CHICAGO (Nov 9, 2020) About Face Theatre kicks off its landmark 25th season with KICKBACK, an online festival of newly commissioned short plays and performances by Black LGBTQ+ artists, inspired by the Rebuild Foundation's collections at the Stony Island Arts Bank. Conceived and directed by About Face Theatre Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, this performance series examines the intersection of queerness and Blackness in the present moment, inspired by the past, and looking toward the future. This program will stream Dec. 11, 2020, through Jan. 11, 2021.
For KICKBACK, About Face has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists in Chicago to create original work inspired by Rebuild's extensive collections chronicling the diverse experiences of Black Americans. KICKBACK will feature the work of About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and avery r. young. These artists have been granted extensive access to Rebuild's archives and are using them to inspire original performance pieces.
Since the planning for KICKBACK began nearly a year ago, the swift escalation of events around COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on Black people and communities in Chicago has expanded the project's scope and essence. Furthermore, the current global uprising in support of Black lives amplifies the need for ongoing resources and spaces for expressing joy, connection, and celebration of Black culture.
"For me, KICKBACK is about living our best lives, on no one's terms but our own," said KICKBACK director Mikael Burke. "It's clear that white-supremacist-America wants us gone, and they want us quiet. We are being murdered in broad daylight, on streets, in parks, on sidewalks, in our homes, for having the audacity to draw breath and enjoy our time on this earth. But we refuse to be silenced. We are beautiful and complex and glorious. And we are out here living! So, let's turn the music up. Let's make a scene. Let's celebrate our queer black lives and honor our friends and loved ones who no longer can. Let's kickback."
KICKBACK is an innovative partnership between About Face Theatre and Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation on the South Side of Chicago. The Stony Island Arts Bank at 6760 S. Stony Island Ave., is home to Rebuild Foundation's four major collections.
Together, these archives offer a variety of insightful windows into African American art, history, and culture that will be the springboard for KICKBACK's art. The collections are:
The Johnson Publishing Archive, which houses more than 15,000 books, periodicals, furnishings, and ephemera, including the seminal EBONY and JET Magazines that have chronicled American Black life since 1945; The Edward J. Williams Collection, consisting of over 4,000 objects of "negrobilia," mass cultural objects and artifacts that feature stereotypical images of black people as they were frequently depicted by white people; The Frankie Knuckles Collection, the personal vinyl collection of the godfather of house music, which originated in Chicago in the 1980s; The University of Chicago Glass Lantern Slides of over 60,000 slides of art and architectural history from the Paleolithic to Modern eras, which offer the perspective of over three million years of world history KICKBACK will premiere through About Face Theatre's website and social media channels, and will be paired with exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews and documentation of the artists' process. This project serves as part of Rebuild Foundation's year-long initiative to raise awareness and provide resources and sanctuary for marginalized communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis, made possible by funding that Rebuild received from the 2018 (RED) Auction.
Conceived and directed by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke
Featuring Dionne Addai, Ky Baity, Robert Cornelius, Jenn Freeman, Keyonna Jackson, Ben Locke, Paul Oakley Stovall, Michael Turrentine, Cori Wash, Vic Wynter, avery r. young, and ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah)
Streaming online December 12, 2020, through Jan. 12, 2021
Available to the press starting Dec. 11
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
KICKBACK is an online festival of original plays and performances that highlights the intersection of queerness and Blackness in all its beauty and glory. When just being alive and living your best life is an act of rebellion, it's time to turn up the music and make some noise! About Face Theatre has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists to create new works in conversation with Rebuild Foundation's extensive collection of African- American art and cultural artifacts. This bold online performance series will be an unapologetic celebration of Black lives now and through the ages.
Led by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, the artists involved in the project include About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and Avery Young. This project serves as part of Rebuild Foundation's year-long initiative to raise awareness and provide resources and sanctuary for marginalized communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis, made possible by funding that Rebuild received from the 2018 (RED) Auction.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Mikael Burke (he/him): AFT Associate Artistic Director, KICKBACK Director
Mikael is a Chicago-based director and educator, and an AFT Artistic Associate. A Princess Grace Award-winner in Theatre and Jeff Award-nominated director, Mikael's most recently worked with Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Jackalope Theatre Company, Windy City Playhouse, About Face Theatre, First Floor Theater, American Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, and The Story Theatre in Chicago, and regionally with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, and Phoenix Theatre. In addition to his work with AFT, Mikael serves as Head of the Directing Concentration of the Summer High School Training Program of the Theatre School at DePaul University, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Previously, Mikael served as Associate Artistic Director of NoExit Performance in Indianapolis, IN, and was the Creative Director for Young Actors Theatre, also in Indianapolis. Recent directing credits include THE AGITATORS by Mat Smart; SUGAR IN OUR WOUNDS by Donja R. Love; AT THE WAKE OF A DEAD DRAG QUEEN by Terry Guest.
Rebuild Foundation: KICKBACK partner
Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Our projects support artists and strengthen communities by providing free arts programming and creating new cultural amenities. Rebuild's mission is to make art accessible by demonstrating the impact of innovative, ambitious, and entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. The work is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black things matter. Rebuild leverages the power and potential of communities, buildings, and objects that others have written off. Founded and led by artist Theaster Gates, Rebuild Foundation extends the social engagement of Gates' studio practice to the South Side of Chicago and beyond.
The Stony Island Arts Bank is a hybrid gallery, media archive, library, and art center and a home for Rebuild Foundation's archives and collections. Designed by William Gibbons Uffendell and built in 1923, the bank at 68th Street and Stony Island Avenue was once a vibrant community savings and loan. By the eighties, the branch had closed, and the building remained vacant and deteriorating for decades. Reopened in October 2015 by artist Theaster Gates, the radically restored building serves as a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage and a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history. Alongside other permanent collections including Johnson Publishing Company artifacts, the Arts Bank houses the Frankie Knuckles Record Collection, over 5,000 albums including acetates, test pressings, and rare cuts owned by the Godfather of House.
About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous theatre and educational programming that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity, and challenges and entertains audiences in Chicago and beyond.