The African-American experience gets a voice again in San Francisco in the Afrosolo Theatre Company's seventh annual Afrosolo Arts Festival Aug. 5-27, held at four venues in the city. Along with workshops, a visual arts exhibition and a community AIDS forum, 2000's festival features performances from Mavis Staples of the Staples Sisters and nearly a dozen emerging African-American artists.
Staples returns to her gospel roots with A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson Aug. 26 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theatre. The voice behind the Staples Sisters' "Respect Yourself," "If You're Ready" and "I'll Take You There" (which earned her a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), she has since continued her rhythm and blues career, working with Kenny Loggins, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. As a part of the festival, Staples will receive the AfroSolo Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.
Aug. 23 and 24, five solo performers deliver their plays in two one-night programs. First will be Gaidi Nkruma's story of violence in three generations of a black family, More Than I Can Handle, Thomas R. Simpson's exploration of the Civil Right movement through the eyes of a black militant, There Is No Hatred Here and Alison Wright's biography of Gladys Bently, a lesbian cross-dresser and blues icon who lost everything during the McCarthy witch hunts. The second night features Awele with The Black Women Did It, the story of the lesser-known women who helped carry off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Cherly Simone's comic look at single motherhood at the turn of the century, Single With Kids. Both nights will be held at Theater Artaud.
The first actual performance in the festival, which begins with the AIDS forum Aug. 5, will be an evening with young performers age 20 and under held Aug. 19 at Z Space Studio. Several nights of up-and-coming adult performers will be held Aug. 23-25 and 27 at Theater Artaud.
Tickets to events range from $25-$5. A Festival package is available for $50. For information and reservations, call (415) 771-AFRO. Arfrosolo is on the web at http://www.afrosolo.org. -- By Christine Ehren