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IUPUI to launch publication centering Black theater

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A new publication highlighting Black theater throughout Indiana is set to launch at IUPUI. 

Black Stage is an initiative of the Africana Repertory Theatre of IUPUI (ARTI) — a project that documents and reflects on the history, cultural life and politics of people of the African diaspora — that supports community engagement, public relations and information about theater companies throughout Indiana and the Midwest. 

After realizing there was no digital or print publication about Black theater in Indiana, the ARTI staff decided to create one themselves. 

“Black Stage is ARTI’s engine for serving the community and showcasing Africana creativity and talent in all its art forms including literature, music, film and performance,” Dr. Khaula Murtadha, associate vice chancellor for the Office of Community Engagement, said in a statement for IU Day. 

ARTI consists of staff from various schools at IUPUI such as the IU School of Liberal Arts, School of Education, Africana Studies Program and the IUPUI Office of Community Engagement.

The digital publication will feature five sections: Bringing It, Off Script, Anatomy of A Dream, Well What Did You Think and Backstage.

Bringing It serves as the marketing and public relations section to promote upcoming theatrical events throughout Indiana. Off Script is dedicated to interviewing actors, performers and directors to gain further insight on their work and performances.
“My favorite section is Off Script,” said Sha-Nel Henderson, manager for partner cultivation for Black Stage. “Because many times we are able to appreciate a production but don’t get to gain perspective from artists. Gaining perspective from the artist is just as important as putting on the production.”

Anatomy of A Dream highlights local theater troupes, playwrights and performers who have made an impact on the theater scene in Indiana. Well What Do You Think gives theatergoers a chance to review a production after they’ve seen it, and Backstage dives into the arts-based research of Afrocentric theater by examining historical Black playwrights and taking a deeper dive into understanding the Black experience. 

“The purpose for Black Stage is to uplift, celebrate, cultivate and promote Black theater,” Henderson said. “Arts-based research is imperative to the work of Black Stage.”

For the initial launch, the Anatomy of A Dream section will be a one-on-one conversation and spotlight of Ophelia Wellington, executive director of Freetown Village. 

Founded in 1982, Freetown Village is a living history museum that educates the public about the African American experience through theater and storytelling. Freetown Village began after Wellington’s desire to create a platform that teaches African American history.

“Storytelling is crucial for the Black community to reclaim our narratives,” Henderson said. “Theater does an amazing job of expressing ourselves and sharing our experiences.”

Murtadha said Black Stage is a “culturally engaging effort to capture the existence of Black artistic value, its beauty and its history.”
The publication will begin July 31.

Contact staff writer Terrence Lambert at 317-924-5243. Follow him on Twitter @_TerrenceL_. 

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