Lydia Diamond Speaks on her Broadway Play “Stick Fly”

We sit down with the playwright Lydia R. Diamond to talk about her Broadway Play

“Stick Fly”. Read about the interview on

Lydia Diamond

#‎exposuremagazine ‪#‎sevenokemagunn ‪#‎writer ‪#‎playwright ‪#‎director @webringthepress ‪#‎chicago ‪#‎newyork


Playwright Lydia R. Diamond

Director Chuck Smith

Location Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park, Chicago

Previews Wednesday, May 27-Saturday, May 30

Opening Night Sunday, May 31

Closing Sunday, July 5

Curtain Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30pm

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm

Sundays, alternating at 3:00pm or 5:00pm (consult website)

Tickets $20-$45 at 312-374-3196;


Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMfest) 2015

Musician Josh Chicoine and Filmmaker Ilko Davidov decided to create a new festival that was a fusion of Movies and Music, thus CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival) was born. It is now in it’s 7th year. Every year filmmakers, musicians, avid moviegoers and music lovers descend upon the Chicago scene to take part in the events of the CIMMfest. This year venues include over 99+ Films and bands from around the world. It takes place around the city in places like Wicker Park and Logan Square. The CIMMfest provides filmmakers and musicians the opportunity not only to collaborate, but to showcase and share their amazing talent. Chicago is the perfect city for this festival emphasizing a different perspective of joint ventures of movies and music. CIMMfest will take place April 16-19th, 2015. Co-Founder Josh Chicoine was gracious enough to share thoughts about his collaborative venture and involvement in the festival.

1.  How do you go about planning for CIMM (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival)?

JC: Complicated question. There is planning, but with no solid protocol.  The festival has evolved every year, so having a vision for success is probably the first step.  We have been working on the Milwaukee Ave footprint concept for a few years. We started with the dates then secured venue partnerships and holds afterwards.   We then launch our call for entries in the fall and start raising monies.  Fundraising and sales is much like programming.  We cast a big net and through many filters, fits, and starts, we end up with what the festival will look like.  It’s somewhat messy and we try to limit that, but a fest like ours has numerous musical genres from all over, finding audiences and partners takes us down many avenues.  Some opportunities bear fruit and others fall away.  We have a core festival that we then add on for as long as we can – until the print deadline.  Marketing keeps up with general messaging and becomes more program-specific the closer we get to the opening.

2. When CIMM first started what was the vision?

JC: The vision is very elementary. We show music-based films, connect as much live music to the films as possible, find intersections of film and live music wherever we could and let the chips fall where they may.  The vision wasn’t very far out past that particular year.  Maybe in year 3 when things were growing and we were still alive, the vision began to grow into something akin to what it actually is today.

3. How many movies and bands originally performed at the first CIMM compared to now?

JC: Approximately 20 films and 9 bands.  It was small.  Now, there’s over 100 films, shorts, and music videos.  Over 100 bands as well as some great of panels and presentations.  Lots and lots of entertainment!

4. Why highlight Movies and Music together?

JC: My co-founder, Ilko, is in the film industry and I am a musician.  I played in bands (M’s, Sabers, Cloudbirds) over the years and Ilko is a filmmaker with a big music focus. It’s just a part of who we are.  We collaborated with projects for years before CIMMfest and he came to me with the idea.  The idea is more prevalent in Europe, but we were both surprised that there wasn’t anything like this in the US.  At least not the focus on the interconnection.  So, we did this first because no one was doing it and then the bigger ideas followed – music as the great connector of people type thing.  Those bigger ideas are the ones that continue to drive the mission and spirit of everyone involved with CIMMfest.  The market has changed such that there’s a lot of innovation happening in that shared space, especially live.  3D Video mapping and live scoring to film is exciting to bands and we are a big platform for that stuff.  It’s a way of differentiating the festival and giving some focus programatically.  There are many opportunities and festivals in Chicago, but nothing like CIMMfest.

5.How can young people get involved in the CIMM?

JC: volunteer!  we have student passes and special priced tickets at available as well.

Shywanee Manson: Born to Write

ShywaneeShywanee L. Manson directs, writes, and produces. Accomplishments include: Spoken Word poetry and authoring of two books: “Apology from One Sista to Another” (2005) and “Forgive Me Not” (2013). The first play she wrote was “Apology from One Sista to Another”, the second “My Sista, I’m Sorry”, the third, “My Brotha I Apologize” and the 4th “When You Cry, I Cry.”

Upon winning a poetry contest in the 5th grade, she had an epiphany that writing would be her voice and mouth-piece on which to speak for others. At 10 years old, Shywanee knew that she was”born to write”. She acquired the opportunity to recite her poem, resulting in the audience breaking out in vigorous applause. Several years later, emerging as a Spoken Word artist, one of her most popular, well-received poems began with 2 pages and evolved into a 120 page novel.
She carries around a copy of S. E. Hinton’s “Outsiders” for inspiration. This timeless classic of innocence and youth is a book that’s been read by millions over the years. It gives clear, concise messages about family, society (prejudices), and the reality of dealing with consequences.

