Exciting Black showcase comes out of Idaho
Kwapi Vengesayi, the creator and producer of Shades of Black, expanded the show out of the Palouse and into universities that can benefit from the Black History month celebration. Vengesayi’s ultimate goal is for the show to reach the impact that the Vagina Monologues has on college students nationally and even globally.
Vengesayi introduced the show in January of 2004 on the University of Idaho campus and it continues to be a staple production for Black History month ever since. At the request of students and faculty from various universities such as Western Washington University as well as Boise State University, Vengesayi added extra productions of Shades of Black. But this was not the only thing Vengesayi had planned for the future of his show.
“The show seems to be developing in two directions,” he said. “The first of course is its continuous expansion on to other campuses. The second is the show's television appeal; in the future the show could most probably be, given the right production team, something you would view on CBS, ABC, NBC or VH1”
For the past six years Shades of Black relied on talent from Washington State University, Eastern Washington University as well as Seattle to bring the show to life. Performers and alumni come from various states to be a part of the production.
Vengesayi often compared the expansion of his show to the impact the Vagina Monologues has with its V-day campaign. Eve Ensler, who wrote the monologues, used the accounts of over 200 women to compose the stories in the production. The monologues are put on all over the country and on college campuses to raise money to end violence against women and girls.
Francesca White is a Washington State University student who experienced the show more recently. White said “Vagina Monologue is empowering for women. It eases the tension about the discussion of women, sexuality, and gender identity. The audience, especially men, gain insight into issues pertaining to women in an edgy, controversial setting.”
The power behind the monologues comes from the message that it sends and the good that it does to spread awareness. Shades of Black tries to do something of a similar nature because “It allows the community to experience and coalesce around the ideals of a culture they aren't always exposed to” Vengesayi said.
Another similarity that Vengesayi would like to add is the idea of giving back on a more literal scale. There is a proposed fee for this year’s show with the money going to a scholarship fund related to performing arts, community service and education. Vengesayi also mentioned “as someone that lost my mother to cancer however, I've always wanted to do something cancer awareness related, but I will only know how I can link the success of Shades of Black to that cause in the future.”
The theme for this year’s Shades of Black is “Evolution” and it will take place on February 12 on the University of Idaho campus and February 19 on the Boise State campus, showcasing the talent of students and local artists from Idaho, Oregon, California and Washington.