From left to right: MN Black Theatre Circle logo, BLACKNESS IS… Arts Festival logo, Guthrie Theater logo.
A yellow abstract illustration of three Black artists dressed in teal clothing, including a person holding a microphone, a person gesturing to the right with their hands and a person pumping their fists above their head. In the lower right corner, a small brown graphic reads “BLACKNESS IS… Arts Festival.”


May 13, 2021

For more information, contact:
MN Black Theatre Circle
Risikat Adesaogun

Guthrie Theater
Elizabeth Deacon


Thirteen Minnesota artists respond to the prompt “What is Blackness?” for the
inaugural festival celebrating Black voices and empowering Black liberation

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) — MN Black Theatre Circle, in partnership with the Guthrie Theater, will present Blackness Is…, a theater-inspired arts festival to be streamed May 21–22 at 7:30 p.m. and May 23 at 7 p.m. CDT. Over the course of three days, the festival will offer a dynamic and diverse showcase of theater, music, dance, poetry and spoken word. Performances will premiere via YouTube and begin with virtual opening ceremonies honoring the rich history and legacy of Black theater in the Twin Cities. For the festival schedule and details about participating artists, visit

Since August 2020, the newly formed MN Black Theatre Circle — a multigenerational coalition of Black theater artists in the Twin Cities — has been in partnership with the Guthrie Theater on an initiative to center, elevate and amplify the voices and protests of Minnesota Black theater artists, while also aiming to generate greater equity and inclusion within the Guthrie. In October 2020, MN Black Theatre Circle and the Guthrie began presenting a monthly series of virtual performances by local Black artists. The culmination of these works is the Blackness Is… Arts Festival, intentionally scheduled one year after George Floyd’s death.

After reviewing dozens of submissions in February, MN Black Theatre Circle selected 13 producing artists to present their works during the festival, including Nieya Amezquita (dance film); Ricardo Beaird (play); Denzel Belin (monologue); Tiffany Cooper (multimedia theater); Ashley DuBose (R&B), Stephanie Henry (piano); Tolu Kehinde (poetry); Averie Mitchell-Brown (dance film); Mohammed Ali Ojarigi (play); Tearra Oso (Bomba); Deneane Richburg/Brownbody (film); Miko S. Simmons (visual Jazz collaboration and improvisation); as well as ZEN IS: Charity Paye (Purple Queen) & Ameen Taahir (Hip-Hop). 


Friday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. CDT
Opening Ceremony
Quiet As It’s Kept (excerpts) by Deneane Richburg/Brownbody
Abiyamo (On Daughterhood) by Tolu Kehinde
Over My Head by Averie Mitchell-Brown
With Love From Washington by Denzel Belin

Saturday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. CDT
Opening Ceremony
DOOMSCROLL with MK & Tia! by Ricardo Beaird
Colors of Classical Music Throughout HERstory by Stephanie Henry
Zen Is…
by ZEN IS…
Black Thread: A Tribute to Ann Lowe by Tiffany Cooper
21st Century Bomberas by Tearra Oso

Sunday, May 23 at 7 p.m. CDT
Opening Ceremony
Greenwood 1964 by Mohammed Ali Ojarigi
Still We Rise by Ashley DuBose
The Things That Bind by Nieya Amezquita
Moments to Arrive by Miko S. Simmons

Opening ceremonies written by Kim Hines, directed/choreographed by Richard Thompson and filmed/edited by Brian Few will kick off each evening’s virtual performances. Honoring the legacy of Black theater in the Twin Cities, the ceremonies will feature Ansa Akyea, Jamecia Bennett, Daryl E. Boudreaux, Leanna Browne, James Craven, Domino D’Lorion, Darius Dotch, Tamiko French, Dame Jasmine Hughes, JuCoby Johnson, Camrin LeClar King, Darrick Mosley, Greta Oglesby, Faye Price, Atlese Robinson, Mikell Sapp, Regina Marie Williams, Ahanti Young and Sounds of Blackness, among others.

Four Twin Cities youth were selected as winners of the Blackness Is… poetry contest, receiving cash prizes and the opportunity to perform their work during the festival’s opening ceremonies.

MN Black Theatre Circle will stream two free community workshops (Slay! with Brian Bose and Costumes with Trevor Bowen) via YouTube and offer three Zoom talkbacks with festival artists Ricardo Beaird, Tolu Kehinde and Averie Mitchell-Brown. In addition, six private workshops ranging from spoken word to Hip-Hop are available for middle and high school students. Educators may request registration access at Student workshops will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Blackness Is… is sponsored by Best Buy and Taft Law, with additional support to the Guthrie provided by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. The festival media partner is Insight News.

MN BLACK THEATRE CIRCLE is a circle of Black theater artists and community leaders focused on ways to honor the rich legacy of Black artistry, share present stories and work fervently toward a brighter future. “Our hearts and our ears are open as we work to establish pathways to healing, empowerment and building a stronger community. We believe that sharing representations of all aspects of Black life is key to accomplishing this.” Founding members of MN Black Theatre Circle include Vanessa Brooke Agnes, Domino D’Lorion, Willie E. Jones III, Austene Van, James A. Williams and Regina Marie Williams.

The GUTHRIE THEATER (Joseph Haj, Artistic Director) is an American center for theater performance in Minneapolis, Minnesota, dedicated to producing a mix of classic and contemporary plays and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. Under Haj’s leadership, the Guthrie is guided by four core values: Artistic Excellence; Community; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and Fiscal Responsibility.

The Guthrie Theater acknowledges that it resides on the traditional land of the Dakota People and honors with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations, including the Ojibwe and other Indigenous nations.