OMAI presents Line Breaks Festival at the Overture Center

A major local hip-hop event, the annual Line Breaks Festival, will bring new aesthetics in contemporary performance to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and community from Friday, March 16 through Saturday, March 24.

The event is presented by UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI). For a complete rundown of the festival’s schedule, click here.

 “In this sixth annual Line Breaks Festival, we partner for the second time with Overture Center for the Arts in presenting the festival in their Rotunda Studio, a black box space transformed to host the largest hip-hop centered performance festival in the Midwest,” says Christopher Walker, UW-Madison Assistant Professor of Dance and creative director of OMAI’s First Wave Hip Hop Theater, which operates under the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate.

The festival line-up features professionals from the stages of Europe to the East Coast and Chicago to San Francisco along with members of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble.

Blending movement with music, spoken word and photography, Hapa Bruthas is the Thursday, March 22, cooperative production by Hapasan, a multiracial Japanese American capoeirista and house dancer based in the Bay Area and UW-Madison alumna Queen Gidrea, a.k.a. Chanel Matsunami Govreau, a performance storyteller, printmaker and costume designer. Hapa Bruthas explores brotherhood, the privacy of attraction and interracial dating in Asian American communities from a multiracial perspective. Hapa Bruthas is also sponsored by the Asian American Student Union, Multicultural Student Coalition, Omulu Capoeira Madison and faculty sponsor Peggy Choy.

Robert Sacheli, chief theater critic of the Times of London, last week lauded Line Breaks headliners Paul Oakley Stovall and Brad Simmons’ debut of “The Next Best Thing to Love” duo show in Washington, D.C., as “the real thing.” Stovall and Simmons will bring their hit to the Overture stage on Friday, March 23, following a guest opening by the 2012 UW-Madison College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Team.

“The visible ease and energy of their onstage collaboration and their offstage friendship is one of the chief pleasures here,” Sacheli wrote. “These gents clearly get a kick out of singing with each other, and as a result, so does everyone else. Stylish, cool, funny, romantic, and touching…”

The return of emerging Brooklyn artist Queen GodIs is scheduled for Saturday, March 24. “Heir Plain” is an in-progress self-exploratory work where Queen GodIs plays with winged-words to express her spiritual relationship to “flight” amidst her physical relationship to “landing.” The budding producer and musical visionary’s work deliberately engages the audience through antiphony and other participatory methodologies.

Beginning Friday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 22, members of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble will perform, including the fifth cohort debut of Common Denominator, the First Wave Touring Ensemble production “Shock,” and solo and duo performances by selected First Wave artists.

It was six years ago Mark Bamuthi Joseph’s residency with the Arts Institute culminated in a festival of talk and performance around the question, “What Is Hip-Hop?” Walker says.

OMAI continues that investigation by cultivating new aesthetics in contemporary presentation of performance art by investing in building relationships with industry-leading artist professionals and aspiring student artists.

Line Breaks remains a place for new student work to be developed supported and premiered, and a way to bring the First Wave work to the broader Madison community. Throughout the nine days of performance, First Wave students will bring solo, duo and ensemble performances to the Overture stage.  

“In this regard all Line Breaks activities are free and open to the public and are represented in easily accessible spaces,” Walker says. “These narratives are the beginning of the conversation and we encourage our audiences to stay for a 30 minute discussion following each performance. It is our hope that audience members leave the theater with a sense of understanding that these personnel narratives, have at their root, a truth that opens the eyes of society to personal spaces otherwise unreachable.”

First Wave’s 5th cohort, the most recent class to join the ensemble, will present their inaugural ensemble performance In Common Denominator. In this piece, the 5th cohort realizes that in a world where we’re constantly searching for the meaning of life, we often focus our energy on problem solving rather than living. The quest for an individual’s value of life is infinite. Human beings are constantly searching for the meaning of our existence – sometimes finding common ground means chaos as they flip and divide everyday issues and stories. In that process one may stand out or fall in line, evaluate existence while trying to solve complex problems… sometimes too real, when finding answers to common problems results in always being a part of the equation. How much bravery does it take to be the one outside of the common denominator? 

Veteran First Wave performers Ashley Street and Nakila Robinson will bring solo performances to the stage on Sunday, March 18.

