TaRon Patton (Theatre Inquiries)
Congo Square Theatre
Congo Square Theatre Company Re-Invents Theater By Any Means Necessary Amid Challenges
Award-winning theatrical ensemble invigorated by patron support to surpass budgetary woes within the arts world
CHICAGO – May 2012 There is an air of determination at the offices of Congo Square Theatre Company as they announce a renewed vision for success for the coming season, in spite of very real financial challenges facing much of the theater community. On the heels of an award-winning season, highlighted by the critically acclaimed production of Darren Canady’s Brothers of The Dust and the debut Broadway production of Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly, which originated at the company, the Congo Square ensemble is up against the harsh reality of diminished funding. Like the strong spirit of its namesake, the original Congo Square in New Orleans, the company is experiencing a galvanization in the face of a lack of funds to present their works. Fortified by strong support of dedicated patrons, they are focused
on a mission to do theater by any means necessary.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Ann Joseph Douglas and Artistic Director, Daniel Bryant, Congo Square Theatre has experienced several years of growth and significant accomplishment, and remains debt free going into the 2012-2013 season. While the lack of funding poses a serious threat to the production schedule, the critical issue has brought the entire company together to access the future and create a plan to keep their long-standing vision in play.
The re-tool and re-invent plan for their approach to theater is inspired in part by the feedback received during Congo Square’s recent push to raise funds for the production of Eisa Davis’ Bulrusher. Feedback included a reminder that while enduring financial strife, the company has a commitment to service the community with access to African Diaspora theater presentations at affordable prices. “In spite of these very real challenges, we know the power of our work and feel the absolute devotion coming from our patrons,” says, Daniel Bryant. He continues, “We believe sternly in what we do and are still committed to exposing the Chicago community to important works by playwrights of color, by any means necessary. These fiscal challenges are calling on us to think more creatively about how to execute our mission.”
While funding shortages hinder certain aspects and abilities of the company, the success of Stick Fly on Broadway and the recent recognition by the American Theatre Critics Association for their New Emerging Playwright Award given to Darren Canady for his play Brothers of the Dust, have been a lightning rod of evidence of the powerful works coming out of Congo Square Theatre. As the City of Chicago works to re-invent the arts for the 2012 Cultural Plan, Congo Square Theater is doing the same, making necessary changes to ensure their legacy and future. The company plans to offer heightened theatrical productions that are designed to reach an emerging demographic of “spoken word-as-theater” enthusiasts, who seek a more intimate, yet interactive environment. “We have identified a need within a younger, more social demographic and want to engage them to find a passion for theater,” offers Ann Joseph Douglas. “Our re-invention includes a plan to grow these relationships and merge new passions into our pot along with the greatest patrons and supporters in the world.”
Congo Square Theatre will present their 2nd annual Festival on The Square during weekends in June, that will be highlighted by a unique presentation of Bulrusher. Events will be held at the company’s new home, Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont, in Chicago’s Southport Corridor.
About the Company
Congo Square Theater Company is an ensemble-based entity that seeks to broaden the scope of the theater-going experience. The ensemble’s effort matches education and the performances of productions that push the envelope in the telling of the diverse stories from within the African Diaspora – that ultimately resonate throughout humanity. Congo Square was founded in 1999 by two talented and determined theater artists with a commitment to artistic excellence.
For more on Congo Square Theatre Company – visit http://www.congosquaretheatre.org