A grant to help fund the creation of an original theatrical presentation has been awarded to Moraine Valley Community College through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—Art Works.
The college will work in collaboration with the award-winning Silk Road Rising, a Chicago-based theater company, to create an original work to premiere in February 2019 as part of Moraine Valley’s Academic Theater program.

“We’re thrilled that through this grant we’re able to be the catalyst in creating something that will live well beyond the grant cycle,” said Tommy Hensel, managing director of the Fine and Performing Arts Center. Hensel said the script is being written now by professional playwrights: Ronnie Malley, a former Moraine Valley student, and Reginald Edmund, a resident playwright of Chicago Dramatists. Moraine Valley students will play the bulk of the roles.

The play, titled “American Griot,” is told through the lens of Mamadou, an 18th-century griot (African storyteller musician), and takes audiences on a musical journey to the crossroads of Africa and America, revealing the shared history of Islam and the blues on both continents.

The initial run of this work will be comprised of eight performances with corresponding workshops at Moraine Valley, which will offer comparative views about Islamic-influenced American art traditions. One of the primary goals of this project is to promote a greater understanding of the rich cultural Muslim heritage, Hensel said.

Creating the original theater work is a continuation of the Mosaics: Muslim Voices in America program at Moraine Valley, made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ Building Bridges: Arts Culture and Identity, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

Art Works is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speak to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as Moraine Valley, NEA funding invests in local communities helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

At the completion of the premiere run, the work will be prepared for future production at Silk Road Rising’s permanent theater in Chicago.