What's Inside

Bronzeville Arts Ensemble

Image of Sheri Williams PannellBronzeville Arts Ensemble logo

Sheri Williams Pannell

Co-Founder & Producing Artistic Director

Founded in 2013, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble (BAE) is a professional theatre company in residence at Black Arts MKE in the Marcus Performing Arts Center. We are committed to the expansion and cultivation of Milwaukee’s African American theater community. BAE illuminates the Black experience in America by developing and creating theater while also providing artistic and educational programming opportunities, collaborating with the local and national community, and inspiring healing through positive social change.

Nobleman Theater Troupe


Denzel Taylor is an alum of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and the First Wave - Hip Hop and Urban Arts scholarship program. In February of 2020, Denzel further completed an Education residency with Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Emerging Professional Residency program. Since graduating from college in 2018, Denzel expanded his theater credits with companies including Children’s Theater of Madison, Skylight Music Theater, and Black Arts MKE. In 2022, he briefly returned to the First Wave program as a performance and collaboration instructor and in the following year, made his director’s debut at TBEY. Arts Center for the company’s spring production of Rap-Punzel. Later, in August of the same year, Denzel directed his second production, The Meeting, for the 2023 Milwaukee Black Theater Festival. Continuing his career, Denzel made his First Stage Children's Theater debut as “Donald D.” in the world premier of Dream, Quickie! Dream! and returned to Black Arts MKE. for his third appearance in the annual production Black Nativity. Continuing further, Denzel launched his new company Nobleman Theater Troupe, making their 2024 debut with a second run of The Meeting at Madison Area Technical College. Grateful for an ongoing and endearing relationship with Black Arts MKE. Denzel directs Idris Goodwin’s The Realness for the 2024 Milwaukee Black Theater Festival.

MKE Black Theatre Festival


Black Arts MKE is proud to again present MKE Black Theatre Festival 2024, returning to community venues across the city from August 8-25. The three-week-long celebration of Black arts and culture features ticketed and free events including three full-productions, staged reading, audition masterclass, auditions (staged reading & Black Nativity), Poetry Set with The Jasmine Sims & more! 

The Black Seed Investment: A National Platform

The Black Seed logo

“Black Arts MKE has served as Milwaukee’s premiere arts and culture organization dedicated to increasing the availability and quality of African American arts for our community. As our community addresses the converging pandemics of COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustices, this prestigious award enables us to build upon our multidisciplinary arts platform to inspire pride, empower, and provide opportunities for MKE-based professional and emerging artists of color,“ says Black Arts MKE Board Chair Cory Nettles. “We are proud to partner with The Black Seed to share more of our stories on a national level and put a spotlight on many of our local Black theater organizations including in-residence group Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, MPower Theater and Lights! Camera! Soul!”

Black Arts MKE has been awarded a generous grant from The Black Seed, a national strategic initiative focused on creating impact and “thrivability” for Black theater institutions. Awarding close to 100 one- or two-year grants up to $150,000, this is the first iteration in a long-term strategy for The Black Seed.

The Black Seed is a first-ever national strategic plan to create impact and thrivability for Black theater institutions, unprecedentedly conceptualized and led by the Black theater field. The Black Seed is a force for systemic change in the arts and culture world: a national Think Tank of Black theater institutional leaders; a fund seeded by a collective of funders; National Leadership Circle for major donors to invest in Black theater institutions across the nation; The Black Seed Cohort comprised of national networks and coalitions; and a national marketing campaign to tell the story of Black theater in America.

The Black Seed Grantees

Support Equity for Black Theater Institutions

According to the Actor’s Equity 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Report, only 10.37 percent of acting contracts nationwide went to African Americans, and according to a Dramatist’s Guild study, undertaken with the Lillys in 2018 under the name the count, only 15 percent of plays produced in the U.S. are writers of color, despite people of color making up to 40 percent of the population.

The arts and cultural offerings in our region must represent the diversity of our community. It is Black Arts MKE’s goal to prevent this trend from continuing and to provide a more sustainable, vibrant African American arts scene in our community.

Your Support Makes a Difference

Artists are both at the forefront of change and critical to the preservation of culture. Often their work involves envisioning new ways of being in the world. As our community addresses the converging pandemics of COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustices, artists will be crucial in articulating a path forward. Black Theater Institutions shape our national narrative and public discourse. Yet, inequities persist:

  1. Foundations give $4 Billion Dollars to arts organizations, but only 4% goes to arts organizations that serve communities of color.
  2. The median budget size of the 20 largest arts organizations of color surveyed by the DeVos Institute is 90% smaller than their mainstream counterparts, and more than half of these organizations were operating in 2013 with budget deficits.
  3. Black theater is at a critical moment. Of Black Theatres founded out of the Civil Rights/Black arts movements, 87 didn't exist by the mid-90s.

*From the Black Seed research