Congo Square Theatre Announces 2022-23 Season Featuring the World Premiere of HOW BLOOD GO & More

The season will feature everything from melodrama to sketch comedy, interactive healing rituals to expert led industry workshops and more.

By: Jun. 23, 2022

Congo Square Theatre Announces 2022-23 Season Featuring the World Premiere of HOW BLOOD GO & More

Congo Square Theatre Company, one of the nation's premier African American ensemble theater companies, has announced an expanded 2022-23 season. The company will present a downtown remount of its powerful production, What to Send Up When It Goes Down, in addition to the World Premiere of How Blood Go, while continuing to produce its popular pandemic-initiated digital programming and maintaining its robust educational and community engagement initiatives. From melodrama to sketch comedy, interactive healing rituals to expert led industry workshops, Congo Square further entrenches its unique position as a haven for artists of color to unapologetically tell Black stories.

"The 2022-2023 season will be a season of more" said Congo Square Artistic Director Ericka Ratcliff. "More in-person productions, more engagement with our communities, and more opportunities for vital Black stories to be shared. We are honored to continue the Congo Square tradition of producing transformative works and will continue to provide a safe space for theater makers of all ages to engage with stories that reflect the myriad of Black identities."

"We are thrilled to continue with our mixed season model of in-person and digital content, including a variety of new partnerships to come," said Congo Square Executive Director Charlique C. Rolle. "Our pandemic initiated digital programming has allowed us to reach new audiences beyond those able to join us in person for live performances, and we are excited to continue engaging communities in this new way. Additionally, we are overjoyed to be bringing a remount of Aleshea Harris' What to Send Up When It Goes Down that electrified audiences during the 2021-22 season, and the World Premiere of Lisa Langford's biting commentary on racial disparities in healthcare, How Blood Go."

2022-23 Programming in Chronological Order

The Clinic: Season Two

Begins September 1, 2022

Audio series

After a cliff-hanger ending to season one, The Clinic, Congo Square's old-school radio melodrama Audio Series, returns for a second season starting September 1. The series follows the continued escapades of Dr. Latisha Bradley whose revolutionary medical discovery will change the world, as long as her nemeses - and her own heart - don't get in her way. Season two of The Clinic will be released on the Congo Square Theatre website.

What to Send Up When It Goes Down

September 23 - October 9, 2022

Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 N. Michigan Avenue

Congo Square Theatre made a triumphant return to live theater in the 2021-22 season with playwright Aleshea Harris' powerful play-pageant-healing ritual What to Send Up When It Goes Down. The production, appreciated by audiences and critics alike, will return to the stage in residence at Lookingglass Theatre Company September 23-October 9, 2022. Designed to help Black communities heal from American racialized violence, What to Send Up When It Goes Down is a vital theatrical work. In line with Congo Square's commitment to community engagement, half of the tickets for each performance will be donated to local community groups. Single tickets are on pre-sale now at the Congo Square Theatre website.

Hit 'Em on the Blackside: Season Three

October 28, 2022- February 3, 2023

Digital video series

Back by popular demand, Congo Square's online sketch comedy series Hit 'Em on the Blackside returns for its third season. Each episode, full of pitch-perfect and timely humor, will be released weekly on the Congo Square Theatre website, social media, and YouTube channel starting on October 28. Audience members can gather for a full season watch party on February 3.

World Premiere: How Blood Go

March 16 - April 23, 2023

Steppenwolf's 1700 Theater, 1700 N. Halsted Street

How Blood Go is the story of two relatives, fifty years apart, who undergo medical experiments without their consent. This profound work weaves the present and past together to explore the strained relationship between medicine and African Americans in this country. Just when the main character, Quinntasia, is ready to take her wellness program, Quinntessentials, to market, she learns that her healthy body is not the product of her hard work, but of a futuristic experimental device-activated without her consent-that makes her appear White to doctors and nurses. She must decide if she's willing to give up her Blackness to make her dream come true. Meanwhile, Bean and his brother, Ace, experience unethical medical treatment in the American South (the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment 1930-1970). Playwright Lisa Langford will work closely with the cast and crew of How Blood Go to expand the play for its World Premiere by Congo Square. Single tickets will go on sale in Winter 2023.

Juneteenth Homecoming Weekend: Festival on the Square + Vision Benefit

June 17, 2023

Location to be announced

Congo Square Theatre's annual Homecoming events in 2023 once again commemorate Juneteenth weekend. Festival on the Square honors the original Congo Square marketplace in New Orleans, where people of color communed through music and dance and celebrated the cultures of their homelands. The FREE and family-friendly daytime event will feature staged readings, musical and dance performances, and a market of Black owned businesses. Later in the evening, the annual Vision Benefit will celebrate Congo Square Theatre's illustrious twenty-four years with performances, an awards ceremony honoring local theater artists, and a not-to-be-missed party. Tickets for the Vision Benefit will go on sale Spring 2023.

Community Engagement and Education Initiatives

CITI Workshops

Congo Square's ensemble-led Congo Square Industry Training Institute (CITI) workshops continue this season, designed for working and aspiring artists to enhance their knowledge of the industry as well as their acting skills. Upcoming courses include Self-Tape for the Working Actor with Tracey N. Bonner; My Big Break: Breaking into the Industry with Javon Johnson; How to Write for TV/Film with Javon Johnson; Secure the Bag: Grant Writing for Individual Artists with Ann Joseph Douglas; and Classical Interpretation with Allen Gilmore. Thanks to a grant from the Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation, each workshop session is $30.00 for the general public and free for currently enrolled high school, college, or graduate school students. CITI workshop registration opens on July 1.

Playwriting Initiatives

The Samuel G. Roberson Next Up Fellowship celebrates young playwrights by providing resources for college and high school aged students to enhance their writing and identity as a playwright. Each selected fellow will not only have their ten-minute play workshopped into a full-length play with Congo Square, but they will also receive a yearlong writing mentorship with founding ensemble member and playwright, Aaron Todd Douglas. The 2022-23 Fellows are Helaina Coggs and Bair Warburton-Brown.

Founded in 2005, the August Wilson New Play Initiative (AWNPI) has produced award-winning world premiere plays including Chadwick Boseman's Deep Azure and Lydia Diamond's Stick Fly, to name a few. During the 2022-23 season, two AWNPI playwrights-in-residence will continue work on their new plays. Sydney Chatman's Sing a Black Girl's Song - an 18-week healing journey designed to support Black women and girls in Chicago who have experienced state-sanctioned or interpersonal trauma - has been in development since the 2021-22 season and will culminate in a staged reading in January 2023. Kristiana Rae Colón will continue to develop her work homan & fillmore, a multidisciplinary Afro-futuristic reimagining of the real-life 2016 encampment of Homan Square, the infamous Chicago Police Department's Black site.

About Congo Square Theatre Company

Congo Square Theatre Company is an ensemble dedicated to producing transformative work rooted in the African Diaspora. We are a haven for artists of color to challenge and redefine the theatrical canon by amplifying and creating stories that reflect the reach and complexities of Black Culture. Congo Square is one of only two African American Actors' Equity theater companies in Chicago. Founded in 1999, Congo Square aimed to provide a platform for Black artists to present works that exemplified the majesty, diversity, and intersectionality of stories from the African Diaspora.

Congo Square has risen to become one of the most well-respected African American theaters in the nation. Previously mentored by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, Congo Square would go on to cultivate talents such as playwright Chadwick Boseman (Marvel Studio's Black Panther), who penned the 2006 Jeff nominated play Deep Azure, and playwright Lydia Diamond, who penned the massively successful Stick Fly, a critically acclaimed play that explores race, class, and familial friction. Stick Fly ultimately ran on Broadway and is currently being developed into a full-length series for HBO with Alicia Keys serving as a producer. Congo Square also produced the widely praised Seven Guitars, which would eventually go on to win top honors for best ensemble, best direction, and best production at the 2005 Joseph Jefferson Awards. This would earn the theater company the distinction of being the first African American theater company to receive such an honor.

Congo Square's Community Engagement and Education programs bring the impact of theater to young audiences. Its outreach programs, CORE (Curriculum Objectives Residency Enrichment), and CAST (Congo After School Theater), present and teach theater arts by providing classroom and after-school residencies that provide Teaching Artists to build upon already established Chicago Public Schools literature and art curriculums. CORE and CAST impact students, schools, and community organizations located on the South and West sides of Chicago.

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