Skylight Music Theatre to show its support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to give voice to issues impacting our entire community,” said Unger. “We are honored to be invited to open the Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival and hope this concert is a way to highlight how the universal language of music connects us, and in the process sparks dialogue to increase understanding, tolerance, love and peace.”
The idea for the concert began in the midst of discussions Skylight had with its family of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists about ideas for addressing issues of racism and social injustice. In addition to the concert, the meeting sparked the Artists in Action Committee, which works with Skylight to increase diversity and inclusion in all its efforts, led by Pannell and Chiles Twillie. The committee also helped launch the online Artists in Action interview series, which is part of Skylight’s ongoing Skylight Socials, with hosts interviewing artists and special guests via Facebook and YouTube.
The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival is a partnership between Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre as well as numerous other Black arts and arts-adjacent leaders. The three-week festival will be available virtually from August 23 - September 12, 2020.
To receive the link to watch From Skylight with Love: A Concert for Unity, please register at www.skylightmusictheatre.org/unity or www.milwaukeechambertheatre.org/milwaukee-black-theater-festival. NOTE: the concert is free, but registration is required to watch online. Registrations received by noon on Sunday August 23 will be sent an email link after 2 p.m. that day. Registrations after August 23 will have a link sent to them immediately upon completing registration. From Skylight with Love will be available as of Sunday, August 23 at 7 p.m. (CDT) through September 12, 2020.
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre launches its 61st season in 2020-21. Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company and the largest employer of Wisconsin theatrical artists in the State. Renowned for bringing distinctive, creative approaches to every production, Skylight produces the full spectrum of music theatre ranging from blockbuster Broadway musicals to reimagined operas, from delightful operettas to contemporary Off-Broadway hits. Skylight’s mainstage home is the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center. Based on the design of an 18th century French opera house, the Cabot Theatre provides audiences with great views and is one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful theatres.
About Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival
The inaugural festival will center on readings of three full-length plays illuminating the Black experience accompanied by supplemental material— including spoken word poems, curated playlists, education programming, scholarly commentary and audience discussions— to expand each reading’s themes. Passes for the virtual festival and the full schedule can be found at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s website at www.milwaukeechambertheatre.org. 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 Black Arts MKE, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Lights! Camera! Soul!, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, MPower Theater Group, as well as other notable Black Milwaukee independent artists and arts leaders.