Posts Tagged Metropolitan Regional Arts Council

Announcing the 2019 Artist Fellowship Recipients

Program aims to increase the pipeline for under-represented artists

Saint Paul, Minn., March 13, 2019 – Flordelino Lagundino, Park Square Theatre’s John W. Harris Artistic Director, has announced the eight recipients for the pilot year of a new Artist Fellowship program at Park Square: Ricardo Beaird, Ernest Briggs, Mary Capers, Maxwell Collyard, Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Sophie Peyton, Lindsey C. Samples, DJ Kool Akiem Scott.

“Fellowships gave me an inside track at some of the best theatres in the country, advancing my artistry and building my network,” says Lagundino. “We were delighted to receive 58 applications this year. It’s important to me that in our work at Park Square we find ways to open doors and build a pipeline for all early career theatre artists, especially for marginalized communities such as indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQA artists, in order to create a greater sense of belonging for everyone in our community.”

The first year of the new theatre fellowship program is made possible by major grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR program. Fellows will deepen and develop new skills over the upcoming year in residence by participating in projects which will connect them to Park Square and the Saint Paul/larger Twin Cities’ community.

For the 2019 fellowships, there were five assistant directing tracks and three assistant designer tracks assigned (design may be in any theatrical design medium: set, costume, lights, props, sound, or projections). Each fellow will assist on two shows from early stages through final production, and will have a voice in production meetings, planning, rehearsals, and direct collaboration with lead production staff and the Artistic Director.

Collectively, the fellows will form a self-directed cohort of emerging leaders and may participate in the various department functions at Park Square in areas such as casting, season planning, carpentry, electrics, wardrobe or run crew, and in budgeting, human resources or marketing. Additionally, there will be opportunities to meet with artistic leaders at Park Square’s partner theatres as well as other area theatrical institutions. To involve the fellow cohort with the wider community, staff support, and dedicated resources will be provided to help each fellow create an engagement experience as a part of Park Square’s mission to center artmaking within the ongoing dialogue we have with our community.

At the end of the fellowship year, the cohort will participate in an Evening Cabaret Performance in which Twin Cities Artistic Leaders will be invited. This culminating event will be co-hosted with the MN Theatre Alliance. Feedback will be considered for the planning of future iterations and development of the program.

Park Square’s community partners in this program include Springboard for the Arts, the MN Theatre Alliance, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Theatre Mu, the History Theatre, PRIME Productions, and the East Side Freedom Library.

Headshots of recipients HERE  BIOS follow below.

Ricardo Beaird [Director Track] is a theatre maker and teaching artist from Nashville who recently performed at Park Square in Dot and Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Currently, Ricardo is an actor/presenter at the Science Museum of Minnesota. This year, he was selected to be a Red Eye Theater Works-In-Progress artist with his collaborator, Megan Burns.

Ernest Briggs [Director] is a professional actor and Twin Cities native who has worked in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and Florida. Ernest received his Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Florida. He has worked locally as an actor with Mixed Blood Theatre, Park Square Theatre, Girl Friday Productions, Minnesota History Theatre, Artistry Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Teatro Del Pueblo, Pillsbury House Theatre, Turtle Theatre Collective, South Coast Repertory (CA), Tilted Windmills Theatricals (FL) and various feature films. He has also directed productions for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Nimbus Theatre and various short films.

Mary Capers [Design] is a wig designer from South Jamaica Queens, New York. She has a Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Fredonia and a pending Master of Fine Arts in Theatrical Design and Production from Brooklyn College. She has worked at various theatres around the country and is happy to finally call the Twin Cities home.

Maxwell Collyard [Design] is an interdisciplinary theatre/film artist based in the Twin Cities working mainly with digital content and live performance. Maxwell designed projections for Turtle Theater Collective, Theatre Novi Most, Frank Theatre, and the Playwrights’ Center. He also works as a cinematographer/editor for various fundraisers, Mixed Blood Theatre/Project 154, and with Fox and Coyote, Annie and the Bang Bang, Daniel Bonespur, and Porno Wolves to create music videos. He enjoys making movies in his spare time and is currently preparing a feature-length film for festivals. Maxwell also works as an actor and assistant director for theatres in the Twin Cities.

