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Milwaukee Black Theater Festival Celebrates 'The Strength And Resilience Of The Black Woman'

Strength Of Black Women
Milwaukee Black Theater Festival
Black Butterflies is one of the performances featured for the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival (pictured left to right): Cynthia Cobb, Sheri Williams Pannell, Jada Davis and La'Ketta Caldwell

"The Strength and Resilience of the Black Woman” — that’s the theme for this year’s Milwaukee Black Theater Festival. The two-week event includes two-full-length productions, a new play reading and an outdoor youth night to support and celebrate local Black artists.

Malkia Stampley is the artistic producer for the festival, and says, "We saw that there where just not a lot of Black women roles, not a lot of Black women playwrights. The history of theater you just don’t see a lot of it, so in conversation we were like, ‘We want to change that narrative."

This year's theme was chosen to celebrate the contributions Black women have made to theater, their homes and the community. "Black women — they hold up communities, and in communities that they're in, you go to a Black church, it's Black woman running that church; you go to a Black community, it's the Black women who are raising these children or who are providing for the family. Whatever the case, they're the backbone of society, I would dare say," Malkia Stampley acknowledges.

Actor Camara Stampley knows how important it is to have representation in theater, especially since she plays the character Charlene in the festival's production of Pretty Fire. She reflects on her roll:"It's absolutely beautiful because of how familiar Charlene is. Charlene is ... someone's mom, she's someone's auntie, she's someone's sister, she's someone's cousin and she's phenomenal in ... how normal she is and how familiar she is. And having even the possibility of a little Black girl or a Black woman in the community coming to see the show and seeing themselves and how spectacular Charlene is and the journey of all of her pain and all of her triumph and all of her resilience, and finding all of those beautiful things within yourself."

After producing an all virtual festival last year, which Malkia Stampley dubs "Black Netflix," this festival returns to in person. "And through this festival, something different and something new is the spark, is the hope, is the dream of my ancestors, is the dream of the dream that I have for my children and Camara and for Milwaukee," she notes.

The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival runs until August 22 at the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee's Third Ward.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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