Blizzard Bounce Back THIS THURSDAY
An Evening with Kwame Kwei-Armah Rescheduled
CENTERSTAGE Hosts Acclaimed Playwright (Elmina’s Kitchen)
and Community Activist in a Conversation
on the Arts and Social Change
for our production of LET THERE BE LOVE
CENTERSTAGE will present British playwright and international arts advocate Kwame Kwei-Armah, along with a panel of Baltimore community leaders, this Thursday, February 18, immediately following the 7 pm performance of Let There Be Love, in a community conversation on the arts and social change.
This is an abbreviated version of the full event, An Evening with Kwame Kwei-Armah, which had to be canceled on February 8 due to the blizzard.
A co-presentation with Open Society Institute-Baltimore (OSI), Mr. Kwei-Armah will address the audience and then take part in a panel discussion with local community leaders from the social justice and arts communities. The evening will end with a question-and-answer session with the audience.
The panelists will be Doreen Bolger, Director of the Baltimore Museum of Art; Bashi Rose, Playwright, Director, and Co-founder of Nommo Theatre; and Debra Rubino, Director of Strategic Communications at OSI-Baltimore. Marc Steiner of WEAA Radio will moderate.
The Urbanite will provide additional support.
Kwame Kwei-Armah, CENTERSTAGE Associate Artist and award-winning playwright of Elmina’s Kitchen (2004–05 Season) and this season’s Let There Be Love (now through Mar 7), is an internationally renowned playwright, arts advocate, community activist, actor, and recording artist.
“When I hear him speak, I hear a deep human love that challenges each of us to be our best. In moments of disagreement, Kwame creates common ground, not confrontation. Kwame personifies the creative, unifying force of the arts. I love his big thinking and his great heart. He has a global reach, a personal touch and inspires all of us to be unconstrained by boundaries. Kwame is a natural conduit for public discussion.”
—Lynn Deering, CENTERSTAGE Trustee
BIOGRAPHY: Kwame Kwei-Armah
In addition to his acting, writing, directing, and singing, Kwame Kwei-Armah is an enthusiastic proponent and persuasive advocate of social change through the arts, and works extensively on an international basis as an arts activist. He serves as an unofficial goodwill and cultural ambassador for Britain and is one of the most recognized commentators on culture in England, appearing regularly on the radio and in print. He is presently a writer-in-residence for BBC Radio Drama; an associate artist and board member of the National Theatre of Great Britain; and an associate artist at both London’s Tricycle Theatre and Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE.
During his residency at the Bristol Old Vic, he wrote three plays: A Bitter Herb (Peggy Ramsey Award), Blues Brother Soul Sister, and Big Nose. His triptych of plays, Elmina’s Kitchen, Fix Up, and Statement of Regret, which detail the struggles of the British African-Caribbean community, premiered at the National Theatre between 2003 and 2007. Elmina’s Kitchen transferred to London’s West End (the equivalent of New York’s Broadway)—the first ever transfer of a play by a British African-Caribbean—before playing at CENTERSTAGE and in Chicago.
To millions, Kwame is best known as a television actor for his role as paramedic Finlay Newton in the BBC drama series, Casualty, from 1999 to 2004, and for his recurring role on Casualty’s sister series, Holby City.
“Kwame Kwei-Armah is a playwright, who engages with the politics of race in a combative and thoughtful style. Racy, funny and intelligent.”
—London Evening Standard
Among many honors, he has won the Evening Standard Charles Wintor Award for Most Promising Playwright, the Screen Nation Award for Favourite TV Actor, the 100 Black Men of Britain Public Figure Award, and the 2007 RECON Community Leadership Award.
Most recently, he directed Eisa Davis’s ten-minute play, Dave Chappelle Was Right, for the 24-Hour Plays on Broadway and his own Let There Be Love in London. (The American debut of Let There Be Love will be at CENTERSTAGE from February 10 to March 7, 2010.) His most recent play, Seize the Day, opened to excellent reviews in London in November 2009, and his teleplay, Walter’s War, earned top ratings on BBC-TV the same month.
Also in 2009, he received accolades for speaking out about his Christian faith and African identity in the BBC documentary, Christianity: A History, and he hosted the Channel Four series, On Tour with The Queen, which looked at the impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s tour of the Commonwealth in the 1950s. He met with King George Tupou V of Tonga, Sitiveni Rabuka, and Queen Elizabeth II for the episode.
“Kwei-Armah is a storyteller of potency and vitality.”