Ashawnti Sakina Ford [Director] is an actress, teaching artist, improviser, playwright, poet and director born and raised in the Twin Cities. Her work is typically centered in social change and arts accessibility. She recently co-founded The Black Ensemble Players theatre company to give rising black artists the opportunity to work on classical and new theatre. She is also a member of Blackout Improv which was recently recognized as a Minnesota Change-maker by MPR. Ashawnti has been seen on stages including the History Theatre and the Guthrie Dowling studio and has worked with companies including Full Circle Theatre, Sandbox Theatre and Combustible.

Sophie Peyton [Director] is a freelance director, dramaturg, and community engagement coordinator. Originally from Boston, she moved to Minneapolis to further her career in new play development and artistic administration. She holds a B.A. from Temple University and has worked on the administrative and producing staff at McCarter Theatre Center, Wilma Theater, and PlayPenn: New Play Development Conference. Regional credits include Minnesota Opera, Trademark Theater, History Theatre, Park Square Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, and Wilma Theater. She’s had the pleasure of assisting directors Emily Mann, Adam Immerwahr, Jamil Jude, Peter Rothstein, and Doug Scholz-Carlson.

Lindsey C. Samples [Director] is a multidisciplinary theater artist. She believes art is a critical ingredient in fostering a healthy society and creating necessary social change. As a director, performer, teaching artist, and arts administrator, she has used theater as a bridge to be in conversation across communities, geography, cultures, languages, abilities, and identities. Lindsey holds a B.A. in Theater from Loyola University Chicago and an M.Ed. in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota.

DJ Kool Akiem Scott [Design] is an educator, teaching artist, renowned DJ, composer, sound designer, and producer. Widely recognized as a pioneer of the Twin Cities Hip-Hop community, he’s produced for the legendary Micranots, was DJ for MF Doom’s domestic and European tours, and has performed with artists such as Public Enemy, De La Soul, The Roots, Grandmaster Flash, and Jazzy Jeff. Kool Akiem has produced seven albums, many of which are critically acclaimed that released on Rhymesayers Entertainment, Subverse Records, and Mental Madness Wreckords. He has held DJ residencies in New York and Atlanta, and hosted radio shows including The Panther Power Hour on WRFG (Atlanta) and WEQY (Saint Paul). His expertise and philosophies on Sampling and Hip Hop pedagogy have been featured in several books including Five Percenter Rap by Felicia Miyakawa and Making Beats by Joseph Schlosh. He composed original scores for the award-winning stage play Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals (Theater Mu), was DJ for Illyria (Theater Latte Da), a sound designer for The Two Kids That Blow Shit Up (Theater Mu) and was recently commissioned to compose the theme song for Kung Fu Zombies vs Shaman Warrior (Smithsonian). He taught Hip Hop Music History at McNally Smith College of Music and conducts DJ and recording residencies and workshops for all ages as a teaching artist through COMPAS, East Metro Integration District and Intermedia Arts.

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PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Ticket Office: 651.291.7005. parksquaretheatre.org

Jamil Jude, We’ll Miss You

Jamil Jude

Park Square Theatre was blessed to have Jamil Jude join its artistic/production team in December 2015 to begin a two-year mentorship with Artistic Director Richard Cook, made possible through a prestigious Leadership U[niversity] – One-on-One Program award of a two-year grant to fund Jamil’s professional development via a mentorship. Jamil was one of only six early-career leaders from all areas of theatre throughout the nation to receive such an award.

At Park Square Theatre, Jamil was given the title of Artistic Programming Associate, and he was placed in the foreground to help the organization remain a relevant theatre in a community with a demographic that will continue to shift towards greater diversity. During his mentorship, he would move forward the theater’s vision to be “intentionally diverse” and practice “radical inclusivity” (both terms appear in Park Square’s website).

Richard Cook

It has been nearly a decade-long journey to prepare Park Square for the 21st century and beyond. This mission was initially envisioned by Richard as he witnessed the impact of live theatre on students, particularly students of color, attending its Education programs. The long journey is not surprising as institutionalized exclusionary practices are difficult to dismantle to be able to support truly inclusionary practices. An organization must have strong leadership support and clear and consistent buy-in both from within and without to be able to broaden its scope.

