MPAACT’s Summer Jams provides a stage for young black performers | Performing Arts Feature | Chicago Reader

MPAACT’s Summer Jams provides a stage for young black performers 

“They’re willing to take a chance, and a lot of companies don’t do that.”

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click to enlarge Closet(s)

Closet(s)

Justin Barbin

Since its founding, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MPAACT) has produced large- and small-scale performances and original music and education programs centered on the spirit of collaboration and in celebration of African theater traditions. Now MPAACT is preparing to host Summer Jams, a weeklong festival featuring 17 different acts showcasing the work of primarily black artists around Chicago.

The festival's lineup offers a wide range of entertainment, exploring diverse content through a wide range of mediums, including music, sketch comedy, spoken word, and theater and performance. "How Summer Jams works is you get a slot and then you can do pretty much anything creative you want to," says Razor Wintercastle, longtime MPAACT collaborator and producer of two Summer Jams musical tributes, Prints of a Diva and Regina Peters-Gina to Nina Simone.

Some acts are lighthearted and lend themselves to a laid-back atmosphere where drinking is encouraged, like Check This Sh!t Out: An Adult Variety Show featuring comedians, hip-hop artists, and drag queens, and Platonic Life Partners, a sketch-comedy performance. But other acts are grounded in more serious, reflective content. The theater performance Closet(s) "A Vivid Exploration of Queer Voices" examines traumas experienced by black individuals who identify as queer. A Black Body in Space & Time, a one-woman show by actress Tia Jemison, explores her experience as a black woman, inspired by adversity she experienced during her time as a student at DePaul.

Wintercastle says she's grateful to MPAACT and Summer Jams for creating a platform for artists who haven't had one before. "I love the fact that they don't shy away from new work," she says. "They're willing to take a chance, and a lot of companies don't do that."   v

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