Black Ensemble Theater presents the first annual International Cultural Festival June 1-June 6, 2015

2015_ICF_HomeBannerBlack Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor is proud to announce the first annual International Cultural Festival, June 1-June 6, 2015. The week-long cultural festival of music, theater, film, and dance from around the world is produced by the Black Ensemble Theater, and will take place at the Black Ensemble Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street.

By highlighting a variety of art forms with a worldwide perspective, the Black Ensemble Theater International Cultural Festival will open up a global-scale dialogue about how we, as human beings, can help diminish the injustices of a racist world.

The Festival opens Monday, June 1, 2015, with Tsukasa Taiko, a multi-generational Japanese drumming ensemble performance group. On Tuesday, June 2, the award-winning play Empanda for a Dream written by and starring Juan Villa will be performed. During the week, the Festival presents two international films: The World Before Her, written and directed by Nisha Pahuja. The film explores the complex and conflicting environment for young girls in India by profiling two young women participating in two very different types of training camps. On June 4, the Festival will present the Romanian film After the Fall—HIV Grows Up, looking back at the Pandemic of Pediatric AIDS in Romania and the health care workers on the front lines. The Chicago Association of Black Storytellers presents ASE, a storytelling form from West Africa, on Friday, June 5. The festival closes with Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, which will perform selected works from its repertoire, including traditional West African and contemporary dances.

The schedule for the Annual International Cultural Festival is:

Music: Tsukasa Taiko

Culture: Japanese

Monday, June 1, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

Tsukasa Taiko is a leading community Japanese taiko ensemble based in Chicago. It is the largest multigenerational community ensemble in the Midwest performing in traditional and contemporary forms. The ensemble aims to strengthen Japanese-American/Asian-American communities and reflect a shared culture through taiko performances infused with contemporary expressions.

Theater: Empanda For A Dream

Culture: Colombian and Caribbean

Tuesday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m.

Downtown on Allen Street everybody’s blasting music – bacchata, merengue and salsa. Everybody’s cooking – plantains, paella, and empanadas. Boys play baseball and football on the street while the most beautiful girl watches from a window. In his living memoir, Empanada For A Dream, Juan Francisco Villa uncovers the treasures of his family’s dark legacy in the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. A poignant and funny portrait of family and neighborhood – set against a secret that destroys it all. An inspiring tale about growing up by getting out and coming back home.

Film: The World Before Her

Culture: Indian

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

A Canadian documentary film released in 2012, written and directed by Nisha Pahuja, the film explores the complex and conflicting environment for young girls in India by profiling two young women participating in two very different types of training camp — Ruhi Singh, who aspires to become Miss India, and Prachi Trivedi, a Hindu nationalist with the Durga Vahini.

Film: After the Fall—HIV Grows Up

Culture: Romanian

Thursday, June 4 at 7:00 p.m.

In 1989, as communism fell across Eastern Europe, doctors and nurses in Romania quickly discovered they were dealing with an epidemic of Pediatric AIDS in their hospitals and institutions. With a lack of medicine and very limited knowledge of the disease, many health care workers risked their lives to help the nearly 13,000 children infected with HIV and AIDS. This highly motivational film takes a look back with those who were on the front line, and a look forward at the hopes and challenges for those who, against all odds, are growing into independent young adults.

Presented by TOMORROW PICTURES INC. Director and Cinematographer FR3Derick, produced by Ellen Barnard, written and edited by Brian Funck, created and executive produced by Kathleen Treat in association with The Speranza Foundation.

Storytelling: ASE

Presented by the Chicago Association of Black Storytellers

Culture: West African

Friday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m.

ASE is a term from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa. ASE affirms, as we express our spiritual devotion, that there is power in our words; not just the words we speak, but the words and feelings we express in our stories.

Dance: Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

Culture: contemporary and ancient African and African-American

Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 p.m.

Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago was founded in 1972 and performs authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and ancient African and African-American dance, music and folklore. The company is known for bringing audiences out of their seats and into the aisles with its unique synthesis of dance, rhythm and song. Muntu is highly regarded for its innovative repertory, which preserves traditional African dance while creating new works that build on African, Caribbean and African-American cultural traditions. Now in its 43rd year, Muntu is the oldest, continuously operating African dance company in the Country.

Muntu’s performances for the International Theater Festival will include selected works from its repertoire, including traditional West African and contemporary dances.

The major funder of the International Cultural Festival is The Chicago Community Trust. The Chicago Community Trust is the region’s community foundation, responding to the needs of the community for 100 years.


The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center International Cultural Festival will be held at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street. Valet parking is available. Tickets are $10 (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), $15 (Friday) and $25 (Saturday). Tickets are available online at or by calling the Black Ensemble Theater at 773-769-4451.

The Black Ensemble Theater

Founded in 1976, by the phenomenal producer, playwright and actress Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater is the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Through its Five Play Season of Excellence, The Black Ensemble Theater dazzles audiences locally, nationally and internationally with outstanding original musicals that are entertaining, educational and uplifting. The Black Ensemble Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists.

On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened and is able to accommodate larger-scale productions, bigger audiences and a wider range of educational programming. The new facility includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space, rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage. The completion of a 150-seat theater, which will serve as an experimental stage for the work of the Black Playwright Initiative (BPI), is expected in to begin construction by General Contractor Norcon Inc. in April 2015 with a January 2016 opening.

The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater Company is to eradicate racism and its devastating effects upon society through the theater arts. For more information on the Black Ensemble Theater Company, please visit or call 773-769-4451.