arts and cultureIssue 26

Sankofa: Giving Wings to Arts Representation

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By Jacqui D. Sinarle

Buy a ticket to Sankofa Theatre Company’s next performance and you’ll get more than a wonderful night at the theatre.

“Our mission is both to develop and promote the cultivation of African American history, life and culture through the performing arts, and also to create unforgettable moments that remind people of their common humanity,” explained Greg Savage, one of Sankofa’s co-founders.

“We work very hard to bring quality productions to the Modesto area,” Savage added. “The reception we’ve received has been great—we now have supporters who come from Stockton and Fresno, as well as the Bay Area. I would say that our greatest achievement is the respect we receive from the industry and the community.”

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Sankofa was formed in 2012 by Savage and John Ervin III, Cheryl Knox, and Elizabeth Garmon.

“We felt that the African American culture and community were not being addressed in the theater productions that we had been seeing in the Valley,” recalled Savage. “There were productions where African Americans had roles, but those roles told nothing of our culture, our history, or our relationships with one another. We also wanted to discover and promote young African Americans, male and female, who had the desire to get involved with acting.”

The founders named the company Sankofa after an African symbol of a bird, which represents taking from the past what is good and making progress in the future.

“Our growth started with a vision to tell our story,” Savage recalled. “We shared that vision with Lynn Dickerson, CEO of Gallo Center for the Arts, and our partnership began. In other words, instead of starting out in a small, black box, as most theater companies do, we started at the top. Our productions at the Gallo Center for the Arts have been seen by all types of folks, crossing racial lines, ethnic lines, and cultural lines. Through that visibility, we have developed a huge following.”

In addition to the Gallo Center, the company has performed at Delta College in Stockton  and is often asked to present short segments of its productions for Rotary and Kiwanis  clubs.  

sankofa1Sankofa’s next production, “Colored People’s Time,” is scheduled to open on February 17, 2017, at the Gallo Center.

The company holds auditions several months before the opening of every production and posts audition dates, times, and character descriptions on its website and social media.

“Our future goals are to stage at least one show a year, launch actors workshops for youths in West Modesto, and start a readers’ theater program for students,” Savage said. “We are now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so hopefully we will also get our own theater.”

“African American history is American history,” Savage added, “and we can all benefit from learning our history.”


For more information about Sankofa, visit sankofatheatreco.org or Sankofa Theatre Company on Facebook.

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