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Spoken Word Festival features HBO Def Poet Rafael Casal

March 24, 2011

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives‘ (OMAI) fifth annual Line Breaks Festival will be held Friday, April 8-Saturday, April 16, at the Rotunda Studio in the Overture Center for the Arts.

Wrapping up a week of performances by the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble will be a world-premiere theatrical performance by Rafael Casal, the first artist in residence for OMAI and First Wave. Nightly performances begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

This year, OMAI’s annual Line Breaks Festival will showcase the contemporary performance art of First Wave, a cutting-edge multicultural artistic program for UW–Madison students.

Line Breaks is an educational tool for professors and students to study current thriving artists and aesthetics first-hand, a place for new student work to be premiered, and a way to bring the arts of the university to the broader community of Madison.

Along with the performance by Casal will be the American premiere of First Wave student-artist Danez Smith’s full-length one-man show “For Those Who Pray in Closets,” the world premiere of the fourth cohort of First Wave’s ensemble theater production and more.

“This year’s production is the most comprehensive array of talent in development we’ve been able to showcase to date,” says First Wave artistic director Christopher Walker. “Over the course of the week we will not only see a capstone ensemble performance by our very first cohort — who are technically First Wave’s senior class — but also the fourth cohort’s debut as our program freshmen. Now that First Wave is fully populated with four cohorts of students, the academic and instructional design of the program, which calls for our students’ continual growth and evolution as artists, is clearly displayed in this year’s Line Breaks.”

Here are some highlighted performances:

  • On Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, First Wave senior Danez Smith will grace the stage with “For Those Who Pray in Closets: The Problem With Sundays,” a one-man theatrical production about Isaiah, a 22-year-old man aimlessly living his life as determined by everyone around him.
  • The First Wave Fourth Cohort Ensemble will present “Ctrl + Alter + Del,” on Sunday, April 10, and Monday, April 11, a cultural dialogue that explores the barriers between identity and technology, and where these borders collide.
  • On Thursday, April 14, First Wave’s First Cohort will bring its ensemble performance “Dog Years: A Wisconsin Experience” to the stage. In the fall of 2007, Professor Michael Thornton told the first cohort of First Wavers that their college years would be dog years; they would mature more than they ever had or would, they would grow further from the people they left at home, and it would all go by fast.

The First Cohort of First Wave, in their final performance as a group, presents a collection of stories, experiences, trials, triumphs and tragedies inspired and invoked by their experiences as students at UW–Madison

Casal, a writer, slam champion poet, recording artist, educator, and founding member of The Getback, will bring his world-premiere performance to the Overture Center’s Rotunda Studio on Saturday, April 16.

By 18, Casal was already a two-time (Inter)National BNV Poetry Slam Finalist Champion, had been featured on season four of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry on HBO and performed all over the country. In 2008, he became the creative director for First Wave and graduated from UW–Madison in May 2010.

For more information on Line Breaks, visit, or for more information on First Wave, visit