By Mrinal Gokhale
This fall, Lights! Camera! Soul! a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) student club produced The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe, a satirical and sometimes controversial play African-American history and culture, sparking an intense discussion on race with the audience.
Performers don’t shy away from grappling with stereotypes.
“We got positive feedback for the most part, but one woman walked out after hearing a performer saying the n-word,” said club founder Ashley Jordan.
“I wish she stayed because one audience member said that he disproves of the n-word now, and says ‘my royal’ in place of it.”
After starting a Gofundme.com account in January, Jordan and co-founder Di’Monte Henning officially registered Lights! Camera! Soul! as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of becoming a leading adult arts and entertainment platform for a wide range of audiences.
“The Young Nonprofit Network Chapter of Wisconsin and the Nonprofit Organization of Milwaukee taught us the procedure of registering the organization’s name and obtaining the tax exempt form,” said Henning.
He first got the news that the organization would become a verified non-profit during a call from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“It was a feeling of excitement, mixed with relief, because we had finally achieved what we always wanted,” said Henning in an e-mail.
He attributes the achievement the volunteers, directors, and club officers that helped to make Lights! Camera! Soul! what it is.
Henning and Jordan, along with other board members will celebrate their victory during their Sweet as Gold Fundraiser on Aug. 8 at the Riverwest Jazz Art Gallery at 7 p.m. There, they will announce their plans for the next season and hold auditions for aspiring performers.
Although they plan to focus on giving underrepresented groups the opportunity to act, they allow people of all ethnicities to audition.
“When I look at the current arts industry in Milwaukee, I see the same performers being recycled due to lack of diversity,” said Henning.
“Milwaukee has no other organization promoting visual art, dance and theater. We don’t constrict to just one type of art.”
Henning and Jordan started Lights! Camera! Soul! at Alverno College in 2013, where Jordan was studying.
The two brought the student organization to UWM after Jordan transferred there, and their current members include UWM and Marquette students along with some other community members.
The Colored Museum sparked the most controversy of all Lights! Camera! Soul! shows, bringing out the personal views of the audience members and attracting 150 people on both show nights combined.
“This shows we’re innovating, changing, and pushing the envelope,” said Henning. “We want to give the audience something they crave, yet something different.”
Henning and Jordan have both been involved in theater since their childhood years. They are teaching assistants at First Stage Theater and work as independent contractors with acting agencies. Although they won’t reveal details of the organization’s new plans, Henning said to “get ready for three exciting seasons.”
Lights! Camera! Soul! is on Facebook (Lights Camera Soul) and may be also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SWEET AS GOLD Fundraising Gala Advanced Tickets sold online at: www.sweetasgold.brownpapertickets.com