UW Staff Spotlight: Rain Wilson


Rain Wilson, playwright, spoken word poet, and educator, was hired as the Creative and Academic Advisor for the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester.  Her artistic and educational work revolves around empowering African Americans, women, and other marginalized groups of people.  Within her short time here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she has already brought her play, “Jungle Kings,” to life on campus in the 1st annual Multi-Cultural Theater Festival.  Currently she is leaping forward with First Wave students to ignite an impactful women’s history month event at the end of March, working on launching a program with First Wave to do writing and performance workshops within the women’s prison in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and preparing for her one woman show, “Ink Never Dries,” which will be performed later in the year.

Wilson was attracted to the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative scholarship program because she admired the opportunity that First Wave students have to connect with the art of spoken word as cohorts within an academic setting where they do not have to feel isolated like she often did when she was in college.  She also valued the element of activism within the artistry that she saw from various students in the program.  First Wave was something that she just knew that she had to be a part of.  As the Creative and Academic Advisor of First Wave, her goal is to utilize the experience that she has gained as an artist in order to inform and mentor students who possess a similar passion for theatrical performance and poetry. “I would like to facilitate the exploration of collaborating with one another as a collective to reach a common goal.” Continue reading

Event: 7th Annual Line Breaks Festival

For a full event schedule go to: https://sites.google.com/a/wisc.edu/linebreaksfestival/ 

Linebreaks 2013 POSTER

Performance arts scholars of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble will present their solo, duo and ensemble works as part of the 7th Annual Line Breaks Festival in Lathrop Hall, 1050 University Avenue, from Wednesday, March 13 through Wednesday, March 20. The nightly performances from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. are open to the public. 

The free week-long festival is presented by UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) and will end with a production from guest artist DawN Crandell, who hails from New York. Crandell is a dancer, choreographer, theatre artist, poet, grassroots cultural activist and educator, who has performed at multiple venues throughout New York City as well as stages in the UK since moving there. Her solo show, “Xenophobedelica” has been called “Powerful and compelling…chaotic and hilarious” by The Public Reviews, a UK-based theater review organization.  Crandell’s show is an autobiographical story of her life-long struggle with identity as a queer, black multi-ethnic feminist, which fuses poetry, movement, storytelling burlesque and audience participation with Crandell’s life-long love of Prince. Crandell’s production will run on the two final nights of the festival, Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 20. 

Crandell also will host a series of special Guest Artist workshops on Monday, March 18:

  • 1:20-3:00 pm, Improvisation/Composition Workshop with DawN Crandell (Lathrop Studio 549) 
  • 3:30-5:10 pm, Hip Hop Theatre Workshop with Baba Israel (Lathrop Studio 510) 

And on Wednesday, March 20:

  • 1:20-3:00 pm, Improvisation/Composition Workshop with DawN Crandell (Lathrop Studio 549) 
  • 3:30-5:10 pm, Hip Hop Theatre Workshop with Baba Israel (Lathrop Studio 510) 

The annual Line Breaks Festival also provides an opportunity to bring the visions of the student artists of the First Wave program to fruition on stage. Among each performers’ exploration into identity and social issues is the critical aim of healing. Each night of the festival has a break for talkback sessions with the performers from the first hour’s shows.

Beginning the festival on Wednesday, March 13, is the traditional introduction of the newest First Wave Scholars, the sixth cohort. The ensemble production “Welcome Mat at Capacity” will open the first night of the Festival. Then UW-Madison sophomore Natalie Cook will present her solo production, “Some May Think Light Isn’t Heavy.” The narrative tells of a young woman’s journey to find God and demand a removal of the curse she was born with to feel the pain of every person and experience she encounters. Also on opening night UW-Madison senior Gethsemane Herron’s piece “Witness” will delve into misogyny’s history, through myths of nymphs and goddesses, antebellum shadows and modern day beliefs held by a uniting thread: rape.

The Thursday, March 14, schedule is filled with more premier works from students ranging from their sophomore to senior year. UW-Madison senior dåko’ta Alcantara-Camacho’s one-person production “Buried Beneath: Bombs and Lattes,” which will weave poetry, traditional chant, historical analysis and cultural experiences to tell dåko’ta’s queer life story, troubled by their catholic nåna and war veteran påpa. An encore performance of this show will be held on Friday night as well. Following Thursday’s break is an encore of UW-Madison sophomore Natalie Cook’s solo production, “Some May Think Light Isn’t Heavy.” The narrative tells of a young woman’s journey to find God and demand a removal of the curse she was born with to feel the pain of every person and experience she encounters. Closing the night will be an encore performance “Welcome Mat at Capacity” by the newest cohort of the First Wave scholarship program, the sixth cohort.

