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Local Black Theatre News

by Cass Teague
Cast of “August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean”. (photo by Michael Gomez)

Kennie Playhouse Theatre returns to the Summer Shakespeare Festival 2022 this month with its production of “August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.” Kenny Dozier, Founder/Artistic Director of Kennie Playhouse Theatre (KPT) has been a longtime feature of Pride arts news stories and continues to bring significant Black Theater to the forefront of entertainment here in Nashville. 

“This story has so much rich history and is one of my favorites by August Wilson,” says Dozier. 

This year’s production of “August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean” is chronologically the first part of Mr. Wilson’s cycle of ten plays collectively called the “American Century Cycle.” “Gem” is a brilliant piece, that August Wilson penned in his unique way to honor those forgotten humans who were thrown into the Ocean during the Atlantic Slave Trade. These people whose names we do not know, August has found a way to remember their spirits. 

The current production of the play is Directed by Chuck Smith from the Goodman Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Chuck has been working with KPT for quite some time now. You may remember Chuck when he directed “The Meeting” for KPT here in Nashville in 2014. The cast consists of some of Nashville’s finest actors. In the accompanying cast photo by Michael Gomez, are, Front (L- R): Pierre Johnson, Jackie Schlicher Welch, and Kenny Dozier; and in the Back (L – R): Jarvis Bynum, Brian Russell, Tamiko Robinson Stelle, and Clark Harris.

The Summer Shakespeare Festival runs from August 18th – September 11 at oneC1TY in Nashville, and at Academy Park in Franklin September 15 – 18. The show dates for “August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean” are August 25, 26, 27, 28 and September 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9 at oneC1TY, 8 City Blvd, Nashville, (directly behind the Element Hotel). The Festival will move to Academy Park in Franklin, TN September 15-18, where “Gem” will be performed September 15 and 16 at Academy Park. The Summer Shakespeare Festival also features “Cymbeline” by William Shakespeare, which will feature black actors Mary Cheeks, Maya Riley, and Tamiko Robinson Steele.

The event is free and fun for all. Each day the Festival features a Concert Series featuring local Artist, Talk Back with Scholars about the plays, and Food Trucks. There is no charge for the event just bring your own chairs or blankets and enjoy the show. If you like you can purchase Noble or Royal (w/dinner) seats in which chairs will be provided. The Festival starts at 5:30 pm, and the plays start at 7:00 pm nightly. For more information, go to: www.kennieplayhousetheatre.com or www.nashvilleshakes.org

Don’t Look Black premieres at Darkhorse Theater

Tennessee Playwrights Studio (TPS) presents the world premiere production of “Don’t Look Black,” written by Preston Crowder and directed by Alicia Haymer.  “Everybody wants to be Black until they face Black problems. Four white friends learn this when they enter a ‘Black Immersion Experience.’” The cast includes Gabe Atchley, Candace-Omnira, Dianne DeWald, Chantea Kirkwood, Sawyer Latham, Leonard Ledford, Taryn Pray, Elliott Winston Robinson, Chandra Walton, and Gillion Welsh. 

Dates and times are August 19, 20, 25 (pay what you can night), 26, 27 and September 1, 2 and 3. Curtain each evening is at 7:30 pm at the Darkhorse Theater, 4610 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville 37209. The final weekend is presented as part of the 16th Annual Shades of Black Theatre Festival, which runs from August 28 through October 1, and includes theatre production from Destiny Theatre Experience, Dream 7 Productions, Global Education Center, SistaStyle Productions and more. The show contains adult themes and language. Proof of vaccination and masks are required at the Darkhorse Theater. Visit: tnplaywrights.org for more about the cast and creatives. 

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