—The Washington Post
“Elmina’s Kitchen demands a lot from theatergoers….the issues that Kwei-Armah raises…transcend national and ethnic boundaries. This is a writer whose voice is at once new and disturbingly familiar, and CENTERSTAGE deserves credit for taking the bold risk of introducing him to American audiences.”
—The Baltimore Sun
The following is taken in it's entirety from a story in
The world of Kwame Kwei-Armah
By Naomi West
Published: 12:01AM GMT 19 Jan 2008
National treasure: Kwame Kwei-Armah
Kwame Kwei-Armah, 40, is a musician, playwright and actor. In November he completed his trilogy of plays for the National Theatre with Statement of Regret. His newest play, Let There Be Love, about a cantankerous West Indian man and his Polish cleaner, is on at the Tricycle Theatre until February 16 (020-7328 1000; ticketweb.co.uk). He lives in north London with his wife and four children.
Routine While we were rehearsing for Let There Be Love I got up at 7am, rehearsed during the day and wrote at night. Rehearsals finished about 5.30pm, then I went home, chilled out, did a couple of hours' work on the script.
Favourite singers When I was young I wanted to be a crooner, and Nat King Cole was the ultimate crooner. I decided Alfred, the main character in my new play, would have been proud to play Nat King Cole - he and his cleaner bond over music. The modern singers that made me want to sing were Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Bobby Womack, the big soul kings. I thought, you are a god if you can sing like that.
Early inspiration When I was 12 I was taken to Stratford-upon-Avon to see The Taming of the Shrew with Jonathan Pryce. It started with somebody in the audience jumping up and shouting, security ran down the aisles after him. I remember thinking, 'We've come all this way and the play's not going to happen.' Then up came the curtain. I was transported.
Writing inspiration I came to the Tricycle to see August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. I was 24 and it switched me to thinking about writing. Although it was so brilliant, I thought I could never come close, and it stopped me writing for maybe a decade.
Television The adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots was the biggest thing. It was on when I was 11 and I changed my path. It inspired me to start connecting myself with Africa and to find my true identity.
Travel I first went to Ghana in 1992. I remember it like yesterday. I was still Ian Roberts then [he changed his name after that visit] and I still have the guide book with 'Property of Ian Roberts' written in it and my itinerary. On the wall I visited Ghana again last year and brought back a lovely painting. It's all in yellows and whites, of three women. It has a very African sensibility, a lightness and a depth.
Most treasured gift My mother passed away a couple of years ago, and just before she died she told me to find her ticket from Grenada to England in 1962 and gave it to me. It was in the bottom of a suitcase and still in near-perfect condition. I'm her first child so it's an heirloom. I've framed it and hung it on my wall. It's the roots of me; were it not for that, she would not have met my father.
Books I'm reading a book about the American invasion of Grenada in 1984 by a wonderful historian called Richard Hart. My friend Naomi Wallace, whose play I directed in Baltimore last year, gave me first editions of James Baldwin's Blues for Mr Charlie and The Fire Next Time so I'm working my way through those again.
Indispensable gadget Apart from my laptop, it's my Sonos music system. It's a digital box that allows me to have different music playing in different rooms all over the house. I adore it. It's perfect for a house of music lovers.
Songwriting I'd love to have time to write songs. I still have lots of musical ideas. The wonderful thing is my eldest son (Kwame, 15) is a gifted musician and producer and he is remixing and rearranging some of my old songs. It's really bizarre: I wrote them when he was about two and he would be in the studio with me.
On the stereo I'm listening to an old Aretha Franklin album, Jump to It, that was produced by Luther Vandross, which is just brilliant. And also to Angelique Kidjo, a West African singer, and the original Aswad albums.
Favourite household object My table football. We have had it for about two years and play endless matches. I am the most competitive, though. I was playing my son Kofi (11) the other day, we got to 9-9 and I was giving it everything. When I scored I was punching the air.
Homecooked meal I could eat chicken with rice and peas and fried plaintain every day. Also jollof rice, an African rice with stew. I adore that.
Future projects At the moment I'm finishing one play for a West End producer, and starting another for the National Theatre and one for an American company, Centerstage, in Baltimore.
Evening I go to bed at about 2am. I'm used to sleeping for five or six hours - my body wakes up after six hours.
Interview: Naomi West
Theater as Foreign Policy
At the 2008 TCG Conference in Denver, Kwame Kwei-Armah, British playwright, actor and director, spoke of theatre as a tool for foreign policy.
View the video by clicking the image.