Val Gray Ward performing artist. actress, producer, director and

Val Gray Ward performing artist. actress, producer, director and cultural activist and internationally known theater personality.

        **ONE NIGHT ONLY**

LOGAN CENTER FOR THE ARTS PRESENTS ACTRESS/PRODUCER

VAL GRAY WARD IN ONE WOMAN SHOW

MY SOUL IS A WITNESS

Homecoming Performance Sunday, November 1, 2015 at Logan Center

**ONE NIGHT ONLY**

Actress Val Gray Ward captured on stage.

           Actress Val Gray Ward captured on stage.

“Actress, producer, cultural activist and internationally known theater personality Val Gray Ward headlines the one-woman show, “My Soul is a Witness,” for one night only in a dramatic homecoming performance Sunday, November 1, 2015. “My Soul is a Witness” will feature the works of James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Mari Evans, Richard Wright and other African American literary giants, 17 characters, music and love poetry. This special performance is presented by the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in partnership with the DuSable Museum of African American History. It will take place at 5:30 pm at the Logan Center, located at 915 E. 60th Street. General admission is $20/$10 students; $5 discount for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased at tickets.uchicago.edu  or by calling 773-702-ARTS.”

Star Studded special guests are musical director and arranger Robert “Baabe” Irving and Emmy Award-winning vocalist Joan Collaso. Ward will be introduced by renowned poet Sonia Sanchez and welcomed home by Julieanna Richardson of The Historymakers. 

“Val Gray Ward has made major contributions to the cultural life of Chicago and America through her work as dramatist, founder and principal creative force behind the Kuumba Theatre,” said Bill Michel, executive director of the Logan Center. “We are delighted to welcome her back home to Chicago by sponsoring this special presentation.”

Founded in 1968, Kuumba is one of the early African American theaters to come out of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago. Kiswahili for “clean up, create, and build,” the theater was dedicated to the revitalization of the Black community through the arts. Those who are fortunate to have experienced the Kuumba phenomena will recall the unexpected improv moments  by Kuumba on the El Trains.  Yes! The doors would open and Kuumba Theatre cast would walk on and begin a performance.  It was creativity at  it’s best and the marketing at it’s best.

With Kuumba, Ward produced and directed such plays as The Amen Corner by James Baldwin, Welcome To Black River by Samm Art Williams, Five On The Black Hand Side by Charles Fuller and Sister Son/ji by Sonia Sanchez. Ward took the cast and crew of Useni Eugene Perkins’ play, The Image Makers to Lagos, Nigeria as part of the FESTAC ’77, an international African arts festival. She also brought Kuumba’s musical production, The Little Dreamer: The Life of Bessie Smith to Japan in 1981 and produced Buddy Butler’s In The House of The Blues in Montreal, Canada. Kuumba also toured in cities such as Louisville, Atlanta, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Montreal, and Osaka, Japan. Ward and company received Emmy Awards for the PBS television production of Precious Memories: Strolling 47th Street in 1988.

“I am absolutely delighted to return to Chicago where I have so many wonderful memories and so many amazing friends,” said Ward. “As we go into ourselves, we come to ourselves naturally.”

When not producing, Ward performs one woman shows in the United States and abroad, including Harriet Tubman by Francis Ward, Sister Sonji by Sonia Sanchez and I Am A Black Woman which includes the poetry of Mari Evans. She also recorded a CD, “Rhapsody in Hughes” which was nominated for a Grammy Award

Born Q. Valeria Gray on August 21, 1932 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, one of America’s oldest all Black towns, Ward showed an early interest in performance beginning at age four in her father’s church. In 1951, she moved to Chicago where she became active in Chicago’s African American cultural community.

She was a regular at the South Side Community Arts Center and the DuSable Museum of African American History as she developed friendships with Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Gwendolyn Brooks, Don L. Lee (Haki R. Madhubuti) and Abena Joan Brown. She was mentored by Dr. Burroughs, Margaret Walker and Hoyt Fuller. For 50 years Val Gray Ward has been married to journalist Francis Ward. She is the mother of five children, grandmother of five and great grandmother of eight children.

Val Gray Ward is the recipient of numerous awards; most recently she received the Benjamin Banneker Lifetime Achievement Award with her husband, Francis, in the Spoken Word category; the King Arts Complex “Legends & Legacies” Award in Columbus, OH, the DuSable Museum Lifetime Membership Award and the 100 Black Women Award. She has received the keys to the cities of Detroit, Osaka, Japan and Tuskegee, Alabama. She is most proud of the generosity of Ollye B. Shirley, a childhood friend who has given 38 acres to build a museum in her name in her hometown of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

In conjunction with “My Soul is a Witness,” at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 25th DuSable Museum of African American History presents “Precious Memories: Strolling 47th Street,” a documentary film written by Francis Ward, which reenacts the days when 47th street was the entertainment hub of Black Chicago. Following the film there will be a Q & A with Val Gray Ward, the film’s director, and Precious Memories’ cast members. General Admission is $10; $5 DuSable members. DuSable Museum is located at 740 E. 56th Place.

 

About the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

The Logan Center is a multidisciplinary home for the arts at the University of Chicago. Logan Center public programs include events, exhibitions, and performances from world-class, emerging, local, and student artists.

Logan Center programs are made possible through the support of the Milken Institute, Michael and Patricia Klowden, the Reva and David Logan Foundation, and friends of the Logan Center, as well as partnerships with local and national arts organizations and performing artists. Visit logan.uchicago.edu to learn more.

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