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August Wilson Center - Front & Center » August Wilson Center - “Amplifying African American Voices”

Posts Tagged ‘August Wilson Center’

Explore the Unknown in 2010…You Just Might Like It!

Posted in Events, General on January 5th, 2010 by Shaunda – 1 Comment

Happy New Year!

Many of you are returning back to work after a week or two of family fun, festive feasting or just plain old much-needed solitude.

Whatever the case may be, it’s 2010–a new year, for a better version of you. Well, statistics show that many people tend to fade off of their new year’s resolutions within the first 3 months of the new year, never reaching their goals. I know someone who has denounced the phrase “New Year’s Resolution” and instead has vowed to make “lifestyle adjustments.” How refreshing.

What is your lifestyle adjustment? Okay–beyond the typical “exercise more” and “stop smoking/cursing/etc.”–what is your goal?

I overheard an interesting conversation between two middle-aged women. One woman pointed at an advertisement for an event going on in the Pittsburgh Cultural District, and encouraged her friend to come along. The friend, scrunched her face and said “I’ll pass, thanks,” citing the fact that she had never heard of the performer and never had been to that type of event before. Clearly it wasn’t her style. Out of her comfort zone. Foreign.

LINES Ballet @ August Wilson Center Jan. 15-16

LINES Ballet @ August Wilson Center Jan. 15-16

As the conversation progressed, the first woman expressed how she had made a promise to her family that in the New Year they would go to more cultural events in the city. To myself, I thought, what a great “lifestyle adjustment.” After some coaxing, the second woman agreed to go.

As we begin the second half of our Inaugural Season in the brand new August Wilson Center, I encourage you all to explore the unknown. In examining the Center’s impressive and aggressive schedule of events, I realize there may be more unfamiliar than familiar names on the lineup. Also, for many performers, Pittsburgh may be unfamiliar to them. Admittedly, a few performers are indeed alien to me, a self-proclaimed cultural enthusiast.  However, I consider it a good thing, for I find it challenges me to traverse deeper into the plush rainforest we call arts and culture.

Daniel Bernard Roumain @ the August Wilson Center Feb. 6

Daniel Bernard Roumain @ the August Wilson Center Feb. 6

In about two weeks, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet will grace the August Wilson Center stage. They are performing a piece, Signs and Wonders, celebrated by The New York Times as a work that “remains unpredictable and inventive, right up to its dazzling, fast-moving finale.” The piece, which was originally commissioned by Dance Theatre of Harlem, has toured around the world to critical acclaim and will be at the August Wilson Center January 15-16.

Then during Black History Month, the Center is presenting Daniel Bernard Roumain–a classically trained composer, performer, violinist, and band-leader noted for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form. My musical thirst (especially) is very comprehensive, and since DBR was foreign to my ipod, I decided on a whim to purchase his latest project, etudes4violin&electronix. I am actually listening to it now for the first time, and have yet to be disappointed and find myself looking forward to his February 6th performance at the Center.

Here are a few more events the Center is presenting in 2010:

Tribute to Phyllis Hyman - Feb. 19

Feb. 19

  • Habib Koite - An internationally-known Malian musician who sings and plays the guitar, integrating jazz, blues, flamenco, samba and diverse sounds from his native land.  Koite was donned “Mali’s biggest pop star” by Rolling Stone. In the same article, country/blues-star Bonnie Raitt compared Koite to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He will be at the Center March 13.

    May 21

    May 21

  • Rennie Harris Puremovement - If you can appreciate dance and pure athleticism seeing this performance will definitely be worth your time. Known as the international hip-hop ambassadors, this Philly-based dance company strives to provide audiences with a sincere view of the essence and spirit of hip-hop, rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes most often presented by the media. Rennie Harris Puremovement will be at the Center May 21.

To see a complete list of all of the August Wilson Center’s upcoming events, click here!

Here’s to exploring the unknown in 2010–HAPPY NEW YEAR!

CHEERS!

Regina Carter Review: To Know Her, Is to Love Her

Posted in Events, General, Guest Posts, Review on January 2nd, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
The following is a guest-post from arts and cultural enthusiast Carmen Ramsey Ellington. Carmen, an avid supporter of the August Wilson Center, attended the Regina Carter concert in December. Internationally acclaimed jazz violinist Regina Carter and her quartet performed pieces from her Paganini project along with music from Mali, Senegal and Uganda. Carter brought sold-out audiences to their feet with a musical style Time magazine called “probingly intelligent” and “breathtakingly daring.” This concert was presented in partnership with MCG Jazz. Carmen wanted to share her experience at the August Wilson Center with you.

