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Best of 2109: Inaugural Black Theater Festival a Chance to “bask in the glory of blackness in Madison”

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There is going to be a new festival in Madison focused exclusively on producing the works of African-American artists. Loud ‘N Unchained and Broom Street Theater are joining forces to present the Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival in the early summer of 2020 and they are currently looking for artists and submissions.

“I envision being able to create this space for members of the black artists community for a long time and I wanted it to be in a way that is accessible and a way for new artists who haven’t had the opportunity in the past to be able to experiment and to showcase their points of views,” Loud ‘N Unchained founder T. Banks tells Madison365. “We’re going to have so many different submissions and so many different genres of black writers, so this is very exciting.

“I really hope that Madison is excited about this and will support this Festival as it comes back year after year because there is nothing else like it and I really want it to go on for years to come,” Banks adds.

Loud ‘N Unchained is a theater company, publishing house, and a community for black creatives in Madison. According to their mission, they are “bold and unapologetic and dedicated to gender justice, queer justice and disability justice.” Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival is a brand-new festival that will be produced at Broom Street Theater and will have performances on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for three weeks from June 12-June 28, 2020.

“Each night we will be doing a different set of performances depending on the type of submissions we get,” Dana Pellebon, who will direct all of the theatrical submissions, tells Madison365. “We’d love to have a spoken-word night. We’d love to have a drag-burlesque night. We’d love to have a music night. Those will be all of the Friday nights.”

On Saturdays, they will host their main stage shows which will be a full-length production. The Sunday shows will be dedicated to shorts. 

Loud & Unchained founder T. Banks

 “Initially, I felt like Broom Street could really be a fit for this. When I told them my idea and what I wanted … I was looking for an accessible stage, one that would not only work around my schedule but would fit my wheelchairs,” Banks says. “I did some more talking with other black creative in L’n’U and they were like, ‘I’m working on things, too!’

“So I asked Broom Street if we could build a Black Film Festival and Broom Street loved it,” Banks adds. “So, really this has been coming to fruition for over a year and a half.”

The artistic committee of Banks, Pellebon, Janine Gardner and Doug Reed will review all alternative performances for inclusion and those performances will have rehearsal time with the Pellebon, the director.

“I’m a poet by trade; that’s how I came up … especially doing poetry at Madison East High School. Then, when I went off to college, I did a little bit of drag and some musicals and started creating and writing my own plays,” Banks says. “With that, I was like, ‘I know all of these black artists that have all of these different writing disciplines and different ways that they like to express themselves through art.’ Why don’t we just open this theater festival up to the many different art styles to which black creatives here in Madison and around the area are already doing?”

Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival is currently accepting submissions for a variety of performance arts. The submission period is open until January 31, 2020. All artists will be notified by March 1, 2020.

“We’re looking for spoken-word artists, dancers, musical performances, original pieces by musicians, drag or burlesque,” Banks says. “We’re looking for a few more full-length theatrical plays and short shorts.”

As far as guidelines for submissions, work must be written/originated by a black artist. All submissions will be reviewed to ensure that content is not transphobic, racist, misogynistic, or otherwise harmful to the Black community in its intent.

Submissions can include the following:
◉ Full-length theatrical play (60-90 minutes long)
◉ Short theatrical play (5 to 20 minutes long)
◉ Spoken word (0-5 minutes long)
◉ Dance (0-5 minutes long)
◉ Musical performance (10-25 minutes long)
◉  Drag or Burlesque (0-5 minutes long)
◉ Other (5-25 minutes long)

All plays and spoken-word pieces must be submitted via pdf or word document. Dance or musical performances must be submitted via video. It can be a link to a performance or an actual video.

 “What we’re looking for are black artists and that can be in a variety of different fashions,” Pellebon says. “This is a theatrical festival, so we want shorts, we want full-length plays. We actually already have two full-length plays that are already set to be part of the festival.

Dana Pellebon
(Photo by Dan Myers)

“We are looking for a variety of things because we want to encompass as many performance aspects of theatrical productions as we can, whether that be through dance, through song, through instruments, through poetry,” Pellebon adds. “However it is that people would like to express themselves, we want to give a black artist in Madison a chance to express themselves.”

Auditions for the production will be in late March/early April with rehearsals running from the end of April through opening weekend. Even if you can’t make a submission, Pellebon urges you to come and “bask in the glory of blackness in Madison.”

“Once we have the submissions done, there will be actual parts of the production that people can be a part of. Do they want to be a part of stage work? Do they want to be on stage acting? Or do they just want to come?” Pellebon says. “Because, quite frankly, the most exciting part of this for me is to be able to walk into a theater and see people that look like me and art that speaks like me.

“Last year, [UW-Madison student] Shasparay [Lighteard] did the Black Arts Festival, and that was amazing. We want to build upon that idea,” Pellebon says. “So many people have been clamoring and wanting to celebrate black arts in Madison in a variety of different ways. This is the perfect opportunity to do that.”