Ericka Ratliff went from being in the audience to being an actor and is now the artistic director of the Congo Square Theatre Company. She talked with rolling out about Congo Square, her acting career, watching Chadwick Boseman, and the impact of August Wilson.
Why did you choose theater and what is its importance to the Black community?
I always had an affinity for acting as a young person, I wanted to do everything. This became like a career where I could be and do anything. It also has always taught me a lot about empathy and having empathy for anyone and everyone. We deserve and are deserving of love in our life. Just accessing characters, and getting underneath that has just taught me a lot about the world. I’ve always been really excited to learn about POV from acting. I think why acting and why we need it and why it is good for the planet is because it is really the pulse of what happens in culture. I have been missing theater so very much in the past two and a half years, because it was a lifeline for me to express or to understand current events and what was happening in our world. And we’ve been missing that.
How did you start your relationship with Congo Square Theatre Company?
I’m originally from Baltimore and I came to Chicago to pursue my BFA. I went to Roosevelt University, and right out of school, I heard of Congo Square Theatre. One of my students that was actually my RA, took me to a Congo Square show. And it was actually Deep Azure, which was [with] Chadwick Boseman. It’s one of the first plays that he wrote, and Chad was there, and the play was beautiful. And it was my first experience with all Black everything to a certain extent.
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