Descendants of American Slaves Forge New Lives in World Premiere Ten Square, in Chicago

News   Descendants of American Slaves Forge New Lives in World Premiere Ten Square, in Chicago
MPAACT and Pegasus Players, two acclaimed Chicago theatre companies, will collaborate to present the fall world premiere of Shepsu Aakhu Ten Square, a play about reparations to African-Americans whose roots are in slavery.

Performances of the future-set play will be at Pegasus Players' home at 1145 W. Wilson Avenue in the O'Rourke Center at Truman College, Sept. 25-Nov. 22. Opening is Oct. 8.

Mignon McPherson Nance directs " a tale of what America could be, and much of what America has already become, in the not-too-distant future."

According to the companies, "On the heels of the government's apology to African-Americans for slavery, the Reparations Movement was born. The movement was successful, checks were written to the descendants of slaves, and the seeds for a new America were sown. Ten Square is one of the cities that emerged in 'New America' and the life of the African-American community has been forever altered. Roosevelt, a resident of Ten Square and a soldier duty-bound to protect the new world order, must negotiate between his obligations to his lover, his family and his government."

The cast of Ten Square includes Leonard House (Roosevelt), Daryl Charisse (Mama), Earl Fox (Sandman), Eddie Jordan III (Drexel), Nambi E. Kelley (Talia), Carla Stillwell (Lieutenant Truth), Austin Talley (Colonel), Andre Teamer (Leviticus) and Sati Word (Clyde). Live music will be performed by Red Clay.

Carla Stillwell, MPAACT artistic associate, said in a statement, "Though American society has come a long way in terms of civil and human rights, there is always more progress that needs to be made. The issue of race is still affecting our society on many different levels, involving and impacting everyone. We [MPAACT] embraced this piece because it challenges audiences to keep talking about what factors influence us today, and what 'freedom' and 'loyalty' mean to individuals — all individuals. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with Pegasus Players and hopefully reach a wider, more diverse audience to keep that dialogue going." "Both MPAACT and Pegasus Players have always held a common interest in producing theatre that is as socially relevant and provocative as it is entertaining, inviting the audience into an active conversation about the issues that shape us today," stated Pegasus Players executive/artistic director Christopher Schram. "Ten Square focuses on the African-American community as a vehicle for exploring issues that matter to everyone, regardless of race, nationality or culture. The concerns in the play are human concerns, and we're thrilled to partner with MPAACT to present this powerful work of theatre."

The design team for Ten Square includes Jessica Kuehnau (set), Casey Diers (lighting), Evelyn Danner (costume), Shepsu Aakhu and Theodore Berry (sound) and Andre Teamer (props). Dramaturgy is by Lenora Inez Brown, George Blaise is the music director, Christina Pretsch is the stage manager and Marcus D. Petrella is the production manager.

Shepsu Aakhu, playwright-in-residence with MPAACT, has developed several critically acclaimed works in the Playwright's Laboratory. In 2004, Aakhu was awarded the prestigious Artistic Fellowship in Scriptworks by the Illinois Arts Council. He is a two-time recipient of the Theodore Ward Prize for Playwriting, for Ten Square (2008-9) and Kiwi Black (2001-2002). He is a six-time nominee for Best Original Stage Play (Aldridge Award) by the Black Theater Alliance Awards (BTAA) of Chicago. Aakhu received the Ira Aldridge Award in 1999 for The Abesha Conspiracy and in 2007 for Trouble the Water. Aakhu is also a three-time nominee for the Joseph Jefferson citation in multiple categories. He received two Joseph Jefferson citations for original music in 2002 and 2003.

Tickets may be purchased by calling Pegasus Players box office at (773) 878-9761 or online at


Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MPAACT) was founded in 1991 by a group of like-minded individuals who shared an artistic vision and who "wanted to develop, nurture, and sustain Afrikan Centered Theatre, which is grounded in the many cultures and traditions of the African continent and its Diaspora." With a vision focused on creating new work and collaborative art, MPAACT "produces and educates with the goal of increasing understanding and appreciation of Afrikan Centered Theatre and its interrelated disciplines, including not only main stage and standing productions but also a playwright's laboratory, original music, a publishing company (Sakhu Publications), an arts education program, and many workshops and master classes." For more information, visit

For 30 years Pegasus Players has been committed to providing high quality, socially-conscious theatrical programming to the people of Chicago, especially those who have limited access to the arts. Pegasus Players "is committed to presenting new and contemporary work that crosses cultural, social, and geographical boundaries and brings communities together by presenting works that provoke conversation." Through programs such as its annual Young Playwrights Festival and international tours of its productions, Pegasus Players "has touched the hearts, minds and futures of thousands of people throughout Chicago and around the world." Pegasus Players has received 79 Joseph Jefferson Citations, more than any other theatre. For more information, visit

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