OUR MISSION STATEMENT
The Black Ensemble Players seeks to empower black artists and the black community by fostering black representation in the theatre.
The impulse to form The Black Ensemble Players came from a lack of black representation in the Twin Cities theatre community as it pertains to Shakespearean productions. We strive to hold a space for black creatives to explore their artistic expression with classical texts on their own cultural and historical terms.
We will make our company's premiere with A Midsummer Nights Dream: A Black Ass Play. A new take on an old tale is freshly underway and you can join our circle. In 2015 Black Ensemble Player's Artistic Director, Ashawnti Sakina Ford, had the opportunity to go to South Africa. During her time there she researched Indigenous, Colonial and Post-Colonial theatre. She was fascinated by its relationship with cultural identity. She also discovered how rituals created a space for black South Africans to investigate the intersections of cultural identity in theatre. These themes of cultural identity and racial equity manifest themselves in A Midsummer's Night's Dream.
Directing an all black Midsummer will continue her artistic mission of finding the intersection of art and civic engagement. This production will explore classical euro-centric text through west African movement, music and spirituality. By directing this play she will continue to develop her skills as a leader and activist.
CAST & CREW
(Director) Ashawnti Sakina Ford is a Twin Cities based actress, teaching artist, improviser, poet, playwright, and director whose work is centered in social justice and arts accessibility. She works with k-12 and college students as well as educators facilitating workshops in theatre and social justice as a means to build community, understanding and agency in the fight for social change. B.F.A, Viterbo University
(Assistant Director/Voice & Text Coach) Antonio Duke is a Twin Cities based actor and playwright. His artistic aim is to create stories that embody the black diaspora. In his writing he focuses on mythology. Within mythos lies intimate and epic circumstances that he’s driven to explore. He conjures most of his muse form black spiritualities. He's an alumnus of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie B.F.A Actor Training Program. He has two solo performance pieces. Ashes of Moons which debuted at Pillsbury House Theatre as part of the Naked Stages Fellowship, and Tears of Moons which debuted as part of the Guthrie Theatre’s Solo Emerging Artist Celebration. !
MEET THE CAST
Alex Givens (PUCK) Alex Givens is excited to join the company this year. He is currently going into his 3rd year of M.F.A. actor training at UNC-Chapel Hill/PlayMakers Repertory Company.
Kiara Jackson (TITANIA) Kiara is a Twin Cities based actress. She has performed at many theaters around town, including Guthrie Theater, Park Square Theatre and Children's Theatre, among others. Most recently, she was seen in The Cardboard Piano at Park Square Theatre. She holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota.
John Stephens ( OBERON) Born: Kansas City, Missouri Education: Macalester College (graduated 2015); Jeff Daniels Purple Rose Theatre Apprentice Program (2016-2017) Theatre Credits: Sacred Passage (Full Circle Theatre); Hidden Fences (The Purple Rose Theatre Company) The Privateer (Transatlantic Love affair); Taking Shakespeare (Gremlin Theatre) Film Credits: Gaslight; The Broken Men; Gift Receipt
Theo Langason (BOTTOM) Theo (He/Him/His) is a theatre artist and teaching artist based in Minneapolis. He is a company member of Sandbox Theatre and a member of Blackout Improv. Theo has also worked with Ten Thousand Things, Park Square Theatre, Pillsbury House, Frank Theatre and others. Theo is a teaching artist with Guthrie Theater, Penumbra Theatre and Upstream Arts.
Erin (HELENA) Erin is honored to take the stage and change lives for a living. Her most engagement is with Old Log Theatre (Erin in Beehive: The 60s Musical). Other notable roles have been: Helen in Trojan Women (Mission Theatre), Hecabe in The Ravagers (Savage Umbrella), Luciana in Comedy of Errors (South Dakota Shakespeare Festival) and Various Roles on tours with CLIMB Theatre and National Theatre for Children. Upcoming productions include: Ensemble in Bobby Vee: Teen Idol (History Theatre) and Camae in The Mountaintop (West Side Show Room).
Ashembaga (HERMIA) (Ashe) Jaafaru studied Theatre Arts and English at Hamline University. Her past theatre credits include: Theatre Unbound (Measure for Measure), Great River Shakespeare Festival (Apprenticeship Program 2017), various plays at Hamline University, Making Waves: Hamline University Social Justice Theatre Troupe, Penumbra Theatre (Summer Institute Program ’12-’13), Eugene O’Neill Center (National Theatre Institute ‘15), and MN Fringe Festival productions
Ricky (LYSANDER) Ricky is from Delray Beach, FL where he earned his BA in Theatre Performance with a minor in Dance from one of the top Historically Black Universities Florida A&M University. Ricky recently stared as Cleante in Imaginary Invalid with Combustible’s Company. He also stared as Joe Louis in David Feldshuh’s world premiere play Dancing With Giants staring Tovah Feldshuh. When he is not on stage Ricky is working with the youth. He runs a after-school program at Pratt Community School where he provides academic and enrichment programs to the kids of the Glendale community.
Michael McKitt (DEMETRIUS) Michael is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, a graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and senior in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program in the Twin Cities. As a multi-disciplinary artist, he aims to broaden his horizons through grand experiences with the brilliant minds and bodies he incessantly finds himself surrounded by. Michael is honored to be recognized by the founders of The Black Ensemble Players as an upcoming artist fit to carry out a mission of black artistry and excellence in the present day. He would like to thank his family & friends, his teachers, the gvmptxwn collective, SDEL, and the Most High for this moment.
Derek "Duck" Washington (QUINCE) Duck is an actor/director/audio designer/ improviser and playwright. Duck is a member of Blackout Improv, Fearless Comedy Productions, and Vilification Tennis. He is a producer and host of the Encyclopedia Show and the founder of Rogues Gallery Arts. Recent performance credits include Caucasian-Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales with Chameleon Theatre Circle/Fearless Comedy, A Raisin in the Sun with Park Square, and Marie Antoinette with Walking Shadow.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT Email: BlackEnsemblePlayers@gmail.com
Risks and challenges
The practicality of producing a theatrical work can seem daunting at first simply for lack of funding. This project is not possible without communal support. The ability to pay the artists we want to engage with is crucial. It's a pillar value of our theatre company. Black art deserves compensation and you can help us. You can broaden our artistic outreach by giving us the financial support to shine light on a new take of an old tale. We cannot conjure without community; so as the trickster says "give us your hands if we be friends."Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)