Aaron Todd Douglas and The Congo Square Theatre Company receive an Ibsen Scholarship for the project The Master Builder Project: The Master Comic.
The Master Builder Project: The Master Comic
by Aaron Todd Douglas and The Congo Square Theatre Company from USA.
The jury’s conclusions:
The Master Builder Project: The Master Comic aims at exploring perceptions of success and other existential and identity problems that are specific to African Americans. It will do so by staging a new adaptation of The Master Builder in a satirical manner. The production will address issues such as race, respectability, what is success and politics. The project involves three phases: script development, a world premiere at Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago and subsequent symposium performances in Chicago, New York and Atlanta. Each event will include selected readings from the play and discussions with leading experts in the fields of racial equity, social inequality and American Theatre.
The background to the project is to be found in the paradox that as the two periods of the Obama Presidency comes to an end, instead of celebrating strides in racial equality in the United States by the very proof of a two term African American President, there has been an upsurge in racially motivated violence in the country. This has particularly been the case with police involved in assaults on young, black men. This has sparked new social movements as well as broad debates about race in the US. Issues that are central in this context are how black people seem to be powerless and deprived of basic human rights, and subject to discrimination more than fifty years after the Civil Rights Act.
The adaptation of the Ibsen play, which has the The Master Comic as its working title focuses on a black main character, who rose to the top of his craft in a system of white power structures. He destroyed others as he built his own legacy. His contemporaries and colleagues fall victims to mysterious circumstances resembling sabotage. The applicant mentions the rise and fall of Bill Cosby as a possible live model – a black entertainer, who on the outside is the picture of education, charm, wit, and class but has allegedly led a secret double life as a pathological victimizer.
The project will show how the themes of Ibsen’s play are relevant in other historical circumstances than those within which it was created. The production will through the adaptation of the play to a new environment take up the following central issues:
• What is it to be successful in America?
• How is this success further complicated through the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, immigrant status and ablebodiedness?
• What sacrifices are required for those outside of the 1% power elite in their pursuit of this success?
A central aim of this project is to encourage persons of all racial backgrounds and ethnicities to develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the link between race oppression and freedom.
Aaron Todd Douglas earned his MFA from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is a theatre faculty member at Northwestern University. He is a theatre practitioner who acts, directs, and teaches, and is a proud member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA. He is a founding ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company, where his acting credits include their multiple Jeff Award winning production of Seven Guitars, Boy Willie in their inaugural production of The Piano Lesson, Before it Hits Home, Spunk, and Ali. Other Chicago credits include: Tree and Wheatley (Victory Gardens Theatre), Wait Until Dark (Court Theatre), Journal of Ordinary Thought (Chicago Theater Company), Iphigenia 2.0 (Next Theatre), Fortunes of the Moor (ETA), The State of Mississippi v. Emmet Till (Pegasus Players), Julius Caesar (Chicago Shakespeare) and Perfect Mendacity (Steppenwolf). Directing projects include: Radio Golf (Raven Theatre), The Nativity (Congo Square/The Goodman), 12 Angry Men (Raven Theatre, Jeff Award Best Ensemble, nomination Best Director), Smash Hit by Steve Broadnax (Cultural Conversations Festival), Pill Hill (Black Theatre Alliance Award – Best Director, Best Production ETA Creative Arts), Talented Tenth (Black Theatre Alliance Award – Best Production), African Company Presents Richard III (Congo Square Theatre Company).
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