Ac­tor/di­rec­tor, ac­tivist awarded $3,000 prize

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - Front Page - BY PRESS STAFF

MID­DLE­TOWN — A city man whose play, “Re­quiem for an Elec­tric Chair,” based on his es­cape from ex­e­cu­tion in Kin­shasa, will pre­miere in New Haven later this month has been hon­ored with a grant from The New Eng­land Foun­da­tion for the Arts.

Mid­dle­town res­i­dent Toto Kisaku is orig­i­nally from Kin­shasa, the cap­i­tal of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo. His pro­duc­tion is the har­row­ing story of his im­pris­on­ment and near-ex­e­cu­tion there in 2015, be­fore he was granted po­lit­i­cal asylum in the United States, ac­cord­ing to Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity.

Kisaku is among this year’s Re­becca Blunk Fund awardees, and will re­ceive an award of $3,000 in un­re­stricted sup­port for the cre­ation of new work and for pro­fes­sional development, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

Kisaku is an award­win­ning Con­golese play­wright, ac­tor, di­rec­tor and pro­ducer who stud­ied drama at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Arts. Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing the K-Mu The­ater in 2003, he spent the next 13 years trav­el­ing the world pro­duc­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in plays, with a fo­cus on go­ing beyond the con­straints of daily life and ex­am­in­ing how peo­ple liv­ing in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances (poverty, op­pres­sive regimes) can use artis­tic ac­tiv­i­ties to recre­ate their en­vi­ron­ments and im­prove their lives, the re­lease said.

As an ac­tivist, one of his most suc­cess­ful projects as pro­ducer and ac­tor was “Basal’ya bazoba,” which raised aware­ness of the law pro­tect­ing chil­dren in Kin­shasa and played to more than 150,000 peo­ple in and around Kin­shasa, the state­ment said. For this pro­duc­tion, he re­ceived the 2010 Free­dom to Cre­ate Prize pre­sented in Cairo, Egypt.

As a U.S. refugee since De­cem­ber 2015, Kisaku “is re­defin­ing his artis­tic ex­pres­sion based not only on the drama that his coun­try of origin is experiencing, but also on his ex­pe­ri­ences in the U.S., a coun­try that has wel­comed him with so many sur­prises, from its hu­man­i­tar­ian phi­los­o­phy to its per­spec­tives on iden­tity and free­dom,” ac­cord­ing to the re­lease.

“Re­quiem for an Elec­tric Chair” will pre­miere at the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Arts & Ideas June 23.

The per­for­mance at Wes­leyan July 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Crow­ell Con­cert Hall in Mid­dle­town, will be a staged, 40-minute read­ing which will be fol­lowed by a 20-minute talk-back with the artist. Kisaku will also talk about his artis­tic process July 10 at 12:10 p.m. in the Ring Fam­ily Per­form­ing Arts Hall.

Do­na­tions are $10. For in­for­ma­tion, visit wes­leyan uni­ver­si­tyt­ick­ets.com.

Con­trib­uted photo

Toto Kisaku is an award-win­ning Con­golese play­wright, ac­tor, di­rec­tor and pro­ducer who lives in Mid­dle­town.

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