Shywanee is also fond of Steven King and Dean Koontz’s stories of horror and suspense. She’s been an active and faithful member of her book club for over 13 years. Authors like Terry McMillan, Sister Souljah, and J. California Cooper’s “In Search of Satisfaction” have influenced her writing in an immense way by demonstrating various facets of the history and psyche of the African American community. With a collaboration of accumulating books into an extensive library and garnering personal experiences, she has built a solid foundation and springboard on which to create intriguing plot and characters.

Ms. Manson states that ” Unforgettable stories should keep suspense. I love it when they make me laugh; I appreciate it when they make me cry.” These are stories that she holds in high regard. “Narratives should entertain, but draw you in by making a strong connection, capture emotion, then flow to and fro like the tide of the ocean. A straight read. Stories that makes you feel alive. Perceiving the created world with your eyes closed. Escape to another place. An out of body experience.”

Shywanee writes about a variety of real experiences that foster social awareness. “My Sista I’m Sorry”- The government stopped giving out HIV & AIDS education in the hood. People still needed to be educated and helped. Somebody dropped the ball. Our system is failing us. There was HIV testing after her play to help those who needed it. This was a dedication to an uncle who passed away from AIDS.
“When you Cry, I Cry-” “The media is there right after the killing takes place. They put down the Teddy Bear, candles and pictures, but after it’s over the families are still suffering. The Media just moves on. A house is not just a house. People are suffering inside. Nobody knows what these families have to endure. “How are you doing?” When You Cry, I Cry. Can’t they see what they are doing to these families to our community? Wake up! What about Hadiya? What about Treyvon? The families are still grieving. Sometimes they cry at night when the doors are closed and nobody is around. It’s somebody’s baby, daughter, brother, uncle, mother, or father. Think about the families you are destroying. Generations that are damaged. To the children that are doing these things: Why are you doing this? And where are your parents? You are putting families through a lifetime of pain. People need to see what is really happening behind closed doors.”

Shywanee is a voice for the fallen, broken, uneducated, and misunderstood. Who will help them? Our generations. She is sometimes called “Shywanee Playwright,” but should often be called “Mama Community”; a voice of reason, a nurturer, and a welcoming presence for the people. She wants healing for our society. Who will help the children and the families of the deceased? What about our role models? We need to get the message out.

A platform…she stands for social awareness and has her writing pen on the pulse of the community. Her heart is for the people. A progressive and visionary. She stands up for what is right and talks about issues that people need to hear and to know. She uses her gifts and talents as a beacon of light; making others aware of the ills of our society, and speaks on how we can make a better future for our youth.

Come enjoy the hit stage play “When You Cry, I Cry!” written by Shywanee L. Manson

Premiering Saturday August 23, 2014 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center on 47th and King Dr. A musical drama-comedy featuring Bern Nadette Stanis (Thelma from Good Times), Gary “Lil G” Jenkins (R&B group Silk), Gemini Porter (R&B group Men at Large) and Chicago’s very own, Brian Da Wildcat Smith. Commentary by Community Activist Andrew Holmes.

Two Shows: 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. – $35.00 – – Dont miss it. Buy your tickets, now at

ShyFox Productions | Welcome to my website ~ SHYWANEE “SHYFOX” MANSON
Get your copy ofShywanee’s bestselling novel,Apology From One Sista’To Anothertoday for only $10.00 (For a Limited Time…

“When You Cry, I Cry” Theater Critique



by Okema “Seven” Gunn

Shywanee Manson creates an atmosphere where one has no choice, but to laugh and cry with the characters. The set design was simple without distracting from the pertinence of the play. Realism permeates throughout this tragic story, as Ms. Manson is well-known for her experience and research on socio-economic issues. She provides a unique story-telling approach which both engages and connects with  audiences. She’s a modern day griot! This musical dramedy was an awakening and awareness of the condition of our community. Manson often writes about pain and struggle in our society and what is to be done about it.

Although, there has been a fluctuation of the number of deaths….. gun violence and crime…still has not stopped. Until people have had enough; it won’t cease. The pain will continue. Recently, there has been protesting of a gun shop in the community in which guns have been identified in several violent crimes. This is one way, but not the only way. Each person must do their part. If you see something, say something. If you see that someone is doing wrong, talk to the person if plausible or report it to the authorities. These crimes are taking place because it’s being allowed. “Put the guns down and stop the violence.”

Ms. Manson addresses families in agony, evolution of the gangs, drug addiction, isolation, infidelity…..aspects of a damaged and broken society. When going through, Manson urges her characters to search deep within to find an answer to their struggles. Khadija-Freeman provides a stellar performance as a mother that has lost a son to gun violence.  Richard Reed, the father of the deceased teen, also gives a stunning portrayal of the roller-coaster-ride of emotions felt after the incident.

