(Madison) – Theatre LILA will present two mainstage shows and hundreds of student theatre workshops in its upcoming season, focusing on subjects that are topical, challenging, and ripe for larger discussions: the consequences of our disposable society and the state of race relations in the U.S.

“We believe it’s important to really engage with our community, to present work that addresses issues we’re grappling with, and promotes discussion,” said Jessica Lanius, Co-Artistic Director of the company, and director of both plays Theatre LILA will mount in the coming year. “We want to have a dialogue with our audiences about difficult subjects, through art.” She added, “It’s going to be an amazing year.”

Mike Lawler, Co-Artistic Director and Resident Scene Designer agreed. “Part of our job is to present pieces that no one else is doing, in ways that are innovative and smart. I think both of our shows this year fit that description.”

Theatre LILA will begin the year with Trash, an original multi-disciplinary exploration of the things, people, opportunities, and natural resources that are thrown away. Through poetry, dance, music, and drama, a five member performance ensemble will present the world premiere work of twelve authors. According to Lanius, the piece will be molded and shaped by the ensemble during the rehearsal process, similar to last season’s The Suitcase Dreams. “It’s a very physical, kinetic way to work,” she elaborated, “and very exciting. As a group we discover the piece through improvisation around the framework the authors provide.”

The second production, The Mojo and the Sayso by Aishah Rahman, will be a collaboration with Milwaukee based theatre company Bronzeville Arts Ensemble. The play, which focuses on the emotional aftermath for an African American family when one of its members is shot and killed by a white police officer, will be performed in both Milwaukee and Madison in 2016.

“Given the events of the past year, both in Wisconsin and nationally, it was important to us to select a play that dealt very directly with race,” said Lawler. “It’s my hope that this will be more than an emotionally engaging story, it will also be a catalyst for conversations that are overdue in our community.”

In conjunction with The Mojo and the Sayso, Bronzeville actresses and arts educators Olivia Dawson and Sheri Williams Pannell will join Jessica Lanius to conduct theatre workshops titled, “Real Stories About Race.” Patterned after the successful storytelling workshops with area youth that accompanied last season’s Suitcase Dreams, community members and school districts in the Madison and Milwaukee areas will be invited to take part in this complementary program that empowers participants to present their own unique stories through a dramatic lens. Through movement and improvisation exercises, participants will create short theatre pieces based on personal experiences with the complicated issue of race, as it plays out in social and political situations, within communities, schools, families, and workplaces.

Tickets to both productions are on sale now through Overture Center’s ticket office and at overturecenter.com. Information is also available at Theatre LILA’s website, theaterlila.com.


The Mojo and the Sayso and the corresponding “Real Stories about Race” outreach project are generously sponsored by the Madison Arts Commission and Overture Center’s Community Arts Access Program.

The 2015-2016 season is sponsored by The Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund for Theater, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation, and Dane Arts.

Theatre LILA

Originally founded in New York City in 2004 and transplanted to Madison in 2013, Theatre LILA challenges the audience’s experience of theatre by integrating the “360° actor” ‑ the physical, intellectual, psychological, and emotional instrument – in a fusion of drama, dance, music, and sound to create a total performance experience. For more information, please visit www.theatrelila.com.


A Theatre LILA Invention

October 1-11, 2015

Promenade Hall at Overture Center for the Arts

Ticket office 608-258-4141

What do you save and what do you throw away?

Our disposable society has created tons and tons of trash. That has had a ripple effect throughout the world; on economics, on the environment, on the way we understand our own impact. But the things we throw away aren’t always tangible – sometimes they are the chance to change, to risk, to love. Sometimes trash is the byproduct of greed, a source of beauty, or the result of destruction. Sometimes it’s just talk. Sometimes it’s the difference between life and death. Join us as we mine ordinary trash for extraordinary stories.

True to its mission, Theatre LILA is creating this collage of music, movement, and world premiere scenes, and bringing it to life in unexpected ways. From the moment you enter the theatre, you’ll be confronted and amazed by the beautiful, the broken, and the discarded; the detritus of the modern world. Authors contributing to the piece include Jim Caputo, Ajanae Dawkins, Olivia Dawson, Lee Ehmke, Amelia Cook Fontella, Karl Iglesias, Jessica Lanius, Mike Lawler, Tyler Marchant, Andy Arden Reese, Gwendolyn Rice, and Katrin Talbot. An original musical score accompanying the evening was composed by Erin Crabb.

The cast of Trash includes: Kelly Coffey, Olivia Dawson, Karl Iglesias, Mara McGhee, young performer Miranda Dove-Garcia, and Michael Herold and Michael Huftile, who both appeared in Theatre LILA’s Suitcase Dreams last season.

The Mojo and The Sayso

By Aishah Rahman

In collaboration with Bronzeville Arts Ensemble

January 29-Feburay 7, 2016

Stiemke Studio, Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Milwaukee, WI

Ticket info: TBA

February 18-21, 2016

Promenade Hall, Overture Center for the Arts
Madison, WI

Ticket office 608-258-4141

“How do they add up what a 10-year-old boy’s life is worth to his parents?”

An African American family’s strength and faith are tested after their young son is shot and killed by a white police officer. With compassion, humor, a touch of fantasy, and a unique facility for language, Rahman’s characters cope with the aftermath of tragedy by looking for meaning and a magic charm, or mojo, that will pull them through this difficult time.

The Mojo and the Sayso was recently named in American Theatre magazine as one of a handful of plays that could spark a national conversation about race, at a time when those divisions have become increasingly strained.

The cast of The Mojo and the Sayso includes Marvette Knight (seen in last season’s Suitcase Dreams), Gavin Lawrence, Isayah Phillips, and Wigasi Brant.

“Rahman is the godmother of the theatrical jazz aesthetic. . . (this play) is a powerful rite with language that shakes the bones, with deft attention to her characters’ churning sea of emotions.”

– Professor/Artist Daniel Alexander Jones