courtesy Black Ensemble Theater
Caren Blackmore in The Plea
The Black Ensemble Theater has long been a reliable destination for original, larger-than-life biographical musicals about larger-than-life artistic icons. Next year, upon the completion of a 150-seat studio theater space in its building in Uptown, members of the company's Black Playwrights Initiative will have a new outlet for experimental and dramatic works intended to resonate on a more intimate and more personal scale.
In the meantime, as a preview, BET is partnering with the DuSable Museum of African American History for the Jackie Taylor Drama Series, a nine-performance presentation of three new plays by BPI members Ervin Gardner, Reginald Williams, and L. Maceo Ferris.
"I have a wealth of plays that have been written by BPI in preparation for the studio theater," says company founder and CEO Jackie Taylor, "and [DuSable Museum president Perri Irmer] and I thought that it would be good to produce a series there to get people used to the fact that they're going to see dramas by the Black Ensemble Theater." The collaboration is also designed to make the theater's audience base more aware of the Hyde Park museum.
"The selections this year speak to the issues that are in the forefront in the African-American community," says Taylor. These include police brutality, the right to protest, and the city's epidemic of violence.
"It's going to be hot," she says with a laugh. "We want for people to come from all over the city of Chicago, break down these barriers that we have about the north side and the south side, and come out and join in and participate and learn and understand so that we can grow together as human beings and get out of this concept of inequity."
The Jackie Taylor Drama Series
National Anthem by Ervin Gardner. Sat 4/7-Sun 4/8.
The Plea by Reginald Williams. Sat 4/14-Sun 4/15.
In the Shadow of Justice by L. Maceo Ferris. Sat 4/21-Sun 4/22.
All performances Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, 773-769-4451,