Friday night’s performance will open with the full-length versions of a previously-debuted production are Asia Elliot. Elliot’s one woman show “Working Class” navigates through the teenage years of young woman who divides her time between high school and a series of late-night jobs at the bar below her apartment. After the talkback, UW-Madison senior dåko’ta Alcantara-Camacho will perform an encore of his one-person production “Buried Beneath: Bombs and Lattes.” The evening will close with a performance by the First Wave Touring Ensemble, an audition based sub-group within the program whose productions travel across the country and internationally, entitled “Kingdom Bequeath.” 

To further merge spoken word and dance, on Saturday, March 16, the festival will include a special series of B-Girl workshops by GIRLilla TACTICS in Lathrop Studio B101:

  • 11:30am-12:30pm, Bgirl Figet Freedom Workshop, 
  • 12:45-1:45pm, BGirl Macca Workshop, 
  • 2:00-3:00pm, BGirl Peppa Workshop. 

On Saturday evening, March 16, UW-Madison junior Nakila Robinson will perform the full-length version of her one-woman show “Little Big Woman.” The narrative investigates a woman’s body and how that body has conversations with sexuality, race and normative images of American women. Then the premier work of UW-Madison junior Dominique Ricks “Crosswalk,” will tell the story of a young man walking a thin line between scholarship and homicide. The production shows the protagonist struggling to maintain his promising future as it begins to feel like the streets of Louisiana have a voice that only black men can hear. The evening will end with an encore of Asia Elliot’s one woman show “Working Class.

Sunday night’s opening performance will feature UW-Madison junior Richard Jones, Jr., and senior Rebekah Blocker collaborating in a two-person show. “Parenting Preacher’s Kids” tells the story of a pastor’s son and a minister’s daughter, who find out they are going to have a baby. Following the two-person production is a one woman-show by senior Erika Dickerson-Despenza. As the founder of UW-Madison’s only women of color theatre organization, The For Colored Girls Project, Dickerson is no amateur to theater production, her mixed-medium production “Cult of Blk Bodies” chronicles the contradiction of womyn’s bodies as sites of consciousness development and exile, as assets and liabilities in the Black church and the world at large. Sunday night ends with an encore performance of the First Wave Touring Ensemble’s “Kingdom Bequeath”

Monday, March 18, will be a night of encore performances of Dominique Ricks’ “Crosswalk,” Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s “Cult of Blk Bodies,” Gethsemane Herron’s “Witness,” and Nakila Robinson’s “Little Big Woman.” 

On Tuesday, March 19, the festival begins with two theater productions that mix dancing with storytelling. First is UW-Madison senior Eric Lima whose one-man show “Don’t Just Stand There” depicts a young man’s sense of restlessness in being painfully aware that his footsteps continue a family narrative including immigration and social mobility. Next is a solo piece by senior Niko Tumamak, who staged a solo debut at the 2010 Line Breaks Festival. Tumamak’s production, “The Sh*t We Go Through” is a visual and sonic experience that follows the transformation of a minority student protagonist who in the past retaliated for racism directed toward him for dating a Caucasian girlfriend. Following the mid-break talkback is the closing performance from guest artist Dawn Crandell.

The final night of the festival, Wednesday, March 20, will open with an encore of Crandell’s production followed by two sessions of mixed movement warm-ups with the artist Crandell and music by MC/beatboxer Baba Israel. 

For more information and a full listing and locations of LineBreaks performances, go to https://sites.google.com/a/wisc.edu/linebreaksfestival/

Founded by UW Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and a program in the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, the First Wave Hip-Hop Learning Community and Theater Ensemble is a groundbreaking collective of spoken word poets, emcees, dancers, singers, actors, and activists from across the United States, brought together as scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Using the pedagogy of traditional spoken word, movement and performance, the students use these principles of linguistics, writing, communications, social and political awareness as an additional learning framework for their major areas of study across the university. Under the artistic direction of Prof. Christopher Walker, the Touring Ensemble is a select group of First Wave students, chosen by audition, to tour and perform nationally and internationally. Since the formation of the program, the ensemble has performed in England, Mexico, Panama, and Jamaica as well as across the USA including featured performances on Broadway. First Wave is an emerging leader on the hip-hop theater scene, pushing the boundaries of poetry, dance, and theater. For more on the program go to: http://omai.wisc.edu. 

For more information on Linebreaks, contact at Danez Smith at (651)-247-1445, or dsmith8@wisc.edu. 

For more information on First Wave and other diversity initiatives, contact Valeria Davis at (608) 890-3079 or vadavis2@wisc.edu.