Ad: [ ? ]
TODAY

Friday, October 24

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Review: Superior Donuts by Mary-Arrchie Theater Co. Review: The Quality of Life Presented by The Den Theatre »

Theater Wed Nov 07 2012

Dream FIERCE Productions Presents Laurence Fishburne's Riff Raff

Actor Laurence Fishburne is best known for his work on Broadway, television and the big screen, having starred in movies such as Contagion, The Matrix, Boyz N the Hood, as well as his Academy Award-nominated performance in What's Love Got To Do With It; however, what you may not know, is that he is also a playwright. Riff Raff, Fishburne's only play to date, centers on the relationship of three men who are immersed in New York's gritty criminal world. Next week, the play will have another run in Chicago, this time via Dream FIERCE Productions; here, Semaj Miller, artistic director, talks about the play and its relevance to the community.

Dream FIERCE Productions' Artistic Director Semaj Miller
Dream FIERCE Productions' Artistic Director Semaj Miller; photo: Terrance Pitts.

Dream FIERCE Productions is dedicated "to theatrical productions that speak directly to the diverse communities throughout the Chicagoland area." Do you feel that this is something that is lacking here?

Regarding the kinds of show that are available, I wouldn't necessarily say that anything is lacking; Chicago is blessed with some of the most talented artists in theater. My concern is that the people that need to see these shows the most are not in attendance. And that's where Dream FIERCE Productions comes in.

Do you feel or think certain audiences are not patronizing theater enough?

For such a large city, a small percentage of the population attends the theater; many people still believe theater is a pastime reserved for the affluent or "culturally aware." I wholeheartedly reject this and that's partially the reason why I staged my first show on the far South Side. I wanted to bring theater to those who are either not in attendance or just not invited to see productions elsewhere. My shows can and should be enjoyed by a "traditional" theater audience but I'm most concerned about the young people in areas like Chatham, Englewood, Roseland, and on the city's West Side. There is room for more shows that speak to what's going on in our city but in order for the message to get to the intended audience, they must be accessible.

Let's talk about Riff Raff--a gritty crime drama written by Laurence Fishburne. How did this connection come about? Have you ever met him?

I wish! We've worked with some of the same people but never together, unfortunately. Mr. Fishburne is one of my heroes; he is an actor who is brave and honest in all his work and there are few who do it better.

What drew you to the play?

It was suggested to me by Reggie Simmons, who is the Associate Artistic Director of Dream FIERCE Productions. I was looking for a play to produce and at the time, I thought I would do Shakespeare's R&J. I never knew Mr. Fishburne wrote a play, but I bought it, read it, and immediately submitted my licensing proposal to the publisher. I admire his versatility as an artist, I appreciate the integrity of his work, and I'm grateful that as a young actor I have someone like him to look up to.

The story of Riff Raff is happening everyday in our communities; what was it about this play that stood out for you? What about it is different from similar stories that have been told onscreen or onstage?

Its honest, it is brutally honest. I also wanted a chance to play a character I played before. In his notes about the play, Fishburne wrote that this play was, to a degree, an exorcism of the demons that haunted him in his youth. Riff Raff does not romanticize "the lifestyle," and that's the main thing that attracted me to it. I honestly feel as if I'm putting "The Wire" or New Jack City onstage but it is much more impactful because the audience is right there with you.

You play Mike "20/20" Leon in the play--tell us about him.

My character, Mike, is a man who has spent the majority of his life committing crimes. He captures the essence of Jay-Z's "Can I Live," i.e., hustling "out of a sense of hopelessness, sort of a desperation." He's almost Shakespearean to me, because his loyalty runs deep and he speaks in rhythmic prose that jumps off the page.

Is there anything about Mike you personally relate to or identify with?

He reminds me of my brothers, well, the men I call my brothers, who actually were heavy in the drug game when I was growing up. I owe a huge debt to them; they kept me off the streets, pushed me to do well in school, and always supported everything I wanted to do. I think for the first time in my life I understand them and where they were coming from, and in a way, this is a nod and a "thank you" to them for keeping me on the right path.

What do you hope people to take away from Riff Raff? Is there a "message" you want audiences to get?

The decisions you make in your teens can and often times will follow you. That's a sobering thought and one that I hope people will take to heart. There is a war going on in the streets of Chicago, kids are killing kids and it is getting worse with each passing day; the only way we can start to change this vicious cycle of violence is by changing the way we think as a community. If we can change the way one young person thinks, I think we have done a good job. From that one person, we can inspire, uplift, and encourage a generation to not only dream big but to dream fiercely.

~*~

Riff Raff runs Friday and Saturday, November 16-17, at 7pm, at the Coriolis Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 404. Tickets are $15; for more information, contact info.riffraff@gmail.com or 708-439-9908.

 

soNita / November 10, 2012 11:21 AM

Nice interview semaj.

I'm happy to "Dream Fierce" with you.

DeoVonte Means / November 12, 2012 2:39 PM

Very nice Semaj...Impressive :-)

moe / November 12, 2012 9:30 PM

I'm lookng forward to following DF Productions projects.

Add a Comment




Please enter the letter v in the field below:



Live Comment Preview


Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="http://blahblahblah.com">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Film Wed Oct 08 2014

Chicago International Film Festival's Mimi Plauché Talks About CIFF's 50th Anniversary & This Year's Films

By Steve Prokopy

Steve talks with CIFF Programming Director Mimi Plauché about the festival's anniversary, special programming, and her favorites from this year's lineup.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Oct 17 2014

Fury, Whiplash, The Good Lie, The Best of Me, The Book of Life, St. Vincent, Keep On Keepin' On & 20,000 Days on Earth

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

 

Events

Fri Oct 24 2014
Project Recall: HCL @ Mana Contemporary

Fri Oct 24 2014
Englewood International Film Festival

Fri Oct 24 2014
53rd Ward: After Dark @ Hideout

Fri Oct 24 2014
Opening Reception: Andrew Barco & Eddie Breitweiser @ ThreeWalls

Fri Oct 24 2014
The City Lost & Found @ Art Institute

Fri Oct 24 2014
Opening Reception @ Aspect / Ratio

Fri Oct 24 2014
Sketchbook Swap Exhibition @ Jupiter Outpost

Sat Oct 25 2014
The Shit Show @ Collaboraction Theater

Sat Oct 25 2014
20x2 Chicago @ Schubas

Sat Oct 25 2014
Opening Reception: Thresh/hold @ Roman Susan ANNEX

Sat Oct 25 2014
Chicago Humanities Festival

Sat Oct 25 2014
Englewood International Film Festival

Sun Oct 26 2014
For Grace Premiere @ Portage Theater

Sun Oct 26 2014
Englewood International Film Festival

Sun Oct 26 2014
The Adventures of Danny & Mike @ Lincoln Hall

Sun Oct 26 2014
Opening Reception: Nicole Dyer & Matt Hilvers @ South of the Tracks

Sun Oct 26 2014
Opening Reception @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Sun Oct 26 2014
Beat Swap Meet @ Empty Bottle

Sun Oct 26 2014
Chicago Humanities Festival

Tue Oct 28 2014
The Moth StorySLAM @ Martyrs'

Tue Oct 28 2014
Robin Dluzen Artist Talk @ Lillstreet Loft


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15

Newsletter

Sign up for our free email newsletter I Star Chi and get a weekly round-up of the best of Gapers Block, plus our picks for must-do events each weekend!

istarchi

Preferred format    Preferred format