Regina Carter

Regina Carter

Breathtaking.

That single word has reverberated in my mind since my mother and I had the pleasure of seeing Regina Carter and her band in concert at the August Wilson Center on December 12th.  Neither of us had ever seen Carter perform and in fact knew almost nothing about her or her music.  We were attending the concert primarily to support the Center.  Carter’s talent drew the two neophytes in, and quickly.

She opened her show with a lush, romantic piece by Habib Koite, who, coincidentally, will be performing at the August Wilson Center in mid-March 2010.  My first thought was that the song belonged on the soundtrack of a sweeping romantic epic, set somewhere like Mozambique or Cote D’Ivoire.  My second thought was that she should come back to the Center in March and perform the song with Koite.  She had my undivided attention from the very first note to the very last.

Regina Carter

Regina Carter

I felt as though I was being treated to an auditory travelogue.  The music took me to places I’ve never seen:  Uganda, Mali, Madagascar.  The melodies were at turns serious and cheeky.  The band’s 20-minute tribute to post-Katrina New Orleans was so rollicking, I had to remember that I wasn’t in the midst of Mardi Gras and had to remain in my seat.  The band also played a song in tribute to the arts and supporters of the arts.  It was a wonderful piece that made me think of all the reasons why arts education is so important.  Music truly is a universal language, one that should be cultivated and taught at an early age.

Carter was, of course, the evening’s focal point, but her band was amazing as well. I loved how well they meshed, and how Carter gave each plenty of room to shine.  Each one of the gentlemen in her band brought something unique to the evening, but surprisingly, the one who sticks out in my mind the most is Will Holshouser, the accordion player.  I never imagined that accordion music could be romantic and a bit sexy.  And Yacouba Sissoko, the kora (West African harp) player, was simply captivating.

Capitvating.  Sexy.  Romantic.  Breathtaking.  Regina Carter and her band were all that and then some.

–Carmen Ramsey Ellington

The Real ‘Women of the Hill’ Talk

Posted in Events, General, Guest Posts on January 2nd, 2010 by Shaunda – 2 Comments
The Women of the Hill
The following is a guest-post from Norma Thompson and Charlene Foggie Barnett — two of the six women who had the opportunity to act out their life stories on the August Wilson Center stage in “The Women of the Hill.” The stage piece, produced and directed by Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks, embodied the legacy of the strong women at the heart of African American culture–specifically Pittsburgh’s historical Hill District. Norma and Charlene wanted to share their experiences with you. The play and the women were the featured cover story in the Pittsburgh City Paper on November 19, 2009.

Forever Changed

Norma Thompson

Norma Thompson

One of the greatest experiences of my life was working in the production of The Women of the Hill. The producers, Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks, were excellent. Our technical staff, stage manager, and all others who worked with us had so much spirit and understanding.

Each of our stories was unique in their own way, but they wove a tapestry of the similar experiences of our lives and the history of the Hill District. The play set us on a journey together through the years -where we shared our ups and downs, triumphs and failures, hopes and fears - from the oldest to the youngest in the cast. The audience also traveled in the journey with us, and I am constantly hearing how our stories touched their lives. The audience shares in our bond with their hope for all good things to come to the Hill.

The six of us formed a bond that I hope will never be broken. Kimberly, Marlene, Phillis, Brenda, Charlene, and I have a sisterhood that looks forward to all the wonderful things the future will bring to the Hill District.

–Norma Thompson

A Wonderful Sisterhood

From the moment I became aware of the play, “The Women of the Hill,” I felt magnetically drawn to the process. Simply put, I feel that my being cast in this play was a dream come true, and I will always cherish how seamlessly my “worlds” came together.

The thought of performing was not frightening to me, because I was a theatre major in college and have performed many times since, but never for anything as personal, nor historically significant as this. I gulped each time I remembered that this play was to be included in a celebration of the great playwright, August Wilson and his homage to the strength of the black women he encapsulated in the character, Aunt Esther, of his historic Pittsburgh Cycle of plays. The thought of being a performer in this beautiful theatre, in its inaugural season, was at times, unfathomable to me.

