Continuing with my artist interview series, I’m happy to introduce a very good friend, Amina McIntyre. I’ve known Amina since our days at Colby College. She’s originally from Atlanta and has recently, along with her partner Mia Kristin Smith (both pictured above with Amina to left), founded the Songs of KARIBU Performing Arts Company.
KARIBU [pronounced kah-ree-boo], which means “Welcome” in Swahili, is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of society, particularly women and children, by the implementation and development of new plays and works discovered and derived from communal interactions and conditions. In short, they use theater/drama as “Expressive Arts Therapy” and its techniques to enable personal growth and encourage a healthier mental choice at life.
Amina and I have talked many times about the challenges of chasing your dreams and carving your own path in life, so I was really excited to discuss the launch of Songs of KARIBU and what we can soon expect from them.
First off, congratulations! This is a great accomplishment. Tell me how you and Mia came together and what inspired you both to create Songs of KARIBU?
We met in 2012 during the New African Grove Theater Company’s Production of Pearl Cleage’s A Song for Coretta directed by Keith Franklin. Mia was an actor, and I was stage manager. The entire cast, which also included Roman James, Isa J. Miles, Kameeka Williams and Indya Bussey-Starr, was a joy to work with and we wanted to continue the camaraderie and support of our crafts. Immediately following the show, as it often happens, our communication dimmed until we got back together to reprise the production for a small tour. This renewed our conversation however, like many projects, we once again allowed life to overshadow our goals.
It was not until my play, All’s Fair in Jewels and Dresses, was accepted in the 2013 Fort Wayne Fringe Festival that we started to make good on our commitment. Mia directed and I produced, stage managed and did the behind the scenes work. On the trip, Mia, who was once Artistic Director of a company in New Orleans, Louisiana, then revealed her desire to have a company in Atlanta, Karibu Performing Arts, and her ongoing work doing theater education and drama for therapy in the area. We added the “Songs of” to distinguish the performances, music and artistic presentations. While have two names, we commonly refer to the company simply as “Karibu”.
Songs of Karibu is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of society, by the implementation and development of New Plays and Works. Karibu is a culmination of our dreams of producing quality theatre for audiences, particularly women and children, so that we work toward healing for the greater society. Karibu will feature plays we’ve read along our theatrical journeys as well as original works that challenge our common perspective.
What are your respective roles within the company?
Mia is the Artistic Director; she was trained at the New School in New York, taught at Atlanta’s The Green Room, and acts, directs and teaches acting classes for the company. She is the primary talent and artistic administrator, willing to work with those interested and encourage all theater persons to develop and hone their craft.
I am the Managing Director, handling the business aspect of it company both backstage and offstage. I studied Creative Writing at Spalding University and bring my experiences writing and planning events to the overall production process. I’m often the person on the phone, out back finalizing a location or date, passing papers to actors, or running lines with actors.
Songs of Karibu has other Artistic Consultants and is developing a core staff to assist in making this endeavor come to full fruition.
Give me an idea of the type of performances we should expect to see from Songs of KARIBU.
The performances will be poignant and polished, challenging the audience’s comfort and invoking discussion around life issues. Topdog/Underdog, for example, is a play about two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, who simultaneously work together and against each other. The audience will experience, in close proximity, their story and have a chance to interact with other audience members and cast during the post-discussion.
Our productions may take place in a classroom in front of a group of people, outside on a patio, or in theater around Atlanta – accessible to people of all ages and walks of life. We also plan to educate people in the theater production process and work with the community, using “Expressive Arts Therapy” techniques to reach audiences.
How many shows do you plan to produce in your first year? Will they all be here in Atlanta or do you plan to travel?
3; all in Atlanta at this point. The first production is Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, her Pulitzer Prize winning play about troubled siblings, Lincoln and Booth. The show, directed by Mia, will be April 25-27, 2014 at The Alchemy of Acting Studio, 115 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SW Suite 275 Atlanta, GA 30303, and features Jermal Collins and Duran Butler (who is also a local musician). Tickets are currently available through BrownPaperTickets.com at SONGS OF KARIBU.
The second production is Mia’s To Ronnie. The play looks into the lives of three sisters reuniting after the loss of their younger brother, only their past catches up with the present for a very revealing turnabout. To Ronnie will take place in July 2014.
The third production (in the fall) will be my play, City Walker, which follows Sheridan Walker, a young woman desperately in search of her homeless father after missing his daily phone call, who walks Atlanta’s “Tramp Trail” to find any evidence of him. It is currently in development, a portion of which was funded by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Individual Artist Grant.
We also have smaller plays we showcase at festivals and in local schools upon request on various subjects.
Is there anything else about Songs of KARIBU you’d like to share?
Songs of Karibu is a sister organization to two other up and coming Black Theater companies in the Atlanta area, Rising Sage Productions (formerly 3 Hill Productions) and New African Grove Theater Company. We are also apart of Black Artists International (BAI), a collaborative company that supports Black arts in the Atlanta area. As a result, you may see a cross-pollination of staffs around town – we all support our various theatrical endeavors and encourage others to do the same. Matter of fact, currently, I am stage managing and Mia is a principle actor in The Renaissance Project’s The Amen Corner, directed by Synthia Willams of New African Grove Theater Company, which runs March 28-April 12, 2014.
Where can people go to learn more about KARIBU?
Songs of Karibu is on Facebook at Facebook.com/songsofkaribu. We are also in the midst of a GoFundMe Campaign, Gofundme.com/songsofkaribu, to offset the funds associated with our productions. We can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.