‘The Harlem Renaissance’ Takes Audiences Back to a Moment in Black History

The show runs Feb. 8-25.

Photo courtesy of Black Arts MKE

Black Arts MKE, in celebration of Black History Month, is presenting Harlem Renaissance, a new theatrical production for Milwaukee’s youth by young local playwright Malaina Moore.

Set inside Harlem’s legendary dancehall, The Savoy Ballroom, the performance features actors bringing to life four of the era’s icons – jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, painter Jacob Lawrence, writer Zora Neale Hurston and poet Langston Hughes.

Through swing, jazz, storytelling, art and scatting, young audiences will be transported to a pinnacle moment in Black history. Starting this week, students from throughout the city will attend shows for free every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in February.

Black Arts MKE anticipates more than 2,000 students will attend this new production during the month. Schools will also bring back resources to help them continue learning about the Harlem Renaissance in the classroom.

“As a Black artist myself, writing and directing this piece has been an exciting and emotional journey. It’s important to me that these students understand the beauty and artistry that came out of the Harlem Renaissance,” said Moore, who serves as director.



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“I want them to feel like they’re seeing themselves on stage and be empowered to create new works that represent their lives. There is power in the students not only learning about the history but understanding that the performers and the crew working behind the scenes are all Black and based in Milwaukee.”

The production is being held at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts’ Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall and is open only to schools and youth organizations, not the general public.

Ciara Hart appears as Fitzgerald, Joseph Brown as Lawrence, Destiny Faith as Hurston, and Dos Feurtado as Hughes.

“A key strategic goal for Black Arts MKE is to provide high-quality, transformative programming,” Executive Director Barbara Wanzo said. “This year we have expanded our Black History Month youth programming from three performances to nine. We are proud of our ever-growing efforts to provide culturally relevant, multidisciplinary arts programming for local schools.”

The ability to add performances stemmed from support from the United Performing Arts Fund Bright Minds Fund sponsored by We Energies, Wanzo noted.

The program is part of Black Art MKE’s year-round youth programming, which is delivered for free to schools throughout the Milwaukee area. Schools and organizations interested in registering for this production or future youth programming are encouraged to contact Ashley Jordan, director of arts and cultural programming at ajordan@blackartsmke.org.



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.