By Eelisa Jones
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Community Engagement Committee has begun its most recent efforts to connect members of minority communities to the theatrical arts. The committee aims to promote The Rep’s upcoming performances of the six-time Tony Award-winning rendition of Dreamgirls.
The committee, headed by communications professional, Cecelia Gilbert, acted as a liaison and coordinator among predominately African American communities last year to make The Color Purple one of The Rep’s most diversely- attended plays.
The Community Engagement Committee began last year when the theater’s administration recognized a lack of minority representation within its audiences. Gilbert said that The Rep’s downtown location may have created an elitist impression among members of minority communities.
The Community Engagement Committee formed and now aims to dissolve this illusion by actively engaging those who have been underrepresented in live-theater audiences.
The committee consists of a number of established minority community leaders including Gilbert and Genyne Edwards, Principle Consultant of WOO Connections and partners of P3 Development Group, LLC.
“The role of the committee is to provide an opportunity for there to be a deeper connection and commitment to support productions,” said Edwards.
“Part of my role is to serve as a liaison, but also to do direct outreach to specific African American groups – businesses, professional groups, art groups, fraternities, sororities, and other groups of African American stakeholders and leaders.”
Last year, with The Color Purple, the committee partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Pearls for Teen Girls, Johnson Controls Women’s Resource Network, Fuel Milwaukee, One MKE, and others to provide reduced price and complimentary tickets to those who may not have otherwise gotten a chance to be a part of last year’s audiences.
Committee organizers coordinated the production’s first rehearsal at Holy Redeemer Church of God in Christ – where attendees were able to learn more about the production and interact with cast members.
The Rep has also made strides in diversifying its cast. Minorities composed over half of its on-stage talent last year.
This summer, the Community Engagement Committee will once again extend its efforts to engage Milwaukee’s minorities. Committee organizers are currently in the process of selecting a location for Dreamgirls’ first rehearsal.
This event will be especially unique, as attendees will be able to witness the first assembly of the production’s cast.
In addition to the first rehearsal, the committee will host other promotional and networking events throughout the summer months.
The Rep has been particularly conscientious about selecting theater pieces with insightful stories, said Gilbert. Like The Color Purple, Dreamgirls features a story of an “underdog” who achieves well-deserved success.
Gilbert said that Dreamgirls will particularly interest audience members who grew up during the 60s and 70s or who have an eye for fashion.
The musical will also act as an opportunity for younger audience members to experience Motown culture.
For more information, you can contact the Milwaukee Repertory Theater at (414) 224-9490 or visit their website at www.milwaukeerep.com