Black Ensemble to Debut “A Dancesical” for Holiday Season

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The Black Ensemble Theater has devised something new for the holiday season. It is the world- premiere production of “Once Upon a People: A Dancesical, written and directed by the company’s associate director, Rueben D. Echoles.

Described as “an original African fairytale that suggests the true power of love as told through the spoken word, music and dance,” the show takes the audience on a journey to the mythical land of Mirah where Prince Oba and Pricess Erin lead the audience on a mystical experience “that teaches us to embrace the joy of living.”

The cast will be led by Alexis J. Rogers (the galvanic star of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”), who plays Queen Imani, with Donald Craig Manuel as King Babatunde; Eric Lewis as Prince Oba; Jazzelle Morriss as Princess Erin; and Claudia Cunningham as Zahara. Also featured will be Camille Robinson, A’rese Emokpae, Trequon Tate, Mark. J.P. Hood, LaRaia Gribble, La Dreauna Johnson, Kudzaishe Jeti, Kyle Smith and Aramie C. Payton, plus students from Studio One, a southside organization that has been dedicated to providing professional dance classes for children for more than 25 years.

With a book and lyrics written by Echoles, the show features vocal and musical arrangements by Echoles, Rogers and musical director Kelvin Roston, Jr., with Robert Reddrick leading the band.

“Once Upon a People” will be performed Sundays through Mondays at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street. For tickets ( $45 for adults and $30 for children under 12), call (773) 769-4451 or visit

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