Street’s The Silent Streets are Burning is a self-exploration that questions everything a young girl was ever told about her identity. It examines the problematic opinions surrounding racial identities that do not fit neatly into a clear-cut category through this young girl’s journey into adulthood in an environment that is not accepting of her skin. This story explores the consequences of silencing oneself into submission and the hostility presented in opposing ideals. Learning to discover and define herself for herself takes this girl through a series of defining moments that allow her to come to terms with her identity. In learning to accept the complexity of her racial identity she finally learns what it truly means to exist out loud.

Robinson’s Little Big Woman is a deep exploration of self through the lenses of gender, race and personal relationships, and offers a glance into the inner battles and conversations of a young woman struggling to fully accept herself. Her internal investigative work of her behaviors leads her to learning to love and forgive herself from the mistakes and experiences of her past. 

Ashley Street is a passionate writer, actress, and scholar that questions the complexities of self in her work in order to give voice to the silenced. She is a Milwaukee native currently a junior who has developed her own major, Modern Art and Comparative Cultures, at UW-Madison. Street is a member of the 2011 UW-Madison CUPSI Slam Team, coach to the 2012 UW-Madison CUPSI Slam Team, and a member of First Wave’s Fourth Cohort.

A daughter of Milwaukee, Nakila Robinson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a degree in Secondary Education and English. A member of OMAI First Wave Community, Nakila enjoys writing, spittin’ and learning to love others with an unconditional passion.

On Wednesday, March 21, veteran First Wave performers Jill Fukumoto and Domonic Nicholas, and Myriha Burton and Shameaca Moore will bring performance duos to the stage.

Forget It by Jill Fukumoto and Domonic Nicholas, is a collection of narratives, stories, and memories that reveal the struggles that push the understandings of the imperfect structures of biracial identities. These are revealed through the lens of family members that represent the cultures we have been denying and that we choose to forget. It is an exploration of home, family, environment, and what it means to understand how to identify with all aspects of self, past, present, and future. It is about how the stories from foreign lands will get lost before they enter the American borders. The history of our blood only stands out in dimmed lights.

Failing with an A
by Myriha Burton and Shameaca Moore follows the life college life of two African-American women and shows the struggles of academia, love, racism/sexism, and religion, and how their interesectionalities inform how they respond to each obstacle. One of them is Janet Godbee from Gary, Indiana. Of the two, she’s more reserved, well-spoken, poised, intelligent, and articulate. The other of the pair is Renia Macon of Compton, California. Renia is almost the opposite of Janet as far as character. She’s slightly obnoctious, border line rude, profane, but also extremely intelligent. Both of them feel the pressures to be pillars for their crumbling families that are back home. When Renia conforms and decides to return home in an effort to save her nephew from the dangers that lurk the streets of  Compton that he’s already drawn to, she finds that sometimes you have to lose it all, to gain just enough.

Dominic Nicholas is a sophomore at UW-Madison and a member of First Wave Hip Hop Scholarship Program’s Fourth Cohort. He’s spoken word artist hailing from Oakland, CA who began performing his work at the age of 17 through his involvement with Youth Speaks Inc as a member of the Youth Advisory Board. He is currently studying Sociology and Asian American Studies and planning to use art to push his understandings of the social constructions that attempt to define the inner workings of our environments.

Jill Niki Fukumoto
is a second year student at the University of Wisconsin Madison and a member of the fourth cohort in the First Wave Program. She is currently studying Communication Arts with a certificate in East Asian studies. Jill is a spoken word artist that started performing at the age of 15 and is a child of Youth Speaks Hawaii. Born and raised in Kapahulu, Nu’uanu, and Mililani, Hawaii, her writing and lifestyle are being constantly influenced by home. As a Japanese-Chinese American woman she has lived and loved many lives.

The First Wave Touring Ensemble will bring Shock to the stage on March 18 and again on Sunday, March 18 and Tuesday, March 20.

Culture Shock: a sense of confusion and sometimes anxiety that affects people exposed to an alien culture without adequate preparation.
What happens when you find yourself a stranger in a place you’re supposed to call home? What happens when you become a stranger within yourself? When many students move outside of their communities for the first time, they are fiercely reminded of who they are, their history and their relationship to the world. Sure, they might go through culture shock, but what happens when the cultures starts to fade? How do you bring new life when your culture is dying in your hands? How do you bring on the revival?

 For more information contact:  Willie Ney at (608) 890-1055, Chris Walker at (608) 262-6637, or Valeria Davis at (608) 890-3079.