Once confirmed that I was indeed in this play, I couldn’t wait for the rehearsal process to start and to meet the other ladies chosen. The evening finally came when I walked into the August Wilson Center, and we were introduced to one another. Immediately, we started filling in connective links as to how we might know each other, and our family and friends. Talvin Wilks, our writer/director, gave us a script overview, and discussed the next phases of the production. We did our first reading of a portion of the play, and it started to come clear to us, how this unique presentation would be performed. We all left filled with anticipation for the next meeting, and a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie began to unfold. Talvin brought treats for us to nibble on for each session, as many of us were coming from work for rehearsals, but then one cast mate made us some tasty chili one evening, and that set the tone for all of us to take turns bringing something to keep our energy up for the two weeks of rehearsals, prior to the show. One thing that stood out about our cast was it’s strong faith in God, and we prayed before each rehearsal and performance, for His honor and glory. We gave cast and crew members rides and helped each other in any way, necessary.

Charlene Foggie Barnett

Charlene Foggie Barnett

In the course of these weeks, we had rewrites, and script changes everyday, as things had to be tightened for the pace of the show. It was often quite hard to relinquish a beloved storyline, but we came to understand and appreciate the stride we needed to allow the performance to take. Along with rehearsals came television, radio, and newspaper interviews and photo sessions. We made our costume selections, which basically was to be any outfit in which we felt comfortable and most like ourselves.

In addition, Ping Chong always includes a potluck dinner with the cast and crew, prior to the production of his shows. I was privileged to host the potluck in my home, which was like having our own Thanksgiving with our new “Women of the Hill” family. We even celebrated two birthdays.

Finally the day came to hold our first rehearsal on the main stage. The script, lighting, music, props, and costumes - everything was coming together. We were all very excited, and at times edgy, because changes come fast in live theatre, and adapting quickly is essential. The full production staff, from our director’s, and stage manager all the way to the wardrobe mistress, was all wonderfully accommodating and supportive of any thing we needed. Before each actual show, Talvin and Ping led us in “theatre games” on stage, which cemented the vibrations of everyone’s feelings, and created a sense of trust between we six actors.

The performances felt magical, and although we were nervous, we gained strength from each other and through the response of the audience. It was very difficult to do our last show. We had only done one weekend together, but it felt like saying goodbye to a season long run! Many of the “professionals” commented on our positive attitude, and I can attest that I have never felt so connected to both cast and crew, in any other show I’ve ever done. I’ve had countless emails of praise from friends and audience members who attended the show. I was also stopped at the grocery store by a new couple to the Pittsburgh area, who said the piece taught them so much about the Hill District’s rich history, and they are even more proud to call Pittsburgh their new home.

My gratitude for this opportunity knows no bounds. The spirit of the August Wilson Center staff is as beautiful and impressive as the facility they work in. Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks brought the best of our collective pasts to light, and patiently gave us the confidence and poise to reveal our stories. In turn, we were honored to bring a positive view of our beloved Hill District, to the world. My thanks to my fellow cast mates, for their respect, love and friendship. I am truly blessed!

–Charlene Foggie Barnett

Contract Resistance: Hip-Hop, Soul & More

Posted in Events, General on October 20th, 2009 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

hiphopeblast2

It’s all going down this Friday — don’t miss out on how the August Wilson Center does hip-hop, soul and more!
The beats are tight and the grooves smooth as the August Wilson Center, the Shadow Lounge and Urban Kontent Brand present an evening of hip-hop and soul collective performances featuring hip-hop artists Formula412, J-San & The Analogue Sons, Chen-Lo, D.C.’s own W. Ellington Felton, Common Wealth Family, Kellee Maize, DJ Selecta will provide the house music and Yah Lioness & Gene Stovall will host the evening.

Free After Party* @ Shadow Lounge featuring J-San & the Analogue Sons and Man in the Street…Plus DJ Vex spinning in AVA til 2 am! Show your ticket stub at the door.

TICKETS: $15 —–> PURCHASE NOW

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL….

State of Hip-Hop Forum

Friday, October 23, 6 pm
Free

Explore the economic, social, political and musical influences of hip-hop, both in the United States and around the world, at this special “town hall” discussion featuring a panel of hip-hop artists, including Paradise Gray, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis (aka Dr. Goddess), DJ Boogie, DJ Omar-Abdul and Jasiri X. Appropriate for high school students and adults.

