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Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words to Present FILMS FOR THE PEOPLE

Films for the People celebrates the talent and resilience of Black artists, leaders, and communities across America.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words to Present FILMS FOR THE PEOPLE

Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words are partnering to produce Films for the People (previously titled Plays for the People), supported by the Black Seed Fund and co-presented with Stellar (Jim McCarthy, Co-Founder/CEO).

Films for the People celebrates the talent and resilience of Black artists, leaders, and communities across America. Building on the success of Black Lives Black Words' 2020 theatre/film hybrid season, the new project comprises two new one-person short films written and directed by groundbreaking Black creatives and shot in celebrated Black businesses located in the San Francisco Bay Area and Houston. The films will premiere on OSF's O! digital stage in the summer of 2022, and will also be presented on the Stellar streaming online platform-a result of Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway being selected by a panel of industry luminaries to participate in the Stellar Emerging Creators in Theatre Program.

Films for the People features a new work by the award-winning team that co-founded and leads Black Lives Black Words: writer Reginald Edmund and director Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. Edmund, a Houston native, returns to his home city to create a film that places it center-stage and provides an unflinching look at race relations in the 21st century. The new project follows the duo's BLBW film Ride Share, which was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "an electrifying example of hybrid theatre at its best," and by The Chicago Tribune as "a mesmerizing, creatively-staged film."

The 2022 series will kick off with a film from another powerful writer and director team: the beloved Oakland-based playwright, American activist, and 2018 mayoral candidate Cat Brooks and Bay Area theatre director and OSF Lloyd Richards Resident Director Elizabeth Carter. They are collaborating to create a hybrid work that explores themes woven into the fabric of their city and the possibilities opened up by merging theatre with film.

Cat Brooks says, "Artists are the conscience of our society. We tell the stories and force the conversations that some folks want to avoid but are critical to the struggle for and evolution toward a more just, humane, and equitable world. As America continues to grapple with her ugly racial history and Oakland fights to retain her people, identity, and progressive values, I am thrilled to be a part of this team that is committed to using our gifts to support movement and progress. I look forward to sharing Oakland's story, contributing to the movement, and working with this amazing group of Black creatives."

Carter says, "I am thrilled to work with Black Lives Black Words (in partnership with OSF) on Films for the People. The opportunity to center Black creatives around issues important to our community's resilience while uplifting a Black owned business is a gift. And I get to work in my beloved Oakland. For me as a Black woman theatre director, getting to work with Cat Brooks, a Black woman playwright and activist, feels like the perfect collaboration. It feels like home creatively. As we explore this hybrid project between theater and film I am eager to see what each art form yields. How do they speak to each other? What will we learn? Where can we travel in this internal landscape? I share Nataki's vision in growing collaborations between the theatre, film, and XR fields in how we tell stories. I envision a container for multi-hyphenated artists that can hold a multitude/array of diverse voices."

Indeed, a primary goal of Films for the People is to propel forward the growing genre of work at the intersection of theatre and film, and to offer audiences from across the globe a new experience of storytelling. The project also celebrates the two Black businesses where the films will be made-including Esther's Orbit Room in Oakland-and pays homage to Black business owners.

Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, Co-Founder of Black Lives Black Words International Project and Executive Producer and Film/Theatre Director for Films for the People, explains, "As an executive producer and director, the goal is always to produce projects that push the boundaries of storytelling, provides exciting artistic opportunities for creatives of color, and offer a new perspective on current local issues to an international audience. Films for the People achieves this and more. At BLBW, we are delighted to continue to evolve the project with the support from Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Stellar, and the Black Seed Fund, building on the success of our award-nominated production Ride Share with even more groundbreaking film theatre hybrid productions by creatives of color. In the arts, we casually refer to projects as 'love projects' but I can truly say that this project, which was initially conceived at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, is driven by the love for our Black community and Black businesses, the love for innovation, and the love for creating meaningful and progressive arts activism with like-minded individuals."

Reginald Edmund, Co-Founder at Black Lives Black Words International Project and Executive Producer and Film / Theatre Writer for Films for the People, comments, "At Black Lives Black Words we pride ourselves on being the leading producers and creators of new and socially conscious Black narratives. This new iteration of our celebrated and much-loved Films for the People project bridges the gap between Black entrepreneurship and Black artistry to elevate our mission and work to new heights on multiple streaming platforms. This work offers communities bold cinematic experiences and unique character-driven stories that shine a light on local Black businesses and Black creatives who dare to shift the possibilities of artistic expression. Is it ambitious? Is it ground-breaking? Yes, but it wouldn't be Black Lives Black Words project if it was not revolutionary."

OSF Artistic Director and Executive Producer of Films for the People Nataki Garrett says, "This partnership with Black Lives Black Words International Project is emblematic of my leadership and the future of OSF.a??a?? Films for the People, now in its second year, utilizes film, an excellent tool for access and connectivity, to celebrate the modern Black experience. Reginald, Simeilia, Cat, and Elizabeth are all powerful storytellers with unique perspectives. All four boldly tackle the issues of racial equity and social justice in their work. I am thrilled that these pieces will be streamed virtually, making critical and meaningful work accessible to everyone while showcasing the power of performance."

Scarlett Kim, Associate Artistic Director and Director of Innovation & Strategy at OSF, says, "OSF is exhilarated to collaborate with Black Lives Black Words on this trailblazing project that interweaves theatrical storytelling with cinematic innovation, with Black artists and entrepreneurs at the center. Films for the People powerfully embodies Nataki Garrett's vision of OSF as an incubator for cutting-edge theatrical innovation and transformative narratives."

The Stellar Emerging Creators in Theatre Program, created by Stellar last year, grants recipients a production budget and resources to develop and present new theatre for the live-streaming space. Stellar lends support in marketing and will broadcast the new works exclusively on the platform. Edmund and Hodges were selected by a distinguished panel including producer Brian Moreland (Thoughts of a Colored Man), social media marketer Sam Maher of YesBroadway, producer and actor-writer Osh Ghanimah (Sing Street), director Sammi Cannold (Evita), and Stellar CEO Jim McCarthy.

Stellar CEO Jim McCarthy says, "It didn't take long for all of us on the panel to agree-this was a project we knew we wanted to support. In a pool of over 300 applications, this work stood out. We're looking forward to experiencing this piece as fans of Reg and Sim and sharing it with a global audience to help make new fans."

Films for the People will premiere on August 12. Audiences will be able to purchase tickets directly from the online streaming platforms on a date TBA.

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