Make a House a Home – Next Act Theatre

Make a House a Home

Make a House a Home

By Malaina Moore, Community Liaison

On Saturday, October 1, 2022, Next Act Theatre hosted Wisconsin’s first-ever Black Out Night performance, a performance reserved exclusively for Black or Black-identifying audience members. The evening performance of KILL MOVE PARADISE sold out, meaning the biggest audience of the show’s run came for a reception beforehand, a performance of the show and a post-show Spirit Talk.

Overall, the experience was electric – this performance was a small slice of what I aspire for theatre to be. Among the Black community, everyone was represented: a big mix of ages, genders and backgrounds. There were two little boys, maybe no more than 10 years old, who I helped get some soda before the play. I watched them during the show and they were so engaged. These are young Black men – they don’t go to plays often. Having them there meant they got to see themselves represented on stage and grapple with the reality of their experiences just like (the character) Tiny.

I met a subscriber who changed her seat to make sure she attended on Black Out Night. I saw Kristin E. Ellis, who played Nya in PIPELINE last season. I even saw a DoorDash driver who had delivered me food earlier in the week and had asked about the play! So many people from different places came together that the event had an energy of sharing – we were sharing the culture and sharing the night with each other.

During the performance, all the jokes landed. All the actors’ questions went answered. Marti Gobel, our director, called it a “family reunion.”

More than anything, this was a healing experience. The show and the talk afterwards were both healing. A lot of people told me, “I’m still processing what the show did to me, what it showed me.” Black Out Night is proof that plays that engage the community with a moving story matter to everyone. Even with more white audiences, this story resonated because it was important. And especially on Black Out Night, we followed the rules of KILL MOVE PARADISE and made a house a home.