Brian “Wildcat” Smith gives a brief and animated, comedic monologue, not only bringing down the house with laughter, but highlighting the harsh realities of the day. He delivers a light, refreshing perspective on life, while interjecting humor and wit without all the vulgar obscenities and the profane. Smith was able to mesh well with characters and play a vital supporting role into the scenes at the bar.

Wonderful acting and singing by all actors, especially: Khadija-Freeman, Gary “Lil G” Jenkins, Edgar ”Gemini” Porter, Torraino Holmes, and Bess Mangram.  “Lil G” and “Gemini” from “Silk” and “Men at Large” had me singing along and reminiscing to songs from back in the day! These actors also gave a great supporting cast: Mr. Leslie, Corey Bailey, Tjuana Bothe, BernNadette Stanis, Michelle Shelton, Eric Bryant, and Sterling Manson.

Families of Hadiya Pendelton, Cortez Bailey and others attended, while reaching out to Ms. Manson, Khadija-Freeman, and staff to talk about the connection of emotion made during the performance (addressing the aftermath of events). They thanked the staff and crew personally for putting together the musical and working hard towards fighting against gun violence and crime in our society.

Speaker and Activist, Andrew Holmes spoke to the crowd. “God has a message here. There’s something special in store for this cast and crew. You have a chance to see what families are going through. It has transformed them, made them laugh and made them cry. Never underestimate the power of what can be solved by God.”

This well-constructed piece embodied a powerful spoken word that resonated throughout the audience. It forced me go back home, re-evaluate, and do some more soul searching about what I can do to further aid in helping our community. Search down deep for what you can hold onto. Make it positive and share your best self with others. If you don’t know how…. ask someone who can help you. Self-love, self-awareness, and development of identity are needed. You do what you know. Love one another and appreciate your community. Do you know how to love?

Call to Change. Make a war on ignorance, poverty, and violence. Everyone is trying to survive. The thing is… some people are better at it than others. It’s just a fact. If everyone did their part, the world would be a better place. I’m fighting my own battles with pain. But, I’m gonna do something about it! Create a change. Take ownership of the community and clean it up. Not just pumping in dollars. Making a difference in your mind, in your heart, and in your soul. Then take action and do something! Your life is valuable and so is mine. Still in chains… The war rages on! Let’s break these chains and fight the battle together. Won’t you help with the repair?  Sometimes when people hurt, they hurt others. That’s the reality, but it’s not the way. We need to build each other up and not tear each other down. Because “When You Cry, I Cry” too.

I will conclude by leaving you with a poignant quote from one of Shywanee Manson’s characters….They have been forged by a trial of fire and now become clean by a slow healing. Eventually, the parents of the deceased experience God’s tender mercies, pull together, and await a long, but righteous determination through the eyes of God….“I saw myself in you, and I thank God for you…because I felt free.”

*This play took place Aug 23, 2014 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center. For more information on

Shywanee Manson go to


Pullman Porter Blues

Pullman Porter Blues

A dramatically driven historical musical comedy with a fresh look at the account of a Pullman Porter family in June of 1937. It takes place on the Panama Limited train beginning in Chicago and ending in New Orleans. During the trip the passengers experience the Joe Louis/James Braddock heavyweight championship fight. This spirited story tells of Gospel, segregation, African-American family history, the Black Pullman Union, the Chicago Defender, and much more.

This is an emotionally driven tale of the African-American people, which brings insight into a critical time period in history. It explained the intricacies of relationships of workers and passengers on the Panama Limited. My great great grandfather was a Pullman Porter. I believe that this definitely was a story that needed to be told. A story of struggle, resilience, endurance, and courage of a people and how the country responded as such. It’s a must see!

The Book Of Mormon

Book-of-MormonBook of Mormon Pic 2
The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical. The book, lyrics, and music are by South Park creators Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.This musical was about newly trained Mormonite missionaries that travel to Uganda to convert “the natives”.  The young Mormons are naïve about the poor conditions that the citizens of Uganda have to face. Ignorance and lack of education, rape, unclean water, violence, dysentary, and AIDS. The elders must convert the villagers within a certain time or they will be sent back to Salt Lake City.

I appreciated the creativity of dance routines and musical numbers. Even the topics that were discussed in the play struck a chord. However, I found this religious parody too vulgar for my taste. Because of my religious and spiritual upbringing, I found it offensive. I knew that there was adult content, but I believe that the writers took religion to a different level. I wanted to see it for myself. This musical has a high shock factor. It just proves that people will stretch the limits about what is acceptable and what is not. Now I believe we are in a time where the theory is “anything goes.” And there is no boundaries and no respect, no rhyme or reason. No explanations needed why God’s name is being blasphemed. You don’t have to be a “religious junkie” or a “holy roller” to believe that something is not right about this presentation. One of the Best Plays/Musicals ever? Doubt it. I went to see this play with my mom. We agreed, it was over-the-top!