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Black Arts MKE will host annual MKE Black Theatre Festival and I AM Youth Performing Arts Summer Camp this summer 

Kyndal Johnson (left) and Ashley S. Jordan are working with many Milwaukee-based artists and musicians to host The MKE Black Theatre Festival and I AM Youth Performing Arts Summer Camp this summer. (Photos supplied.)

Black Arts MKE is hosting its annual The MKE Black Theatre Festival, from Aug. 9-27, expanding from one week to three weeks to celebrate Black arts and culture.

The festival will have a plethora of events, ticketed and free, including full-production plays, staged reading plays, masterclasses and artist panels.

Kyndal Johnson
(Photo supplied.)

Kyndal Johnson is a Milwaukee native and serves as the outreach coordinator for arts and education for Black Arts MKE. She talked with Madison365 about what participants can expect from this year’s events. 

“It’s a longer festival, which means that you have more opportunity to come and see productions and be a part of the festival this year,” Johnson said. “It’s a very interactive experience. It’s not just something that you attend and watch. You can come and be a part of auditions, understand auditions, learn about what you need to do in that process. Also, if you are a playwright or anything of that nature, you can come and there are masterclasses for that.”

Throughout the festival, there will be many opportunities to see plays including Dominique Morisseau’s Mud Row, directed by Marti Gobel and Jeff Stetson’s THE MEETING, directed by Denzel Taylor. On Monday, Aug.14, at WoLF Studios there will be audition workshops and headshots for professional and emerging actors starting at 6:30 pm.

The following day in Studio 4H in the Marcus Center there will be auditions for Black Nativity, a play written by Langston Hughes, starting at 6 p.m. Johnson also works as a costume designer and has created the costumes for this play for the past two years. She is looking forward to participants coming to learn more about the production. 

“I’m really excited for the auditions,” Johnson said. “I know that we are doing a few different things this year with black nativity. So having new actors or having people have the opportunity to audition for that is great. I know there’s so many people that come and they watch the show, and they buy their tickets every year. But having that hands-on opportunity to be in the show, and having it be so accessible — I think that’s what I’m really excited for.”

The first night of the festival, Aug. 9, will be Youth & Family Night at the Indaba Community Bandshell starting at 6 p.m. Students from the I AM Youth Performing Arts Summer Camp will be performing their final summer presentation at this event as well. 

Ashley S. Jordan serves as the director of arts and cultural programming for Black Arts MKE. She works as the Camp Director for the summer camp and understands the importance of exposing Black children to performing arts, being a Milwaukee native herself.

Ashley S. Jordan
(Photo supplied.)

“African American children are not exposed to the arts, or have that chance to view the arts,” Jordan said. “We decided to come together, and we hired professional teaching, but also working artists in the community to teach multidisciplinary arts. It was really powerful. A lot of the students had emotional experiences with the camp.”

The camp will run from Wednesday, July 5-28 and is open every year to children ages 12-18. Participants are able to learn and create hands-on aspects of musical theater, including spoken word, creative writing, costume and set design, choreography, art and music. 

Like Johnson, Jordan is also excited about working with many Milwaukee-based artists and musicians throughout the programming of the summer camp and the theater festival. 

“One of the things that I’m looking forward to this year is we have a lot more artists on the team now, which makes it much more collaborative,” Jordan added.”


To learn more about the events for the 2023 MKE Black Theatre Festival and the I AM Youth Performing Arts Summer Camp, visit their website