In the run up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, Ovalhouse is staging the second #CONNECT Black Women in Theatre event on Wednesday 6 March, to celebrate the contribution of black women to British theatre.
The event is entirely free to attend, though tickets do need to be booked, and it will begin at 6pm. It is a chance to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women behind the scenes and on stage in British theatre.
Hosted by Executive Producer Stella Kanu (pictured above), and Learning and Participation Manager Titi Dawudu of Ovalhouse, the evening is curated by award-winning playwright and professor, Winsome Pinnock. The writer of plays including The Principles of Cartography (Bush Theatre), Taken (Soho Theatre) and IDP (Tricycle Theatre) will host a Desert Island Discs-inspired section of the evening, in which she delves into the things that ‘nurture’ her chosen guests.
#CONNECT Black Women in Theatre will also include a panel discussion featuring Hoxton Hall’s Artistic Director, Karena Johnson, actor Seraphina Beh, who is soon to star in The Ridiculous Darkness at The Gate, and director Ola Ince (The Convert at Young Vic). They will discuss questions including: What does the recent ground-breaking number of BAME artistic appointments mean for black women artists/ leaders? Does experience matter? What does it mean to celebrate black women’s contribution to Theatre? What is the future for black women in theatre? How do women overcome the gatekeepers and those that do not want to see progress? Does visibility count?
The first Black Women in Theatre event was held at Ovalhouse last October, and featured speakers including Paulette Randall MBE, Deborah Sawyerr, Judith Jacob, Yolanda Mercy, Lynette Linton and Cherrelle Skeete. Attendees described the event as “an inspiring evening full of stories, laughter, celebration” (Aliyah Forde) and “insightful and entertaining” (Karla Williams).
Speaking about the previous event, Stella Kanu commented:
“It’s not every day a 56 year old organisation taps into the Zeitgeist of now. But Ovalhouse has tapped into something that many black women want to be part of. We were taken aback by the generous atmosphere and the mix of career levels in the room. It was both joyous and life affirming and the next event will be even better”.
#CONNECT Black Women in Theatre is one of a number of #CONNECT events being staged by Ovalhouse, giving people with similar passions a chance to come together and network. Other #CONNECT events include Music to your Words (23 Feb), Telling Stories (11 Mar) and Writing with your Authentic Voice (12 Mar).
#CONNECT Black Women in Theatre takes place on Wednesday 6 March from 6.pm at Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW. This is a FREE event for everyone. Book in advance at Ovalhouse website www.ovalhouse.com or call the box office on 020 7582 7680.
Stella Kanu has 25+ years’ experience of producing theatre, festivals and activities in a variety of settings, including large-scale, international, national and community arts. Stella is currently Executive Producer at Ovalhouse, overseeing the artistic activities of the company as they build a new theatre and merge with the artistic and local community of Brixton. Previously she was CEO at Soundwave Cumbria. Other cultural, arts and regeneration sectors work include Southampton New Arts Complex, Bernie Grants Arts Centre, Turner Contemporary, Theatre Royal Workington, Cardboard Citizens, Harlem Stage, Chelsea Theatre, Theatre Royal Margate and Clean Break Theatre. As a creative writer and performer, Stella created Africa Centre’s first Children’s Literature Festival; A List Performing Arts Festival and Southampton Live Street Arts Festival. Stella also mentors and coaches women leaders.
Titilola Dawudu is a writer and producer and is the Learning and Participation Manager at Ovalhouse theatre. She worked for GMTV and was an Outreach Journalist for Headliners, before supporting the setup of Reaching Higher, a youth charity based in Croydon. She was the Head of Operations and Development and also ran mentoring and arts-based events and programmes. She founded STAGES, an all-girls theatre project. She is an Associate Writer for Beyond Face, a theatre company based in Plymouth. Her monologues have been performed at Soho Theatre, the Bush Theatre, and the Arcola. She is a mentor for young women and has been recently shortlisted for the Women of the Future Awards. She has edited a collection of monologues for Actors of Colour in partnership with Tamasha theatre and published by Oberon Books.
Winsome Pinnock has had more than 15 plays produced and was the first Black woman to have a play staged at the National Theatre, when Paullette Randall staged Leave Taking there in 1988. She has won awards including the Unity Theatre Trust Award, the George Divine Award, the Thames Television Award for best play of the Year and the Pearson Plays on Stage Award for Best Play of the Year. Pinnock is also an Associate Professor in Drama at Kingston University and was SEnior Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University.
Karena Johnson has been Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall since February 2015, but actually started her career at Ovalhouse, where she was Head of Theatre Programming for five years. In her career, she has also been Acting Artistic Director of Contact Theatre, Artistic Director of Kushite Theatre Company and Associate Director of both Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Seraphina Beh was part of the National Youth Theatre Rep Company in 2016, and has since starred in Parliament Sqaure and Leave Taking at the Bush Theatre, and The Wolves at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Her next role takes her to The Gate, where she stars in The Ridiculous Darkness.
Ola Ince is a theatre director who has worked at a number of prestigious London theatres including the Royal Court, Lyric Hammersmith, National Theatre, Young Vic and Bush Theatre. In 2016 she won the Genesis Future Director Award, and she is currently Artistic Associate at the Royal Court. Her productions include The Convert (Young Vic), Poet in da Corner (Royal Court) and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (Gate Theatre). She is also Associate Director on West End hit, Tina The Musical.