A Conversation With Black Ensemble Theater’s Jackie Taylor

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By Angelique Westerfield

What do you get when you mix realty television shows American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, and Big Brother? Black Ensemble Theater’s current production – One Name Only. Written by Black Ensemble member, Reuben Echoles, the show is deemed as ‘A Different Kind of Realty Show.’ It certainly follows in the tradition of Black Ensemble Theater’s fabulous and extravagant musical productions. Jackie Taylor, founder and President of The Black Ensemble Theater, spoke exclusively to the Chicago Defender about the musical and the company’s future goals:

Chicago Defender: What were you overall artistic goals for “One Name Only?”

Jackie Taylor: I thought it would be a great show to attract younger audiences, while at the same time satisfying the audiences who have been coming to The Black Ensemble Theater for a long time. It’s a great cross over show. All Black Ensemble Theater Productions must cross cultural bridges and must bring people together. Realty shows are very popular and are what’s on the majority of TV today. So, this production is very timely, unique, and just the right kind of combination we needed to strengthen the audience of The Black Ensemble Theater.

CD: What elements impressed you most about the production?

JT: I like the show because it’s multi-dimensional. It incorporates video for one, and the audience is directly engaged. Audience members are not two-dimensional and separated from the performance. The audience is a part of the show.

CD: What do want audiences to experience when the come to see “One Name Only?”

JT: The same thing I hope they would do anytime they come to The Black Ensemble Theater…that they would feel uplifted, motivated to bettering their lives, and understanding that we as human beings have a lot more in common to speak about than our differences.

CD: What is in the future for The Black Ensemble Theater?

JT: As soon as we get settled in our new home and we build our second 150-seat theater, then we are going to build across the street a restaurant that will be different then any restaurant in the city. Our mission will be as The Black Ensemble Theater. The restaurant will serve as a place to continue the conversation started at the theater, but over food – soul food. What is a better way to help people to understand and accept each other than with food? So it’s going to be the type of restaurant where it’s communal – everybody can talk to everybody. It will also be a place where someone can get on the stage [at the restaurant] and perform or deliver a poem if they want to. It’s a communal process. What we do is unique and different and should be a national model. The Black Ensemble Theater is already serving as a national model in some areas. If we take this message of eradicating racism across the country, it can have an enormous impact.

“One Name Only” runs thru Nov. 11.

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