Pandemic changes, but can't halt, Schaumburg Black History Month tradition
The temporary closure of Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts due to the pandemic is changing -- but not stopping -- the traditional Black History Month production hosted by the theater for the past 23 years.
Instead of the usual live performance, Maurice Proffit, the Schaumburg native who's written and directed all the shows since 1999, will host "The Black Tape," a free, livestreamed retrospective of six of the shows' biggest moments.
The event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, on the B-Side Studios Facebook page.
Though born of necessity, Proffit said the time is right to showcase the productions' highest-quality work for a larger audience and show newcomers what they might expect to see on stage in the future.
"It's a great opportunity to show our best moments," he said. "For everyone who's ever wanted to come to a show but couldn't, this is a perfect opportunity to see what we've done."
The ratio of serious moments to humor has differed from show to show, but Proffit is proud to have made each performance appropriate for audiences of all ages.
The six clips in the retrospective include the original audiences' reactions and will be accompanied by live interviews with the actors who appeared in them.
Proffit said he felt uninhibited from picking his own favorite moments but was delighted afterward to see a unified theme emerge. Every actor he wanted to talk to about them was available, he said.
"It worked out perfectly," he said. "The response was very fast from all of them. Across the board, everyone was very excited."
For many of those actors, the performances took place years ago. Proffit intends to capture their fresh reactions upon seeing those moments again during the Feb. 27 livestream.
"The common thread is going to be moments of triumph and being able to overcome obstacles," he said.
As serious and sometimes tragic as the past year has been, it also has been filled with moments of triumph -- particularly for Black women like Vice President Kamala Harris and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, Proffit said.
Though a recording of the entire production will remain available on the Facebook page, Proffit hopes people will recognize the opportunity to participate as an incentive to tune into the livestream.
"One of the things is to be part of a live chat and ask questions," he said. "If you're watching live, you'll actually be part of the show."
He also hopes people unable to attend live celebrations of Black History Month will tune in.
Proffit already has the germ of an idea for next year's performance, based on his recent viewing of the new film "One Night in Miami." The movie is a fictionalized account of a real 1964 meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke, about which few details are known by others.
Proffit said he's been inspired to find another historic moment that can be researched and explored in similar fashion.
The B-Side Studios Facebook page is at facebook.com/BSideStudiosLLC.