Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center
Thirty-five years ago, Jackie Taylor, a young Chicago actress raised in the Cabrini-Green housing projects, started the Black Ensemble Theater with the mission to “eradicate racism.” She worked toward that goal not by preaching, but rather by creating a congregation, for a BET show is not like any other theatrical experience you’re likely to encounter. With musicians placed front and center and an always-energetic cast singing and dancing in a musical rendition of an iconic black performer’s life, or perhaps just a jukebox musical built around the songs, say, of Luther Vandross, the audience is so engaged that it’s always surprising they don’t jump up on stage and join in. Well Taylor’s hard work, dedication and talents—she’s written, produced and directed many of their hit shows—has paid off in the recent opening of the nineteen-million-dollar Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center in Uptown, a performance venue that stands among the city’s finest. The debut show might be one of Taylor’s best, “The Jackie Wilson Story,” but rest assured, you’re really taking in the Jackie Taylor Story when you’re sitting in those seats.
Black Ensemble Theater
4450 North Clark
Best of Chicago 2011