In his short time here, Jamil especially impacted Park Square by being a skilled connector and unifier, doing the very hard work of fostering trust amongst diverse artist communities and giving generous access to his broader network. He has also provided crucial insights and suggestions to challenge the same old approaches in the theater’s programming and audience outreach. Some changes were made in tailoring post-show discussions for diverse student audiences, making script selections and recruiting and attracting more diverse talent to be onstage, behind the scenes, and as instructors for workshops. All his actions accelerated the impact of making real, lasting changes. However, there is still quite a bit to do even as Jamil’s mentorship comes to an end after June and the Artistic Programming Associate position dissolves.

While Park Square is a top employer of local stage talent, 64 percent of whom are women and artists of color, it still has no core staff (including leadership positions) and just one board member of color. But a few years ago, it created the role of Artistic Associate for the purpose of broadening the organization’s perspectives, and recruited Aditi Kapil, Carson Kreitzer, Ricardo Vazquez and James A. Williams to serve as ongoing Artistic Associates. Park Square has also invited local theatre companies, such as Girl Friday Productions, Sandbox Theatre Company, Theatre Pro Rata and Wonderlust Productions, to become Theatres in Residence and partnered with Mu Performing Arts to produce this season’s Flower Drum Song as mutually beneficial exposure to new audiences.

Currently, Park Square is partnering with the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce to create a Community Advisory Board made up of people of color to give ideas and feedback on what types of stories need to be told on stages and who to share them with–in short, to engage in honest dialogue to better understand how Park Square fits within an evolving community. On June 21 from 5-6 pm, Jamil will be a facilitator for “Cocktails and Conversation” in our Proscenium lobby for professionals of color to give such feedback.

Only time will tell what the future holds for Park Square Theatre without the transformational presence of Jamil. It’s more difficult to question and alter inherent biases and beliefs than to organically build from the ground up with that vision in mind the way that a new organization, such as Full Circle Theater Company, can do. It’s more difficult to transform an organization with individuals at different spectrums of cultural competency regarding issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. Any stall into complacency, regression into status quo or backslide into habituated ways of doing things negatively impacts the outcome. Park Square will steadily need to match good intent with continued action to move forward into its total vision.

Jamil himself will move forward to Atlanta, Georgia, where he will become True Colors Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director. At True Colors, Jamil will also get to direct a play each year and, for the first time in his career, focus his energy within one organization rather than be, as he described, “split-brained” amongst multiple organizations and freelance projects.

Darrick Mosley, Kevin West and Peter Thomson in The Highwaymen, directed by Jamil Jude
(photo by Scott Pakudaitis)

While Jamil has certainly left his mark on Park Square Theatre, what many may not know is the wider impact he has also had on the Twin Cities theatre scene since his arrival in Minnesota in 2011. From 2011 to 2014, he worked for Mixed Blood Theatre Company in Minneapolis’ West Bank as its National New Play Network Producer in Residence and created and facilitated artist/educator-audience discussions as its Free Speech Program Director. Jamil made another strong impression in 2013, receiving the year-long Playwright Center’s Many Voices Mentorship to help Minnesota-based playwright of color hone one’s craft. Within a few years, Jamil had further widened his circle and influence, joining the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Theatre Alliance (2012-16), the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (both since 2014). In 2015, he had founded the New Griots Festival to promote the work of Twin Cities black artists into the future; the festival will return this year at the Guthrie from July 6 to 16. In 2016, he directed the highly relevant and critically praised inaugural productions of Underdog Theatre’s Baltimore is Burning, written by local artist Kory LaQuess Pullam, founder of Underdog Theatre, as well as local playwright Josh Wilder’s The Highwaymen at The History Theatre in St. Paul.

Park Square Theatre and the Twin Cities theatre community will dearly miss Jamil Jude. Not only could he inspire us, but more importantly, he brought people together to get things done. Jamil Jude has left things better than when he’d arrived. What more could we ask for? We are very grateful and wish him well.

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(Note: Be sure to also read the previous blog post, “What’s That Got to Do With Jamil Jude?”)