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"Desecration: Of Gravel Graves" - Original Spoken Word and Dance Performance and Conversation

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Artist-In-Residence Carla Stillwell presents: 
“Desecration: Of Gravel Graves”
Monday, July 30th, 5:30-8PM

An original theater piece using spoken word and dance to meditate on the current and historical violence against the Black body, with a focus on police aggression. Carla will facilitate a conversation afterward inviting all present to speak about their own experiences and strategize ways to counteract this systemic violence.

Carla Stillwell is a director/playwright/teaching artist who is planning to bring an institute for Black artists to her neighborhood of South Shore. Carla's collaborators for "Desecration" include Devin Joyner (Choreographer/Performer), Michael Adams (Performer), Leonard House (Performer), Robert Pitts (Visual Artist), Shawn Wallace (Musician/Audio), and Taylah Thomas (Dancer).

This event is free and all are welcome. Refreshments and a play area for smaller children will be provided.

Guests should enter the red door on Blackstone Avenue. This event is wheelchair accessible and we will have an interpreter for deaf audience members.

For more information or to make arrangements for disabilities, please contact Matthew Searle, Assistant Director of Experimental Station: matthew (at) or 773.241.6044.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from Illinois Humanities, with support from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.



About Carla Stillwell, Director/Playwright/Teaching Artist

Ms. Stillwell began her directorial career with the late night stage production of the popular 70’s sitcom Good Times. She went on to direct Addae Moon’s critically acclaimed work She Calls up the Sun (2008), Kevin Douglas’ No Experience Necessary, Keith Josef Adkins’ The Last Saint on Sugar Hill (2010), Tad in 5th City which she also adapted from the poetry of Orron Kenyatta Marshall (2012), Paul Notice’s Leaves, Trees, Forest (2013) and Eric Lockley’s Without Trace.  She was the workshop director of two new works by Shepsu Aakhu and Keith Josef Adkins at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in August 2014 and most currently the director for MPAACT’s 2015-2016 season which is dedicated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Shepsu Aakhu’s Never the Milk and Honey (2017)

As a playwright, some of her credits include a one woman show Carla…In Search of My Silky Underthings (2000), Defending Myself (2003), the Joseph Jefferson Award/Black Theatre Alliance Award nominated play The Divine Order of Becoming (2005), the Blaxploitation series (4 BTA Awards) with co-writers Kevin Douglas and Inda Craig-Galvan (2005 and 2007), and the adapted and directed  the work of poet Orron Kenyatta, Tad in 5th City – Joseph Jefferson Nominated (2010), which was noted in the “Top 25 Plays of 2010” by the Chicago Theatre Blog and was also featured in the August Wilson Reading Round Table Series at The August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  Her show Bodies (2012) won a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Play and was nominated for Best New Work with Joseph Jefferson Nominated (2012.) Bodies was also selected for a reading at the New Black Play Festival in New York, October 2012.  Ms. Stillwell has also been commissioned to create work for Theatre Seven of Chicago and The DuSable Museum of African American History.  Her children’s show When Good Broccoli Goes Bad: The Musical! – a show about healthy eating - is currently being produced by The Chicago Park District.  Her newest works, “The People Who Could Fly and Other Stories of Freedom” premiered at The Beverly Arts Center and “Lawd the CVS is Burning: A Gospel Musical Stage Play”, which is a satirical look at the media’s handling of the recent string of police murders, opened MPAACT’s 2015-2016 season to rave reviews.  Her latest project “Burf of a Nation: Or From Covfefe With Love” was a biting satire about our current president and opened MPAACT’s 2017/2018 season.

The Divine Order of Becoming will open the 2016-2017 inaugural season at the Union for Contemporary Art’s in Omaha NE. Bodies was published by Chicago Dramaworks and is available through their website.

Ms. Stillwell has been an award winning actor, playwright and director for three decades.  She is the former Artistic Director for MPAACT as well as a Playwright-In-Residence. Ms. Stillwell is a teaching artist with Victory Gardens Theatre, Storycatcher’s Theatre and is a regular creative writing workshop host at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Columbia College Chicago. She is also a visiting workshop director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ms. Stillwell has been a contributor to the online theatre magazine HowlRound hosted by Emerson College of Boston writing two popular articles, “What do we tell our young Playwrights who are Black” and “Diversity: It’s a Noun”. She is currently directing a new play ”More Than Neighbors” for the 2018 Great Plains Theatre Conference.

About the Residency

“At this moment in history I find that it is completely irresponsible for the artist (especially us artist of color with intersectional concerns) to create art that does not speak to the open assault on the most vulnerable among us. It is necessary for the artist to frame to conversations of brutality, murder, neglect and oppression in ways that move the resistance forward. To encourage those in power to think about their position in this time of cultural shift and hopefully move everyone to act.

In a four week residency, I will bring together multigenerational Black performers and visual artist to devise a performance piece focused on the desecration of the black body. Throughout the residency, we will engage the community in and around Experimental Station for their participation in the creative process and involving the audience in the public performance. Our process will adopt strategies and energies from the Black Arts Movement as this residency is a first step in laying a foundation for a future institute for the black arts names after my mother Charlene Stillwell.

My mother, as a young Black woman in the early 1950’s shared with her mother that she wanted to study to be a painter. My grandmother told her she needed to study to be a secretary so she could get a job. My mother painted in her later years and when I went to her and told her that I wanted study theatre in college, she pushed me into the arms of art. My goal is that The Charlene Stillwell Institute for Contemporary Black Art can be a place for the Black artist to come and create culturally specific work, study African Centered theatre practices and experiment without the pressure of making a “successful” piece of art, but instead being a part of the documentation of the contemporary Black experience and our storied, continued quest for justice and equality."