When Art & Reality Intersect...Powerfully

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I was invited to attend the Victory Gardens Theatre annual Black Beauty Festival and view their latest theatrical production Pipeline this past weekend as a media influencer for Black Bloggers Chicago. The Black Beauty Fest is a day featuring locally black owned businesses and special performances.  The event is a partnership between Victory Gardens theatre and the Black Women’s Expo.   I arrived at the beauty festival and spent a Saturday afternoon meeting and shopping with some really wonderful black owned businesses. 

I’m a natural hair product junkie and I’m always looking for something new to keep my curls poppin. Chi Town Naturals, Eden Body Works and Dr. Herbal’s Organic & Vegan Hair Care had really affordable products that I cannot wait to try on my daughter’s hair and mine!   Events like these allow you to pick up quite a few products at great prices! Perfect for a product junkie like me! I also met a new entrepreneur, Darrell Roberts from B.A.E. apparel. He had some awesome statement tees with messages of female empowerment! His tees were so cool I picked up 3 of them and promised to order more!  I also grabbed a couple of bottles of wine from Black Owned Winery, Sip & Share.  I loved their “7 Words” Wine Collection. They were gracious and provided a tasting for all of the attendees.  I was able to sample all 7 wines and picked up a bottle of “Intention” (a really great Riesling) and “Healing” (a great sweet wine).   The Beauty Festival was such a great way to connect with black owned businesses, many of which I was unfamiliar with prior.

After enjoying an afternoon of shopping, I made my way inside the theatre for the viewing of Pipeline.  Written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, it was an incredible story of Nya (beautifully acted by Tyla Abercrumbie), an inner city public school teacher.  Her son, Omari (incredibly performed by Matthew Elam) attends an exclusive, private school but gets into trouble that could cause him to go to jail and be expelled from school.  The play delves into an important conversation on parenthood, the public school system, race and the prison system.  

Pipeline really connected with me as a single parent who sends her children to predominately white private schools.  Like the character, Nya, I make huge sacrifices so my children do not attend Chicago Public Schools and much like Omari, my children have had to navigate their school experience as black kids in predominately white spaces.  The play really highlights the struggles of inner city public school teachers.   Moments of absolute realness from Laurie, a veteran school teacher (magnificently acted by Janet Ulrich Brooks), highlighted the day to day frustrations of most of my friends who are currently school teachers.  They are passionate about what they do but frustrated by the lack of support and resources afforded to them. During the performance, my heart ached as I watched, Omari interact with his father, Xavier (played with incredible authentic by Mark Spates Smith.  The lack of emotional connection from father to son was incredibly powerful yet sad to watch.   The emotional struggle of Nya, a deeply committed mother who tries to do everything for her child to have certain opportunities yet questions whether or not she did enough.  As a single mom of three, I completely related to her emotional dilemma.

Pipeline was a brilliantly acted production that had so many layers and provided much needed conversation after the show in the post-show discussion.  It always amazes me how an audience can view the same piece yet connect with people so differently. The overall commentary from the audience was positive.  They loved it and all connected to it emotionally. 

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I left feeling like I had to bring my children to see this play.  I know there are moments that they would relate to and I am anticipating some eye opening conversations with them.  Pipeline is an absolute must see and I highly recommend it, especially for parents, educators and students. 

Pipeline runs through March 3, 2019 and tickets start at just $20.00.

Special thanks to Victory Gardens Theatre and Black Bloggers Chicago for the opportunity to cover such an outstanding event.

Until next time,

Take care of yourself and one another.

D. Sanders