‘The Dark Tower’ will be running April 21 & 22 at The Voxel in Baltimore. (Courtesy photo Jonathan Gilmore)

By Aria Brent,
AFRO Staff

Three words to describe Baltimore theater group “Funktopia” are intentional, unapologetic and charismatic! With a heavy focus on honoring those who have come before them, Funktopia is continuing to uphold this tradition with their latest production “The Dark Tower.”

Based on A’Lelia Walker and the salons she held at her Harlem mansion during the early 20th century, the production is recognizing her influence on modern Black artistry and culture. Walker was a pioneer in the development of the Harlem Renaissance and was known to offer her home being a safe space for Black intellects, artists and queer people.  

“I think this was a great way of honoring her work. We’re not recreating the Dark Tower and everything that she did, but we are going to honor it because Funktopia is a place where we invite people of all kinds of thought processes to come in and create,” stated Jonathan Gilmore, creator and director of Funktopia.

Funktopia has been active for a year and half and all of their shows have sold out. Their emphasis on Afro-Futurism, Sankofa and community involvement can be found in their productions and their programming. With a majority of their team having backgrounds in education, the team hold programs like healing circles, youth outreach and therapeutic theater 101.

It was noted that there are alot of children– Black children especially– that are under exposed to art and its many aspects.To address this issue they’ve made it a point to provide artistic opportunities to kids with non-traditional talents so that they know that they can still exist in these spaces. 

Gilmore explained that Funktopia was inspired by the phrase “it’s about a love thing,” a saying his father used to tell him as a child when reassuring him that a space for his quirks and niches would come to exist. He has since gone on to give that same reassurance to others through his art. Much like Walker, he created Funktopia with the idea of preserving, creating and honoring Black art in mind. 

Gilmore explained “I really do get tired of seeing White theater companies use Black people and Black art. It is very important to me when we partner with anyone that they understand this is still a Black run organization.”

Parrish Allison is playing King Ishmael in the upcoming production and shared what it’s like working for a company that holds so much pride in being Black owned. 

“We’re actually working with each other, all ideas are accepted, no one is treated less than, everyone has a voice. It’s just great to have your own input  on something that you’re actually doing. It’s major.” Allison exclaimed. 

Co-director and stage manager Stevanie A. Williams expressed similar sentiments, stating “It makes us feel important. As professionals in this business, a lot of us have grown up doing this from elementary school, middle school, high school, college, church and community centers.” 

“You work with all kinds of people and [learn] how to do things professionally and carry that on in your own space with the integrity that the art and your ancestors deserve is very important.”  

The show is promised to be highly immersive and guaranteed to make audience members think outside of the mainstream thought process.

“The Dark Tower” will be running April 21 and 22 at The Voxel. The show starts at 8pm and tickets can be purchased here