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Co-Lab acting intensive delves into classical theater through a BIPOC lens

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Co-Lab acting intensive delves into classical theater through a BIPOC lens
An image from the 2020 Co-Lab program. PHOTO: COURTESY OF COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

The Front Porch Arts Collective and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company have announced the second season of their Co-Lab program, a seven-day acting intensive for Black actors and Indigenous and POC allies. Running August 16-27, the program will allow actors of color to analyze and experience both Shakespearean texts and iconic works from playwrights of the Black diaspora such as August Wilson and Suzan Lori-Parks.

“We often imagine Shakespeare’s world and the world of August Wilson’s plays are in no way connected,” says Co-Lab Program Director Nehassaiu deGannes. “But if we expand our view to acknowledge Shakespeare was born just two years before the first British slaving voyage to Africa, we recognize that Shakespeare’s sense of the world was shaped by the same forces that would later displace August Wilson’s ancestors.”

The intensive program also dives into important skills such as resisting erasure during production and reclaiming the performance space. Other notable sessions include Hip-Hop Theatre and master classes with expert artists, including John Douglas Thompson, who will star in Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s “The Tempest” in this summer’s Shakespeare on the Common series.

The Front Porch Arts Collective is a Black theater company in Boston committed to perpetuating equity in the local theater industry. The partnership with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, an organization with 25 years of history in Boston theater, continues the work of carving out a space for POC performers in the established scene. It also offers an opportunity to reenergize Shakespearean texts, where actors of color are often relegated to the same handful of roles.

This year Co-Lab will be entirely remote, with all classes and sessions occurring on Zoom. A similar setup was used effectively in the 2020 Co-Lab program to maintain safety during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuition is $150 and hardship assistance is available. The deadline for applications is June 22. The course schedule is available online now for applicant review. The intensive is not meant for beginners; applicants are expected to have at least two years of experience. Organizers note that this is an intensive program occurring over a two-week period, and participants are expected to immerse themselves fully in the classes.

Founding Commonwealth Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Steve Maler notes, “Moving forward, we are committed to understanding how ‘classical theater’ — and specifically CSC — has excluded BIPOC artists; to transforming the existing structures that perpetuate that exclusion; and to collaborating with artists, artisans and administrators who will advance our work and our community.”

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