D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Longtime Friends Psalmayene 24 and Kamilah Forbes Talk Black Stories, Stage and Screen

Studio Theatre to Present 'Psalm's Salon Event' Dec. 17

Two Howard University graduates will “chew the fat” for a provocative discussion about the significant contributions made by Blacks both in front of and behind the camera and why Black stories and storytellers remain essential in continued efforts toward true racial equality during a virtual event hosted by D.C.’s Studio Theatre.

Local playwright, director and actor Psalmayene 24 will welcome Kamilah Forbes, executive producer for the legendary Apollo Theater and entertainment industry trailblazer, as the featured guest on the final Psalm’s Salon virtual event of the year on December 17 at 5 p.m.

Psalmayene 24 (Courtesy photo)
Psalmayene 24 (Courtesy photo)

Psalm’s Salons began in June 2020 as an online gathering space to highlight the work of creatives, signal-boost local and Black-owned businesses, kick back to live music and promote a sense of community. During each broadcast, DJ Nick tha 1da spins live music, sampling from the Library of Congress Citizen DJ tool. Psalm breaks the ice with a “mental health drink break” and in a nod to the hip-hop tradition with a theatre twist, guests pick their Top 5 stage productions.

A dedicated steward of Black stories and pioneer of hip hop theatre, Forbes has become an in-demand director of stage and screen. Her stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” was just released on HBO. And recently we learned that she will produce, with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Plan B, a film version of Coates’s latest bestseller, “The Water Dancer” for MGM.

“I’m elated to have my longtime friend, Kamilah Forbes, as the final salon guest for 2020,” Psalmayene 24 said. “When we were at Howard together, a bunch of young artists creating art that existed at the nexus of hip-hop and theater, she was there. Chad Bozeman was another of our compatriots and friends also at Howard University.”

“While you may not see her name in the credits for ‘Hamilton,’ the aesthetics that ‘Hamilton’ used were influenced and shaped by the work she’s done. She’s simply the ‘Godmother of Hip-Hop Theater.’ Maybe she doesn’t have the pop culture name recognition that those in front of the camera have but she’s a major player behind the scenes. I’m looking forward to discussing Kamilah’s legendary career and sharing this conversation with Studio’s audience.”

Studio Artistic Director David Muse echoed Psalmayene 24’s sentiments.

“It is an honor and thrill to welcome Kamilah Forbes back to DC – albeit virtually,” Muse said. “She’s a thought leader, community builder and director whose work resonates with the brain and body. I invite you to share in what is sure to be a fascinating conversation between these artists.”

Psalm’s Salons are supported by a capacity building grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program. The program funds artists and arts institutions working to forge long-lasting relationships with diverse audiences. Studio, working with Psalm, has committed to expand on its efforts to forge meaningful connections with African-American millennial audiences in the District.

And while some lament the challenges the entertainment world continues to face due to the current health pandemic, Psalmayene 24 said he sees profound opportunities both now and in the new year.

“With the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of producers are looking to Black creators to respond to this moment,” he said. “They’re looking to us for guidance, for leadership and to help them interpret the times in which we currently live.”

“I actually think this is the best time in American history to be a Black artist. Despite this difficult period in history and even amidst the turmoil and chaos, it offers fertile ground for our art and our careers,” he said.

Psalmayene 24’s directing credits include “Native Son” by Nambi E. Kelley at Mosaic Theater Company, “Word Becomes Flesh” (recipient of five 2017 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Direction of a Play) by Marc Bamuthi Joseph at Theater Alliance, and “The Shipment” by Young Jean Lee at Forum Theatre. He has received commissions from the African Continuum Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Imagination Stage, The Kennedy Center, Theater Alliance, Solas Nua and Mosaic Theater Company. His one-man play, “Free Jujube Brown!,” is published in the anthology “Plays from the Boom Box Galaxy: Theater from the Hip-Hop Generation (TCG).”

The event is free and will be streamed live on Studio Theatre’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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