“Through the narrative of the black experience I strive to provide a service for black and brown communities of authentically illuminating their myths, archetypes, and language in a public theatrical space.”
Rappers want to be actors and actors want to be… well if you’re Antonio Duke, you do more than want. You do.
If you are Antonio Duke, you don’t aspire to switch lanes or be anyone other than that which you were born. An experienced actor of screen and stage, Mr. Duke has a brand new bone to pick with your creative imagination. Hopefully, you also know by now that The Black Freq Sheets isn’t into wasting time. Here is the question:
What comes to mind when you think of an epic poem?
When James Willliams performed a monologue from August Wilson’s Fences in his high school class, the young Duke saw an old flash of the spirit. That was it! Who he is and the realization of it was everything required to propel him to the next station of life. “I knew I wanted to be an actor… I knew the inspirational power words could have,” said Duke in a recent interview with The Black Freq Sheets.
“I auditioned for the University of Minnesota’s Guthrie B.F.A Actor Training program straight out of High-school and didn’t get in,” remembered Duke.
Of course he didn’t get in. If he got in, when would he have read the complete works of Moliere or Chekov? On the walk from his trailer to the set? Every hero has a journey and a station where they are a student. The lessons they learn are usually for the greater good. The work they do for us is the culmination of their journey and all the lessons learned along the way. So of course he didn’t get in.
“I went to auditions and performed monologues I wrote. I didn’t know of any until I went to Barnes & Noble and bought plays that caught my attention. I read complete works of playwrights including Moliere, Goethe, and Chekov and used them to audition for theater companies as well,” he added.
Two years of self-study and of course auditioning followed high school. The James Williams’ presentation in his high school class continued to inspire an intentional drive to become. Duke determined himself to become more than an actor.
The goal was to be an artist that inspired and triggered the same flash of vision he felt that day. The effort led to him intentionally pouring himself into both his study and evolution with the understanding that technical training was necessary to meet his goal.
Duke explained, “I did that for two years while going to Minneapolis Community and Technical College but I knew the next step in developing as an artist would be my B.F.A. I auditioned for the Guthrie program again and was lucky enough to be accepted.”
The Guthrie Theater was founded in Minnesota in 1963 to provide education, production and professional training to theater performers and associated artists. The theater presents classical and contemporary works from ‘diverse cultures’ according to their website. Their goal is to shine a light on the common bonds of humanity between Minnesota and the global community. We can dig that like a bone itch.
Did we ever figure out that epic poem conundrum? An epic poem is a long narration with intrinsic cultural relevance that usually depicts a heroic journey. It is important to note the dominate culture has an advantageous position to control these narratives in any society. Who then, is obliged to depict those narratives of heroes outside of dominate cultural construct?
“Through the narrative of the black experience I strive to provide a service for black and brown communities of authentically illuminating their myths, archetypes, and language in a public theatrical space,” offers Antonio Duke.
He continues, “In my experience the American education system celebrates Euro-centered culture more than that of peoples of color. Specifically, at the University of Minnesota, we are taught the classics such as Shakespeare, Euripides, and Shaw as fundamentals. This is because the Guthrie B.F.A program is a European classically based program so from the get go. I am a black artist in a white space.”
An emphasis on the importance of safe spaces to expansive roominess of African culture is necessary in a demographic that excludes them rather intentionally or not. Minnesota notoriously shelters this demographic with a population of people that have a unique idea of what it is to be nice to others.
It is no wonder that ‘peoples of color’ and even implants, relocating to Minnesota from places unknown, will find refuge in one another. These spaces are oftentimes overflowing with rich, unique artistic collaborations and even better, confiscations of African cultural components like the epic poem.
As a literary, it is important to consider oneself to be luminary in training and while we do, we also understand the necessity take on new disciplines. As an example we post this mathematical word problem:
If it takes an indeterminable amount of licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop than how many times do Black people need to hear they are the original people before they believe it?
The new one man show, Tears Of Moons, is written and produced by Antonio Duke and will be showcased at the University of Minnesota at the Rarig Center in the Kilburn Arena on February 11th at 6pm.
What is it? It is an effort to sankofa the tradition of Minnesota nice that excludes ‘peoples of color’ as Duke offered, and specifically expression of African culture. The play seeks to re-erect Ghanaian and Nigerian gods in the consciousness of the people with the goal of providing informative entertainment and most importantly, inspiration.
About the forthcoming, highly anticipated presentation, Duke offers, “The under representation of my culture in my actor training motivated me to write Tears of Moons. I’ve work-shopped it with various Twin Cities’ artists.
There seems to be a hunger to shine light on these characters.” The social medial invitation on Facebook informs audiences of the two night event from February 11th through the 12th. The play superimposes Haitian and African gods in traditionally Greek narratives to creatively narrate ‘victims of racial violence from 1955-2015.’
Originally, people came from Africa. Somehow, we arrive at a place where the overwhelming American narrative lends to a belief that civilization began elsewhere. Let’s face it, it isn’t just Minnesota, America is also damn nice! Oh and when we mention civilization, TBFS refer to those elements indicative of civility, specifically art, more relevantly the epic poem tradition which began in Africa as part of a rich oral tradition of storytelling.
Most suggests this history has gone undocumented while others hold to a perspective of a stolen legacy that exist all around us in various European recapitulations. #WeCanSeeBothSides #TheDoubleConsciousnessIsReal #WeAreStillLearningHowHashtagsWork
Antonio Duke was inspired by An Iliad, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, which is an adaptation off Homer’s The Iliad. An Iliad cuts fat from it’s parent piece to focus on and highlight the brutality of warfare and the emerging heroes thereof. Duke shares the interest in awakening audiences to the tragic consequences of the human id gone unchecked. He just so happens to be a black man in the process.
“Our community needs stories, larger stories. We specifically need mythological stories derived from within our community in order to healthily sustain itself. This is the job of the actor,” insists Antonio Duke.
He continues, “I believe you can judge a theatrical art by the questions it asks of the community. I raise questions that come from the people I see around my neighborhood. The questions I raise in Tears Of Moons are vital for the sustainability of my community, especially given the national political state.”
The audience for Tears Of Moons includes those disenfranchised and people that have experienced spiritual evolution. Basically, everybody. The Black Freq Sheets forgot to ask the Duke, it happens, but this could be the reason why the show is FREE99.
For a price of zero, audiences can be reminded of where they come from. They can also get a peek at where they will go if a well of artistic attribute is continuously marginalized only to take a seat to a dominate culture that heavily borrows from it.
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