Ghost, as the first play in 508 at Kenilworth, set a standard for challenging work done in a new way. It modeled for the audience, students and artists a theater made without expensive sets and costumes; it inspired in them an entrepreneurial spirit for developing New Work. Ghost gathered a new audience in a new venue. With 13 mixed-discipline performers and a set made of graffiti covered wallboard pulled from the garbage, staged in a barely outfitted 508 the performance was as complex as the issues it dealt with, and as raw. What was the purpose in this? In the rehearsal room black student actors worked along side a top cutting-edge black playwright. In performance a racially diverse audience that crossed generational lines was inspired to debate.
At my request the Theater Department commissioned a new work written for these students by Zakiyyah Alexander, a nationally known award-winning playwright who often writes in a hip-hop inspired African-American vernacular (her awards include, Helen Merrill Award, ACT New Play Award/Lorraine Hansberry Award, Stellar Network Award, the Theodore Ward Prize, Jackson Phelan Award). To reinforce my idea of working across disciplinary lines, I asked Brazilian choreographer Simone Ferro, of the UWM Dance Program, to create a movement language for the production based on the forms of street dance.