Ritual and revelation: Black Ensemble Players reimagine Shakespeare

 

“It was kind of a whimsical artistic impulse,” recalled Antonio Duke, as he reminisced on this past spring when Ashawnti Sakina Ford drove him home each night after their rehearsals for a production of “Imaginary Invalid,” a play by 17th-century French actor and playwright, Molière. Duke mentioned that he would love to play Puck, a mischievous spirit in English playwright William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” written in 1595/96. Sakina Ford, excitedly responded, “Antonio, I just really want to see an all Black Shakespeare show. I don’t care what it is; I just want an all-Black production of it.”

“That’s funny,” Duke responded, “Because ‘Midsummer’ is a Black-ass play.”

The pair started reaching out to their communities, pitching their idea and were met with overwhelming support. “We didn’t have the funds to produce it yet, but people were so willing to [jump in],” said Sakina Ford. Continue Reading

Artist cooperative, Electric Machete, works to forward Latinx artwork in St. Paul’s gentrifying West Side

“History books tell you that Aztecs and Mayans have disappeared, but we’re in front of you now.”

Xilam Balam, artist, screen printer, audio engineer, lyricist, producer, teaching artist and one of the five founding members of the Electric Machete Studios said this as he sat at a table along with myself and Reynaldo Lara, another of the Electric Machete artists. I’m visiting the Electric Machete Studio space on the West Side of St. Paul. They’ve just finished a screen printing workshop with high school students. Sketches of nude bodies cover the walls around us, remnants from their last “People of Color & Indigenous Peoples (POCI) Figure Drawing” class, an opportunity for exclusively POCI artists to draw in safe space…so that they have equal opportunities to draw from each other and learn from each other. Continue Reading