For three weeks in August, the MKE Black Theatre Festival immersed Milwaukee in a celebration of culture and creativity spanning full-productions, staged readings, masterclasses, artist panels and more, all highlighting the vibrant Black arts scene in Milwaukee.
The festival has strong connections with the Peck School of the Arts, and several of this year’s events proudly showcased PSOA alumni, faculty, and current students.
Bronzeville Arts Ensemble presented The Meeting, a one-act play that depicts the supposed meeting of two of the most important men of modern times: Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sheri Williams Pannell (Assistant Professor of Theatre) is the Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Bronzeville Arts Ensemble. The production included Jessica Berlin-Krivsky (Theatre and Stage Management Teaching Faculty) as Stage Manager, Myesha Cole (Program Assistant) as Scenic Designer, and alum Colin Gawronski (GRAD YEAR NEEDED) as Lighting and Sound Designer. Delivering compelling performances were current PSOA students Ethan Hightire as Malcom X, Nahjee Robinson as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Brian Maxwell as Rashad.
The festival also featured PSOA student Destiny Dyson in Mud Row, a play about two generations of sisters in conflict over a Pennsylvania house and family history.
Sheri Williams Pannell also served as co-moderator of a talkback following A History of Black Theatre Through the Eyes of Everett Marshburn. In the program, Marshburn, the Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS Milwaukee’s Black Nouveau, shed light on his lifelong engagement with the arts and offered insights into important moments in Black Theater History. Pannel co-moderated the talkback with Claybourn Benson, founder of Wisconsin Black Historical Society.
The MKE Black Theatre Festival was widely covered by the media, including American Theatre, Milwaukee Magazine, and the August edition of Black Nouveau, among many others. Visit the MKE Black Arts website for more information about the organization.