Chicago-based playwright Shepsu Aakhu has not had to look far for inspiration for his original works over the course of his three decades-long career. He encourages aspiring writers to follow his lead.
“For me, it’s really about taking a good look at the people you share your life with,” he said. “It always amazes me at how little we pay attention to the people we’re around every day.”
“I want to encourage people to ask the people around them questions, even your parents,” he added. “You’d be surprised at the stuff they never bothered to tell you, mostly because nobody’s bothered to ask.”
Aakhu will bring his most recent work, “Never the Milk and Honey,” to Gary’s West Side Theatre Guild on Sunday and Monday. The playwright is a founding member of Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre. Operating primarily out of the Greenhouse Theater Center on Chicago’s North Side, MPAACT has been the home for several of Aakhu’s original works, most recently 2015’s “Softly Blue” and 2016’s “Feral.”
Set at and after the turn of the millennium, “Milk” looks at a Mississippi preacher, who must figure out how to carry on when his doomsday prophecies do not come to fruition. The crushed preacher is forced to lean heavily on his wife in the days that follow the beginning of the '00s.
“Milk” made its debut at Greenhouse Theater Center last May.
While taking its cue from real-life events, Aakhu was inspired to bring the tale to the stage by his great aunt, whose tale is depicted in the play. Aakhu wrote the play more than three years ago, but the aunt who inspired the play died a few months before its debut.
“A few years back … she looked me right in the face and said ‘When am I going to get my stories? I haven’t gotten mine yet and everyone else has, so when are we going to do that?’” Aakhu recalled. “(‘Milk’) was a chance for me to honor who she was and what that relationship was and her husband was.”
For more on MPAACT, go to MPAACT.ORG.
“Never the Milk and Honey” is the kickoff production in West Side Theatre Guild’s programming for Black History Month.
On Feb. 17, West Side director Mark Spencer is bringing a staging of “The Meeting” to Gary Public Library’s Main Branch, 220 W. 5th St., and the theater will host a staging of “The Wiz” Feb. 22-25.
FYI: “Never the Milk and Honey” will run at 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday at West Side Theatre Guild, 900 Gerry St., Gary. Tickets are $10. Call 219-977-2198 or visit WSTGONLINE.COM.