DJing Workshop

Saturday, October 24, Noon to 2 pm
$10/person

Explore the world of DJing in this hands-on course, appropriate for teens and adults. Learn the technical and musical skills necessary to become a DJ, including mixing and blending, scratching and beatmaking. Herman Pearl, aka DJ Soy Sos will be instructing. For details, call 412.338.8737 or e-mail swilliamsdevereux@AugustWilsonCenter.org.

One-on-One with Lalah Hathaway

Posted in Events, General on September 10th, 2009 by Shaunda – 3 Comments

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway


LISTEN NOW: One-on-One w/Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway is in the building.

Well, not literally, but she is in Pittsburgh and, from what I hear, is very excited about being the first performer in the August Wilson Center’s Inaugural Season. The energy level has been through the roof here in the Center’s offices…chatter is high on our Twitter, Facebook and MySpace pages–everyone is amp’d about Lalah.

Not that I needed a reason to, but Lalah Hathaway has been on heavy rotation on my iTunes. What is it about Lalah that makes people from various walks of life flock to her like bees to honey? When I told all of my musician and non-musician friends alike that the August Wilson Center was bringing Lalah into Pittsburgh, all of them had the same reaction–and it usually included screaming.

I asked one of my friends in particular, why she had such an appreciation for Lalah. Our conversation:

Me: Hey, I know you bought your ticket for Lalah, why do you like her?

Friend: WHY? WHY? I mean, there are so many answers to that. I mean, it’s not rocket science–she can SING!

Me: That’s it? That’s why you paid $45 to sit two inches from the stage to hear Lalah sing?

Friend: Lalah is set apart from the masses. Her music and sound are soulful, and everybody doesn’t have that. Most people sing just because they have talent. Lalah’s voice comes from a place of authentic soul.

My friend is correct. Lalah’s refreshing tone and vocal acrobatics are simply amazing, impeccably crisp and will leave you jaw-dropped for days. What’s bananas is that Lalah doesn’t even have to do a lot vocally to leave you memorized. I remember when her latest project Self Portrait first came out how my friends and I would listen to it intently, always turning up the volume at the end of every song because every Lalah fan knows that she tends to give us little vocal treats at the end of her songs. Man we wore that CD out. lol. Instrumentation — off the charts. Background singers (in her concerts) — will just have you shaking your head (do a Lalah search on YouTube to see what I mean). Her lyrics reach deep into your heart and connect with every issue in your life.

Lalah is authentic soul. Funny…..remind you of anybody else with the same last name?

PURCHASE TICKETS NOW

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

P.S. If you all see a woman standing and waving at the concert like that old lady from It’s Showtime at the Apollo—that’s just my friend–she means no harm, she just loves Lalah. Can you blame her?

It’s Official…the August Wilson Center blogs!

Posted in General on September 6th, 2009 by Shaunda – 1 Comment

It’s almost time.

In less than two weeks, the August Wilson Center’s permanent home will officially open to the public. Up until now, the Center’s six seasons of programming has been spread across the Pittsburgh Cultural District’s fine spaces like french fries on a Primanti Brother’s sandwich–but no more.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture will finally live, operate and exist in its own home at 980 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. Guess what—you are all invited to see what we are all about!

Now, you can experience the Center in a multitude of ways: You can always physically visit the Center (of course we encourage that), but you can also visit us via our Web site, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages.

However….if that’s not enough….(insert drum roll)….the August Wilson Center blogs! This is awesomeness on so many different levels because in THIS realm you will learn about the Center from the voices of various people working behind the scenes to the voices of people performing in the Center’s theater to those installing exhibits in the Center’s gallery spaces and everything in between.

While I will be the primary blogger, a couple of my other friends, who happen to be my colleagues, have agreed to get down and bloggy with me by submitting regular posts. This is magically delicious because we all share the same main goal — Amplifying the Voices of African Americans — but see the world through different spectacles, have varied experiences resulting in contrasting personalities and writing styles. For example, in this realm I tend to be more informal/some would say comedic, and guilty of making up a word or two just because I can (I promised my boss no misspelled words though lol). Sarah on the other hand, a brilliant mind, is very analytical and studious and may use a word or two that will have you searching Dictionary.com every now and then. Maybe that’s why she is the Manager of Education at the Center. The point is: RELAX and enjoy–it’s all done in a great effort to help you stay connected to the Center.

We look forward to being able to rap with you openly in this space. Feel free to hang your coat up and kick off your shoes. Let’s talk intimately about the art, history and culture of people of African descent throughout the world and in Western Pennsylvania and the issues that affect us all.

Real talk. Authentic voices.

So get ready—ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger