Congo Square Theatre Company (Congo Square), one of the nation’s premier African American theater companies, is proud to announce its 2021-22 season, a robust and dynamic mix of online and in-person programming, running the gamut from laugh-out-loud sketch comedy to an interactive, thought-provoking ‘community ritual’ touring Chicago neighborhoods.
“We are thrilled for this coming season and the return to live theatre. COVID, in some ways, has been a blessing for the organization, giving us new tenacity towards our 2021-2022 vision. In the coming year, Congo Square will further anchor our mission and vision to be a haven for artists of color and truly be a home that develops and equips the next generation of Black voices. Further, we are excited to continue expanding our engagement with our audiences both in the physical and digital space and bring fresh content and works exploring the complexities and expansiveness of Black culture in a way that is accessible to all,” said Congo Square Executive Director Charlique C. Rolle.
Kicking off Congo Square’s 22nd season will be the launch of a new Audio Series introducing the old school radio drama genre to a new, streaming audience. The inaugural program, The Clinic, will air in four free weekly segments up to 30 minutes long, from September 9 – October 10, 2021.
Then, the popular online sketch comedy series Hit ‘Em on the Blackside returns with its second season of spot-on topical humor segments, with Part One episodes dropping on the company’s YouTube channel weekly October 29-December 10, 2021, and Part Two launching May 13-June 17, 2022. Hit ‘Em on the Blackside webisodes will be compiled into a full show on Congo Square’s website; new for the 2021-22 season will be live ‘watch parties’ enabling fans to enjoy the entire series together on December 10, 2021, and June 24, 2022.
Live performance joyfully returns via Congo Square’s signature Festival on the Square celebration and Vision Benefit, the weekend of February 3-5, 2022. 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 two-day celebration of the arts will feature a Young Playwright festival and staged readings by Emerging/Professional Playwrights, along with dance, music, and other live performances. The weekend will culminate with the Company’s 2022 Vision Benefit fundraiser.
The Congo Square 2021-22 Season proudly concludes with the Chicago Premiere of What to Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris, March 17-April 24, 2022. Seeking to speak to the current moment, this powerful new work is a ‘community ritual’ created in response to the deaths of Black people as a result of racialized violence. As a means of facilitating healing for Chicago’s Black community, Congo Square will tour this interactive production to several neighborhoods around the city, focusing on those impacted the most.
Please note scheduling of all live performances will be based on updated health guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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. The five workshops will cover topics including acting, auditioning, directing, and writing. Returning to lead these valuable 3- and 4-week online Zoom workshops are Ensemble Members Tracey N. Bonner, Javon Johnson, and Ann Joseph-Douglas. Each workshop session is $30.00 and free for currently enrolled college or graduate school students, thanks to a generous donation from the Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation. Upcoming courses include Master the Art of Self-Tape with Tracey N. Bonner; From Page to Stage: Auditioning for the Stage with Ann Joseph Douglas; Secure the Bag: Grant writing for Individual Artists with Ann Joseph Douglas; How to Write for TV/Film with Javon Johnson; and My Big Break: How to Break into the Business with Javon Johnson. Registration is now open; for the complete schedule, please visit congosquaretheatre.org/citi
CONGO SQUARE THEATRE COMPANY’S 2021-22 SEASON
Audio Series, inaugural program: The Clinic
September 9 – October 10, 2021
Directed by Ensemble Member Daniel Bryant and features Ensemble Members Aimee K. Bryant, Aaron Todd Douglas, Tracey N. Bonner, Will Sims II, and guest artist Jonathan Perkins.
Tickets: Online with a suggested donation of $10
A steaming, streaming, old-school radio drama created by Congo Square ensemble members and streaming in four weekly segments on the Congo Square website. As described by Ensemble Members and writers Monifa Days and Javon Johnson, The Clinic is “a nod to the old school soap opera-style dramas that follows the journey of Dr. Latisha Bradley who is changing the world with a life-altering discovery that was meant to help all but only helps some. Everyone wants in. Dr. Bradley not only has to deal with changing the future of medicine but betrayal and matters of the heart.”
Hit ‘Em on the Blackside
Part One: October-December 2021, Part Two: May-June 2022
Directed by Congo Square Ensemble Member Anthony Irons, featuring Ensemble Members Ronald L. Conner, Alexis J. Roston, Kelvin Roston Jr., and guest artist Tiffany Addison.
Tickets: Free online
Release dates for 2021 webisodes: Oct. 29, Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 17, Nov. 26, Dec. 3
Release dates for 2022 webisodes: May 13, May 20, May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17
The cast and crew of Congo Square’s hit sketch comedy Hit‘em on the Blackside up the ante in Season 2 by bringing back memorable characters from Season 1 for an exciting crossover story that spans 12 new episodes. Plus, new characters and storylines are introduced, all with deliberate nods to social themes including justice and equality, promising a season as thought-provoking and ‘in your face’ as ever. The online series posts bi-weekly webisodes for free viewing on the company’s social media and YouTube pages. Hit ‘Em on the Blackside webisodes are compiled into a full show on Congo Square’s website; new for the 2021-22 season will be live ‘watch parties’ enabling fans to enjoy the entire series together on December 10, 2021, and June 24, 2022.
Festival on the Square + Vision Benefit
February 3-5, 2022
Tickets & locations TBA
Congo Square’s annual Festival on the Square is a lively, family-friendly two-day celebration of the arts, inspired by the original Congo Square located in New Orleans. This year’s edition, returning to an in-person presentation, will showcase a Young Playwright Festival of ten-minute works, Emerging/Professional Playwright staged reading, and a vibrant collection of dance, music, and live performances. The festival weekend culminates with Congo Square’s 2022 Vision Benefit, an entertaining opportunity to help support Congo Square’s important mission. Locations for all activities are to be announced at a later date; more information on play submissions and overall programming will be live on the website in September. To explore, please visit congosquaretheatre.org/fos
What to Send Up When It Goes Down
March 17-April 24, 2022 (Previews: March 10-12)
Tickets & locations: TBA
Written by Aleshea Harris, co-directed by Ensemble Members Daniel Bryant and Ericka Ratcliff
As Congo Square reflects on the current state of the world, namely the vicious cycle of the stealing of Black lives, it remains committed to ensuring that Black stories are clearly and unapologetically heard through its own lenses and that Black communities are given space to heal and find freedom and unity. What to Send Up When It Goes Down does exactly this, providing a much-needed voice and story to be shared with Chicago during this time. Above all, Congo Square’s goal through producing this powerful, interactive work is to intentionally create a space for the community to heal together; as such, this production will tour throughout the city, with locations to be announced at a later date.
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 theatre companies in Chicago. Founded in 1999, Congo Square aimed to provide a platform for black artists to perform and present classic and new work 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 theatres 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 (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 theatre company the distinction of being the first African American theatre company to receive such an honor.
Congo Square’s Educational Programs bring the impact of theater to young audiences. Its outreach programs, CORE (Curriculum Objectives Residency Enrichment), and CAST (Congo After School Theatre), 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 and schools located on the South and West sides of the city.
For more information on Congo Square’s 2021-22 Season, visit www.congosquaretheatre.org.