Two paths separated in a yellow forest, “wrote the American poet Robert Frost. “And sorry, I could not travel both … I took the one that was less traveled past. And that has made all the difference.”
Status quo shaker
This could sum up the story of the pioneering Danish-based theater company ACT.
Afro-Cosmopolite Thespians (ACT) was founded in Copenhagen in 2015 and has tried to shake up the status quo, converging artistic talents from around the world that call Denmark home and move borders through international collaborations. So far, this outfit, led by artistic director Michael Omoke, has put four productions up for critical acclaim.
Adaptation of the classics
In the summer of 2016, ACT debuted with its production of ‘Copenhagen Merchant’. The play, directed by the well-known Kenyan director George Mungai, recreated Shakespeare in present-day Denmark.
It explored themes of greed, love, duality, and forces between common good and capitalism. The play, which was performed at Baltorpen in Ballerup, attracted a very diverse audience – a rare achievement in Danish theater.
In a quick follow-up, ACT returned to Baltoppen in 2017, this time with the Nordic classic ‘En folkefjende’. Once again, the ACT offered an exploration of the human condition, this time with the lingering central theme “Can the majority be wrong?”
Democracy, capitalism and environmental protection came to the fore when it resumed Ibsen’s classic. The production also marked ACT’s first Nordic collaboration with actors from both the Nordic Black Theater and ACT.
Fast forward to 2019. Under the auspices of New Nordic Voices, ACT cemented its finesse with Ntozake Shanges ‘for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf’. With a cast for women with an international outlook, ACT professor at Morgan State University recruited Shirley Basfield Dunlap as an instructor.
Through the intertwined stories of seven ‘nameless’ women, Shange’s poetry expresses the many struggles and obstacles that African American women face throughout their lives – a representation of sisterhood and growing age as an African-American woman. The play was well received in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
In 2020, the group changed pace and utilized internal talent. ‘Miss Julie’s Happy Valley’, a creation of artistic director cum playwright Michael Omoke, fought out in the murky waters of white colonial mischief in Kenya before independence.
Audiences in Copenhagen and Helsinki were locked into the secret lives of white settlers in 20th-century Africa. The production frontally confronted their carefree excesses and portrayed sex, drug abuse and murder that characterized the hedonistic lifestyle of the ultra-privileged white settlers at the expense of the natives. The play’s audacity lies in its maneuvering motif of weight problems such as the murder of Lord Erroll – a murder that the British intelligence service MI6 continues to keep as an unsolved case.
If history is to repeat itself and the course continues, we can only await ACT’s next serving with restrained breath.
ACT was launched in 2016 with the vision of ‘more cultures sharing a scene’
Since then, it has involved more than 100 artists representing 46 different nationalities
Two of its four productions also toured in Finland and Sweden
ACT has also been involved in producing a conference and arranging two international seminars
Follow ACT via FB on ‘ACThespians’ or ‘ACT / New Nordic Voices’, and via Instagram on ‘act.new.nordic.voices’
Source: The Nordic Page