Cleveland State University will host its annual pre-Kwanzaa celebration, the Kuumba Arts Festival, on Saturday, December 8. This year’s event, entitled Shake Spear, Urban, will feature a special tribute to the African Grove Theater, which operated in New York City in the 1820’s and was one of the first arts institutions in the U.S. dedicated to presenting Shakespearean productions to Black audiences. The Festival is cosponsored by CSU’s Black Studies Program and the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.
The event will be held at 6:00 pm in the Roberta Steinbacher Atrium, located in the Levin College. The festivities are free and open to the public but tickets are required and can be obtained at the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center, located in Berkman Hall, Room 137 on campus.
The fest will feature performances of Shakespearean monologues and sonnets selected by Prester Pickett, MFA, coordinator of CSU’s Mims Cultural Center, which will be performed by a host of prominent Cleveland-area actors and performers.
“These performances are a quilt that represents the Black experience, where Black musical traditions serve as the thread that holds the fabric of Shakespearean script together while a variety of mosaic expressions portray history and address social justice issues,” says Pickett.
One of the featured performers in this year’s festival is Leilani Barrett, who has mounted an outstanding acting and teaching career with engagements on stage, and television that accent his impressive movement and voice techniques. In addition, Queen Margaret will be portrayed by stage and film actress Jeannine Gaskin, while Othello will be performed by Kenneth Parker, known for his downtown Cleveland appearances as Garrett A. Morgan. A royal African court will be represented with drumming by Sister Yvetta Eley, dancing by CSU student Aminat Adebayo, as well as singing that salutes the queen of soul, Areatha Frankin , by Andrea Coleman, and the queen of gospel, Mahalia Jackson, by Bertha Lee Pickett.
Other special guest performers include hip hop artists Donell Funderburk, Claybama, Michael Weatherspoon, and the vocal group Alpha Male highlighting the talent of Caleb Browning from Bedford High School, who appears in scenes that urbanize Romeo and Julietand Julius Caesar. Additional performers include Chad E. Siler, a high school student with the Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA), CSA staff member Anthony Brown and his son, Anthony X, a CSU Theater Major. Fight choreography will be directed by Greg Mayo, while CSU students provide support as house and stage managers, actors, dancers and camera technicians.
Angela Gillespie Winborn, manager of the Cleveland Show Wagon, will also be honored as the recipient of the Fest’s Silver B. Award for contributions to the local arts community.
Attendees are encouraged to bring new hats, gloves, scarves, and other winter items to be collected by the Black Studies Program and donated to the Norma Herr Women’s Center. For more information call (216) 687-3655 or visit csuohio.edu/class/black-studies.