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Alys Ayumi Ogura (photo by J. Feist Photography), Margaret Ogas (photo by Isabel Fajardo), and Ashembaga Jaafaru (photo by Awa Mally).

Pillsbury House Names 2021 Naked Stages Fellows

This year’s recipients are Ashembaga (Ashe) Jaafaru, Margaret Ogas, and Alys Ayumi Ogura.

MINNEAPOLIS: Pillsbury House Theatre (PHT) has announced Ashembaga (Ashe) Jaafaru, Margaret Ogas, and Alys Ayumi Ogura as the recipients of the 2021 Naked Stages fellowship. This seven-month development program provides time, financial support, and mentorship for three early-career artists as they develop their voices. Artists will take part in a performance, currently scheduled for Dec. 16-18. The fellows were selected by a panel facilitated by program director Pramila Vasudevan. Panelists included Masanari Kawahara, Marcela Michelle, and Rhiana Yazzie.

Ashembaga (Ashe) Jaafaru is an actor, performer, writer, and creative idea-maker. She is involved in theatre, film, and voiceover work in the Twin Cities and beyond. She creates art for liberation and continues to write imaginative stories. Film credits include Buttafly Precinct (Lady) and Keon (Patience) with Catalyst Arts, The Convert (Jekesai) with Frank Theatre, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (Lady in Brown) with KC Repertory Theatre and Penumbra Theatre, A Midsummer Summer Night’s Dream (Hermia) with Black Ensemble Players, and School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play (Paulina) with Jungle Theater. Jaafaru’s project will use theatrical body wisdom and African diasporic religious concepts as part of a solo performance aimed at illustrating the challenges, triumphs, and joy of being in your body and spirit while working through mental health and facing outside dangers.

Margaret Ogas, a proud Midwestern Chicana from Milwaukee, Wisc., is a dancer and choreographer who aims to create funky, spunky, socially engaged performances. She has presented her choreography in spaces throughout the Twin Cities, including the Walker Art Center, the Cedar Cultural Center, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and on sidewalks in South Minneapolis. She recently presented her first dance film, Rise y Resiste: 50 Years of Movimiento in collaboration with videographer Luisa Armendariz, commissioned by the University of Minnesota’s Chicano & Latino Studies Department. As a dancer, Ogas has had the pleasure of performing works by Chris Schlichting, Laurie Van Wieren, and Taja Will. She holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Ogas will use muralism and dance to create a site-specific installation referencing the tradition of Chicanx muralism, as well as its role in role in historical movements, while also looking at the evolution of public art and social movements today.

Alys Ayumi Ogura is a Twin Cities dancer and performing artist. Her dance training began in Japan where she learned from Mika Kurosawa, the famed godmother of Japanese contemporary dance. Her theatre training was part of her B.A. in theatre studies from Westmar University. Ogura serves as a DanceMN steering committee member and was a former fellow at the Arts Organizing Institute (2017-18) through Pangea World Theater. Her choreography spans from improvising dance in her home to street dancing with her cohort from Don’t You Feel It, Too? to performing at the Walker Art Center’s Choreographer’s Evening. For her project, Oruga will develop a one-woman stand-up dark comedy with movement, with movement and the verbal narrative inspiring each other in roughly equal amounts.

More information on the artists and projects is available online.

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