Kim El 
Kuumba Productions

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Who is KIM EL?... 

A Pittsburgh-born poet, playwright, actor and director with extensive stage and technical experience in various venues including theater, educational facilities and social organizations. I am a self-taught performance artist with a passion for storytelling. My  theatrical experience has been developed from various venues in the city, including New Horizon Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company, Kuntu Repertory Theatre, Bricolage Production Company, No Name Theatre, The Shadow Lounge and

Included in my artistic repertoire are eleven one-act plays: 


Of Nine Tales, What Do You Ink, King of Spades, Mental Case, No Kiddin', Speakeasy, Retrospect, Just Fishin', Detention Wish, Habari Gani! Children Celebrating Kwanzaa and When Souls Whisper.


I have also written six full-length plays: Get Off The Bus, The Sunday God Gave Me, Ubuntu Holiday, The Poet's Corner (co-written with KL Brewer), Turnabout and Straightening Combs, my first solo stage performance.


It humbles me to be a recipient for Best Play (2011), Best Director (2008) & Best Supporting Actress (2006) for my work done at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Festival in Black and White.


In June 2012, playing the role of “Black Mary” in August Wilson’s play, Gem of the Ocean at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company (PPTCO) was one of the many heights in my stage experience.


In addition to performing and writing, I enjoy sharing my artistic skills educating and mentoring youth at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center After School Program in Pittsburgh's Hill District.  


My overall  intentions with my art is to plant seeds and share what I know by utilizing my creative writing skills with youth in the educational system as well as facilitate artistic seminars/workshops and creative enhancing venues for the public.  I look forward to meeting new faces, writing/reading new scripts and discovering more about my artistic spirit on this life journey.

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The Whole World is a Stage  

Off Set with the Multi-Talented Kim El

 Soul Pit Magazine 2012 Interview

By: Dessie Bey

“Acting is a skill I use on stage as well as off stage, I use my skills in all facets of mlife”, explains Kim. “I take my craft very seriously. I’m not competitive when it comes to acting but very conscious about the acting parts that I choose. I’m a creative soul and a passionate storyteller with a purpose. All of my playwriting, stage performances, poetry, and singing is done as a means to stimulate human consciousness.  My purpose is to ‘edu-tain’ as opposed to entertain, be it playwriting or poetry, I try to educate my audience by inserting historic facts or make mention of relevant current events.”

 Kim also uses her talents in the medical field as a Marsh Professional Simulator for UPMC.  Marsh Simulators create safe learning labs with realistic cases and scenarios filled with detail and emotion for techni- cally skilled apprentices and physician residents to improve their interpersonal skills.

Kim’s acting debut was in a high school performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Schenley High School. Of all her various characters her favorite is “Black Mary” from August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. “It’s been the most challenging and interesting character I’ve played. I like showing the audience Black Mary’s story of redemption and her representa- tion of a post-slavery African American woman on a journey to self-assertion.”

On the other side of the table Kim has directed and written plays. “When actors

respect you and your work there’s a bet- ter chance of having a successful perfor- mance. As a playwright, I have been at auditions with directors who were casting for plays that I wrote and it’s an amaz- ing thrill to watch people breathe life into your words. I learned that really skillful actors can make your characters believ- able. After it’s all said and done, I enjoy playwriting more than acting, although I love the audience’s applause and enjoy entertaining on stage, my true passion is creating meaningful stories that teach or share life lessons with our communities.”

Kim’s advice for aspiring performers is to first do a reality check. “Accept the reality that acting is not an easy job. It’s work that involves research, auditions, time management, memorization skills, and self- confidence. You have to maintain a commitment to your craft as an actor to get good results. I also suggest that you find a mentor or someone who is supportive of your desire to become a performance artist.   Shadow actors, directors, film makers, producers or other artists and listen to their words, pay attention to their successes and learn from their mistakes. Renowned writer/actress Ruby Dee offered this advice in a workshop, ‘Learn to act without speaking’. That bit of advice has had a tremendous positive affect on my creative abilities.  For me, acting began as a glorified hobby that grew into profitable employment and an enjoyable life journey.  Know that once you choose your genre of creative performance... It’s your choice... It’s your voice... It is what you make of it.”

“I was fortunate enough to have the expert guidance of brilliant theatre professionals such as: Dr. Vernell Lillie, Mark Southers, Ernest McCarty, and Crystal Bates. I have received voice training from Dr. James Johnson at the African American Music Institute and recently I’ve been extending my roots beyond capacity via African dance under the tutelage of Orande Sharif.  With the exception of going to various actors’ workshops, I have never had any formal training in acting. The majority of my acting skills come from observation, lots of practice, years of experience, hours of hard work and really good directors. I am grateful for those who have allowed me to soar under their wings, they know who they are”.

On October 12-13 and 19-20, Kim’s one-woman show “Straightening Combs”

will open at The Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. It’s a mixture of mono- logues, music and her life jour- ney. The character speaks of overcoming depression

and rebuilding self-esteem.  Kim will also be directing “Home Stretch”, one of eight plays selected for PPTCO’s Theatre Festival in Black and White. The play is scheduled to run on November 3-4, 9-11, and 16-17 (check website to confirm dates www. pghplaywrights.com/history).

Kim is a homegrown Pittsburgher with roots originating in the Hill District. She stands on the shoulders of the many unspoken August Wilson’s, Lorraine Hansberry’s, Gwendolyn Brook’s, and Dakota Staton’s. She is undeniably the essence of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”.


Dessie Bey is the author of three poetry books and editor of Three Rivers Run Deep: A Pittsburgh Poet’s Anthology. She is the co-founder of the Langston Hughes Poetry Societyof Pittsburgh and a freelance writer.  She conducts youth poetry reading and writing workshops and is available to perform both. She is also the principal organizer of “slave narrative readings” for Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. As a social activist, Dessie is the founder of MAAMs (Mother’s of African American Males). She is the owner/operator of “db on point publishing”. 

Contact her at 412- 464-0321 or [email protected]

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