Smile Politely

Local Hip-Hop Stalwart to Star in Shakespeare Adaptation

“Suddenly, I was casting rappers and teaching them to act, instead of casting actors and teaching them to rap,” says director Aaron Polk on casting local hip-hop artist Krukid in “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” an award-winning “ad-rap-tation” of the Shakespeare classic “The Comedy of Errors.” He adds, “I’m certainly more qualified to teach rappers to act.”

Written and originally performed by a group of actors, writers, and emcees, “Bomb-itty” has gone up in several major cities worldwide, and has just recently become available to non-professional theatre troupes for performance. Focusing on the classic comedic Shakespeare themes of mistaken identity, seduction, and infidelity, the show was nominated for Best Lyrics at the Drama Desk Awards, nominated for Outer Critics Circle Awards, and received the Jefferson Award in Chicago and the Grand Jury Prize at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen in 2001.

Polk saw “Bomb-itty” for the first time in Chicago a few years ago and found it “hilarious and irreverent,” and says that, “as a director, those are the sorts of projects I seek out.” The Shakespearean angle didn’t hurt; Polk has directed three separate modernized Shakespeare adaptations over the past several years. He realizes, however, that a hip-hop adaptation is not exactly 10 Things I Hate About You: “There’s probably going to be a lot of normal patrons that will sit this one out. It is my hope that the support of the patrons of the local music scene will fill those empty seats anyway, and maybe entice (audience members) to come to future productions.”

Ruyonga, a local emcee originally hailing from Uganda, has seen his hard work come to fruition as his career accelerated this year; Krukid was chosen as part of the Rawkus 50, a selective list of artists deemed “the future of hip-hop,” chosen by Rawkus Records. His sophomore album, Afr-i-can, was subsequently released by Cash Hill Records to immediate acclaim. Polk had no idea that Ruyonga, who is a novice on the traditional theatre stage, would be involved in “Bomb-itty” until he walked through the door to audition.

“I didn’t even recognize him,” says Polk. “He introduced himself as Edwin and then later told me he was Krukid. I said out loud ‘Fuck me! You’re Krukid!’”

Polk was familiar with Ruyonga’s work, and had been “blown away” by his stage presence at Krukid sets: “My approach to auditions changed: he didn’t need to impress me. I knew I was casting him. It was just a matter of figuring out the logistics. It’s a pretty tall request to ask him to…come do my little show for free.”

For Ruyonga, however, this “little show” means something big for local hip-hop: “It’ll not only be outrageously fun, but if we do what we intend to do, it will be a very effective way to introduce hip-hop to people who usually associate it with negative connotations. This is a good thing to be part of.” He adds that what he does onstage as Krukid is not solely musical: “It’s not enough to deliver words or songs onstage; you have to bring the songs to life. ‘Emcee’ is really MC, which means Master of Ceremony, so showmanship is ninety percent of the live show. The crowd doesn’t just come out to hear your music; they come to see it.”

Polk is ready for “Bomb-itty” to be a success: “I haven’t been this excited about a show in a long time. I think this show is a great opportunity to merge two separate scenes into one, if even for a brief period. Community support is going to be vital to that process. Edwin seems very enthusiastic and ready to promote. He understands the importance of getting people to the show, not only so that we have good crowds, but so that we can set a precedent for doing things like this again.” He’s picked the right Master of Ceremony; Ruyonga, who fiercely pounds the pavement in order to promote his art, urges interested crowds to book their tickets early. The Station Theatre houses approximately 75 seats; as the newly-cast star of “Bomb-itty” point out: “This WILL sell out.”

“The Bomb-itty of Errors” was written by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, GQ, and Erik Weiner. The production, the final of the current season at The Station Theatre, will open in April and run through early May. Reservations are available now by calling (217) 384-4000.

Catch Krukid at The Canopy Club on January 16th, at The Highdive on January 20th for The Great Cover-Up (“No one wants to miss the surprise we have in store,” promises Ruyonga), and January 31st at The Highdive with Mhondoro and The Beauty Shop.

Photo courtesy of Evan Hunt

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