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Pillsbury House Announces 2020 Naked Stages Fellowship Recipients

Alia Jeraj, C. Michael Menge, and Atlese Robinson will participate in the Minneapolis development program.

MINNEAPOLIS: Pillsbury House Theatre has announced the recipients of the 2020 Naked Stages Fellowship, a seven-month development program providing time, financial support, and mentoring to three early career performance artists as they create an original performance piece. This years recipients are Alia Jeraj, C. Michael Menge, and Atlese Robinson.

Jeraj will work on a project exploring how memories are lost, maintained, and re-learned as people migrate across oceans.

The project Menge is working on is shifting as the world continues to shift. What is currently known is that it is a celebration that centers embodied joy, Black joy, Black trans joy, self-love, and self-exploration as a way to survive and heal.

Robinson’s project will explore the stages and kinds of grief relating to the Black (American) experience.

Naked Stages is under the leadership of director Pramila Vasudevan, who will enter her fifth year as director in 2020. The fellowship aimed at helping early career artists develop their unique voices includes twice a month workshops focused on the business side of art. This attention to areas from audience development to technical support are aimed at helping artists translate their voice into sustainable artistic careers.

Performance dates for the 2020 Naked Stages artists are currently scheduled for Dec. 10-19, 2020, though the dates are subject to change based on the developing situation around COVID-19.

Jeraj (she/hers) is a singer, writer, and educator in the Twin Cities. A classically-trained vocalist, Alia has shifted her focus towards studying the folk and traditional songs of her ancestors. She performs with groups including Nanilo, a vocal trio rooted in traditional harmonies from Eastern Europe, Artemis, a treble vocal ensemble focused on experimentation and improvisation, and Mixed Precipitation, a theatre company that celebrates the harvest season through opera. Her writing appears in publications including Pollen, American Craft, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. When she’s not working to help teens achieve their educational goals, singing, or writing, you can find Alia biking around the cities, learning to embroider, or sipping iced coffee.

Robinson is a writer, performer, director, producer, and the founding artistic director of Ambiance Theatre Company. Hailing from Saint Paul, Minn., by way of Chicago, Atlese grew up glued to the stories of her elders. As a result, Atlese’s writing style places an emphasis on the natural flow of speech as a means to preserve the integrity of oral history. As a performer, Atlese thrives most in ensemble settings where synergetic connection is the power behind compelling theatre. Her previous credits include ensemble in The Dutchman (Penumbra Theatre Company), The Garden (Ambiance Theatre Company), co-star in Contact by Simone Brookes LeClaire, and ensemble in Rebirth of Rabbit’s Foot (Mixed Blood Minneapolis). Atlese’s previous directing credits include Naked I: Self Defined (20% Theatre Company), The Spectrum of Blackness (Ambiance Theatre Company), and Waiting in Vain (Ambiance Theatre Company). Atlese prides herself on serving in roles from usher to director at theatre companies around the Twin Cities, as no job is too small for a leader. Atlese’s ultimate mission with Ambiance Theatre Company is to support Black dramatic writers through script development, produce new works, and center the need for engaging Black audiences.

In non-pandemic times, C. Michael Menge (They/them & he/him) is an actor, improvisor, theater-maker, and playful young fool known for their work with the Jungle Theater (Hand to God; Little Women; Redwood), the Boys of the Year (BOTY Presents: Peter Pan and Wendy), Children’s Theatre Company (Snow White), the Black Ensemble Players (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the Playwrights’ Center, Blackout Improv Comedy, and more. They are currently one of the co-coordinators of both the Black & Funny and Queer & Funny improv festivals at HUGE Improv Theater, and in 2019 were named Best Actor by City Pages.

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