By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
From Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood, “Shots Fired” is a 10-part event mystery that examines the dangerous aftermath of two racially-charged shootings by law enforcement in a small Southern town. With amazing music, and an all-star cast led by Sanaa Lathan, Stephen James, Mack Wilds and Helen Hunt, “Shots Fired” will entertain and challenge perspectives.
VARIETY, a weekly entertainment publication says “Shots Fired” is “A worthy and excellent new series that works as both a television drama and an interlocking array of engagements with some of the most thorny issues of our time.”
The first episode aired on March 22, and for a Wednesday night offering on Fox TV, it’s worth taking a look. There also was a public screening in Chicago last month for this new series.
The main case revolves around a twist in the Black Lives Matter movement: a Black cop is accused of killing a white motorist, but as the case unwinds, it is revealed that a similar case, where a young Black man was killed, wasn’t receiving as much media coverage or investigative attention as it should. The series exposes the depths of police shootings in racially-charged environments and is expected to be one of the most talked about in television history and will stimulate conversation across the nation.
The producers and music supervisors (Jabari Ali/John Houlihan) have enlisted top talent to musically tell the story of this highly-anticipated drama. Three-time Grammy nominated artist BJ The Chicago Kid is the title track artist. “Shots Fired” also features songs from Aloe Blacc, Da Honorable C-Note, Leon Bridges, Antonique Smith, Swizz Beatz, NAS, Anthony Hamilton, Mali Music, Sunshine Anderson, Ro James, Heather Victoria, Detail, Emeli Sande, E-40, Scarface, Ruff Endz, Big Bill Morganfield, Dionne Farris, Marqus Clae, and Shire.
I Am Not Your Negro at Gene Siskel Film Center March 31 to April 6
A documentary based on the unfinished work by the iconic civil rights activist and author James Baldwin will once again screen at Gene Siskel Theatre, 164 N. State St .
“I am Not Your Negro” is a documentary about Baldwin, which is filled with footage—some never before seen—about the civil rights movement. Before his death in 1987, Baldwin had been working on a piece that would look at the lens of racism as it related to the lives and deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. While Baldwin never finished the piece, Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck took up the mantle and presents this film, using actor Samuel L. Jackson as the narrator, which is not only visually appealing with its footage and vintage video of Baldwin, but awe-inspiring for the message that it gives.
The documentary shows Baldwin coming back to the United States to New York from his then-home in France to report on the state of Black America. In one explosive interview—in only the way that Baldwin could deliver—talk show host Dick Cavett questions Baldwin in 1968 about why Negroes aren’t optimistic, even with the progress that had been made in the Black community. This so-called progress came in the guise of Negro mayors, athletes and even in television commercials. Baldwin deflects the “Negro” question, saying that it doesn’t matter what the Negro has done up to that point, it matters more about what was going to happen to this country. That statement then is even more relevant now.
Further, in the film, which was up for an Oscar during the recent Academy awards season, Baldwin highlights contradictions in what America says and what the dominant culture actually does. There are explosive scenes of Dr. King being attacked in Marquette Park in 1966, Blacks being pummeled with water hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as noteworthy Black cinema like “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Imitation of Life.” We see a bit of the Jerry Springer show and protests by the Black Lives Matter movement. These images show the importance of the role that Hollywood and media play in portraying Black life.
The movie has been described as telling the “not so pretty story about the Negro in America,” and one person who has seen it already not only agrees that the story isn’t pretty, but that Baldwin never pulled punches in telling the story. According to Birmingham native and North Sider Belinda Silber: “Every time you would see Baldwin on the screen with some white elite liberal you knew that he or she was going to be in trouble. They would ask their questions and expect a ‘kumbaya’ moment, where both parties would display a sheepish grin, as if all was right with the world, but Baldwin always responded with blistering truth with eloquence while posing like a dandy with his ever present cigarette.” She continued: “People often use the expression that someone is ‘lit;’ well Baldwin is the fire.”
For more information about the Gene Siskel Film Center, visit http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/iamnotyournegro.
The Wiz at Theater Wit Closes April 16
Kokandy Productions is pleased to launch its fifth anniversary season with a revival of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “The Wiz” at Theater Wit, which is located at 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
“The Wiz” is an urbanized retelling of Frank Baum’s Classic 1900 children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” in the context of 20th Century African-American culture. Brown’s gritty revival puts the focus on “what it means to live with intelligence, compassion and courage in today’s tough cities.” Follow the yellow brick road with a dazzling mix of rock, gospel and soul. The 1975 Broadway production of “The Wiz” won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.
“The Wiz” will feature Sydney Charles as Dorothy; Gilbert Domally as Scarecrow; Steven Perkins as Tin Man; Chuckie Benson as Lion; Nicole Michelle Haskins as Aunt Em/Evillene; Anna Dauzvardis as Glinda; Frederick Harris as The Wiz and Angela Alise as Addaperle; with Breon Arzell, Kyrie Courter, TJ Crawford, Desmond Gray, Jyreika Evelyn Guest, De’Jah Perkins, Tia Pinson and Michael Rawls.
Tickets are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com or by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.
About Kokandy Productions
Kokandy Productions seeks to leverage the heightened reality of musical theater to tell complex and challenging stories with a focus on contributing to the development of Chicago-based musical theater works while raising the profile of Chicago’s storefront musical theater community. Kokandy Productions is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization.
The company’s artistic staff is comprised of Allison Hendrix (Producing Artistic Director), John D. Glover (Artistic Producer), Scot T. Kokandy (Executive Producer) and Kory Danielson (Resident Music Director).
The Scene at Writers Theatre Closes April 2
What starts off with an amusing exchange at a hip Manhattan party quickly turns into something more complex. When close friends Charlie and Lewis meet Clea, a determined young woman making her mark on the New York scene, it sets them off on an emotional roller coaster. This provocative comedy-drama explores the dark edges of commitment and the struggles of balancing authenticity with ambition. The production stars Charin Alvarez as Stella; LaShawn Banks as Lewis; Mark L. Montgomery as Charlie and Deanna Myers as Clea.
All of the actors in this play are phenomenal, but Clea steals the show. She plays an annoying fame-seeking new transplant to New York, who uses every opportunity to climb up the ladder in the film industry. In her wake, she leaves a torn marriage and relationships. Writers Theatre Resident Director Kimberly Senior, who recently directed the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Disgraced” on Broadway and who has helmed past Writers Theatre hits “The Letters,” “Hedda Gabler,” “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Marjorie Prime,” takes on Theresa Rebeck’s wickedly biting and often hilarious play about the search for the ever elusive “place-to-be” and the three old friends whose lives are irrevocably changed when they discover how fragile the foundations of their relationships really are.
This explosive play is in performance at Writers Theatre, located at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, Illinois. For more information, visit http://www.writerstheatre.org/the-scene.