Reginald Lawrence (Shepsu Aakhu)
Reginald Lawrence received his B.S. (1990) and M.S. (1992) in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois Urbana . He is currently the Executive Producer for the Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MPAACT), as well as a theatre instructor at The Theater School at DePaul University. Practicing his craft under the name Shepsu Aakhu, he continues his commitment to MPAACT as a playwright, scenic designer, photographer, and musician.
As a playwright in residence with MPAACT, Shepsu has developed several critically acclaimed works in the Playwright's Laboratory, among them are: Speaking in Tongues The Chronicles of Babel, Ghosts of Atwood, Ten Square, Trouble the Water, Relevant Hearsay, SOST, Kiwi Black, Kosi Dasa, Fascia, The Glow of Reflected Light, The Abesha Conspiracy; Beneath A Dark Sky, Piece-Meal Clan, and Otherworld Lovers.
In 2004 Shepsu Aakhu was awarded the prestigious Artistic Fellowship in Scriptworks by the Illinois Arts Council. He is a two time recipient Theodore Ward Prize for Playwrighting- Ten Square (2008-9) and Kiwi Black (2001-2002). He is a six time nominee for best Original Stage play (Aldridge Award) by the BTAA of Chicago. Shepsu received the Ira Aldridge Award in 1999 for The Abesha Conspiracy and 2007 for Trouble the Water. Shepsu is also a three time nominee for the Joseph Jefferson citation in multiple categories. Shepsu received two Joseph Jefferson citations for original music in 2002 and 2003. Other projects currently in development include the stage plays: Port Chicago; and A Thousand Negative Confessions.
Screenplay credits include Mel-Bay, The Preacher’s Game, co-written with J. David Shanks, the film adaptation of his stage play Beneath A Dark Sky, and The Ballad of Sadie Hawkins. Monologue and scenes selections from several of Shepsu’s plays may be found in BlaQ Market Monologues and Scenes (Sakhu Press 2008). Kiwi Black is available in the anthology Seven Black Plays, edited by Chuck Smith (Northwestern University Press 2004), and Fascia, and other critical essays is available in an anthology entitled The BlaQ Market (Sakhu 2006)
Shepsu Aakhu along with his long time cohorts and mentors Georges Blaise, Theodore Berry, Danjuma Gaskin, and Aum Mu Ra, anchor MPAACT’s resident musical ensemble Red Clay. The musical ensemble has twice been recognized for its work by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee for Original Music (Kosi Dasa, and Kiwi Black). Additionally Red Clay was honored with the Scott Joplin Award for best Song (Kiwi Black 2003).
Shepsu Aakhu has served as MPAACT’s staff photographer for the last ten years. His images have been featured in various MPAACT productions including The Abesha Conspiracy, Deidre Searcy’s Within the Dream, and Addae Moon’s Note’s from the Bottletree. Select images from his archive of MPAACT production stills may be found in BlaQ Market Monologues and Scenes (Sakhu Press 2008). A solo exhibition of select works hangs at the Greenhouse Theater Center.
Shepsu Aakhu also serves as MPAACT’s resident scenic designer. He has designed for several MPAACT productions including; Stage Black, No Experience Necessary, MiLK (2007), The Glow of Reflected Light, Beneath A Dark Sky (1998 & 2007), Fascia, Kosi Dasa, Kiwi Black, Defending Myself, and Relevant Hearsay. He was nominated for best set design (BTAA) for Stage Black (2009) Blaxploitation (2007), Softly Blue (2006) and Addae Moon’s Notes from the Bottletree (2004).