Celebrating Ten Years of OMAI
A showcase featuring OMAI’s new website, guest artists, and an excerpt of Baba Israel’s “The Spinning Wheel by Baba Israel
About The Spinning Wheel:
Baba Israel and Leo Kay embark on an exciting collaboration to develop a new solo performance exploring the extraordinary life of Baba’s father, Steve Ben Israel. Jazz musician, beat poet, stand-up comic, political activist and core member of the iconic Living Theatre, Steve Ben Israel passed in 2012, leaving behind a legacy, a story and a family. He used his art to speak out against injustice and to try and find humour in the madness of modern America, and he inspired Baba to do the same. Leo and Baba decided to make the show to celebrate his unique life and the powerful ideals he lived by, re-imagining his story through a combination of hip hop, intimate performance, live music and video interaction.
Baba Israel was raised in New York by parents who were core members of the Living Theatre. He developed as a young artist exploring spoken word, Hip Hop, and experimental performance. He next lived and worked in Australia working on community theatre projects and festivals. During his time in Australia he received a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to produce and perform the Hip Hop Theatre production “The Bridge” which was performed in non-traditional venues and toured to juvenile detention centers. He began his career as an arts educator in Australia and has gone on to be a leading educator and consultant working with organisations such as Urban Word, BAM, and the University of Wisconsin. He has also worked as a cultural ambassador with the State Department delivering workshops and performances across Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and in Gambia and Turkey.
He is co-founder and Artistic Director of Playback NYC Theatre Company who have bring theatre to hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, as well as theatres and festivals. The company is currently developing projects to support immigrant communities in Long Island in a series of performances and workshops funded by the Hagedorn Foundation.
As a theatre and Hip Hop artist He has toured across the US, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia, performing with artists such as Outkast, Philip Glass, Rahzel, Lester Bowie, Afrika Bambaataa, Vernon Reid. His debut solo show Boom Bap Meditations was supported by the Ford Foundation and The Hip Hop Theatre Festival which toured the US and Europe. He has worked on sound design for theatre and dance projects with Renita Martin’s It is the Seeing and Rha Goddess’s Meditations with the Goddess. He was Artistic Director and CEO of Contact Theatre in Manchester from 2009- 2012. Contact is a leading international organisation at the intersection of the arts and youth leadership. During his tenure he created flagship festivals, directed and produced touring productions, and programmed seasons that focused on innovative and diverse work.
The First Wave Hip Hop Theatre Ensemble (FWTE) is a groundbreaking collective of spoken word poets, emcees, dancers, singers, actors, and activists from across the United States. FWTE represents the First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts Learning Community at UW-Madison, the world's first and only full tuition scholarship for Hip Hop and urbans arts. They create works that unpack the personal narrative as a route to academic engagement, artistic productivity and community engagement.
They have performed in England, Mexico, Panama, Africa, Australia, and Jamaica as well as across the USA including featured performances on Broadway and annual performance keynote at the Boys & Girl Club Keystone Conference. Touring Members host workshops and performances in local and regional high school and community spaces.
FWTE Members for 2021-22 are Azura Tyabji (Seattle), Jackson Neal (Houston), Marjan Naderi (DC), Sarah Abbas (St. Louis), & Zachary Lesmeister (St. Louis).