Award winning actress Aixa Kendrick has joined the cast of Layon Gray’s critically acclaimed war drama The Dahomey Warriors for its Florida premiere at the Sandrell Rivers Theatre in Miami.
The Dahomey Warriors will open on Thursday February 10 and plays Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm until February 27. It is directed by playwright Layon Gray and produced by The M Ensemble Company as a Black History Month culturally significant event.
Set in 1892 and based on actual historical events, The Dahomey Warriors tells the story of the Mino, an all female military regiment of the Fon people who served as protectors of the King and kingdom of Dahomey (present day Benin). The story traces the final days of the Mino resistance to France’s pending invasion of Dahomey.
The play had its world premiere at The Actors Temple Theatre in New York City in 2017 under the title Black Sparta. After its successful initial run, it went on to be selected as a main stage production for the renowned National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina and was then commissioned as a Black History month cultural event in 2019 at the Kelley Strayhorn Theatre in Pittsburgh.
Kendrick is the only actor to have appeared in every production of the play to date, and will reprise her role as General Oni Balewa, military leader of the Mino warriors. The cast of the latest production also includes Asilia Neilly, Toddra Brunson, Iman Clark, Chaz Reuben and Layon Gray.
According to Kendrick, she is “thoroughly honored” to again be part of a story that continues to strike a chord with audiences, many of whom were totally unfamiliar with the history of the Mino.
“Women are the heart, body and soul of any community or culture,” she says,
“And we birth, raise and hone the next generations. Contrary to popular belief, it was not unique for women in the mother continent of Africa and in our Pan African diaspora to reign or pick up the mantle of leadership to spearhead the charge in battle. Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, Queen Amina of Nigeria, Queen Nzingha of Angola, Queen Nanny of the Maroons in Jamaica and Harriet Tubman of the USA are but a few examples. So it’s no surprise that Mino in the Fon language means “our mothers,” because they truly fought with great ferocity to protect their families and homeland. From the 17th to the end of the 19th century, they were the only documented female troops in warfare history. Their battle cry was ‘Conquer or die.’ ”
She also believes that the timing of productions such as The Dahomey Warriors has never been more appropriate.
“We are entering an electric and vibrant time where diverse, multicultural female driven stories have much broader support, platforms and impact, and as a multi disciplinary artist with a passion for portraying women of strength and power, it’s a truly exciting time for me as well.
Layon has crafted this exquisite story to pay homage to these fierce women and I couldn’t be happier to be one of the vessels to help share their HERstory. We are also grateful to the all female team of producers at The M Ensemble Company- now celebrating their 50th year in the industry – for allowing us to be part of their golden anniversary celebrations.”
Kendrick is a Best Actress AUDELCO Award winner for Baba David D. Wright’s dance
drama Oya- Warrior Wind Goddess, as well as the recipient of the Hip Hop Film Festival 2020 Best Actress award for Laura Fielder’s short feature The Company You Keep. Her additional credits include television’s Law and Order: SVU and films such as Sisters and John Wick 3. She recently worked with Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) on a promotional video feature for the Apple iPhone 13 Pro. She is represented by the all female team, The Talent Express.
The Sandrell Rivers Theater is located at 6103 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, Florida 33127. For ticket information to see The Dahomey Warriors call 305 200 5043 or go to www.themensemble.com.
The Sandrell Rivers Theater is a new, state-of-the-art theater serving the city of Miami and all of Miami-Dade County & South Florida. The theater is named in honor of Chief Sandrell Rivers, a tireless arts advocate, artist and former employee of Miami-Dade County. The Sandrell Rivers Theater is a Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs facility.
The Sandrell Rivers Theater is managed & operated by Fantasy Theatre Factory, one of Florida’s most venerated cultural institutions. Fantasy Theatre Factory, incorporated in 1982, is both a touring and presenting company, producing well over 450 events each season, reaching an audience of over 150,000 people in Florida yearly. Fantasy Theatre Factory specializes in creating programs for youth audiences, and is recognized as one of South Florida’s most important theater-for-young audiences companies. In addition to its theater-for-young-audiences programs, Fantasy Theatre Factory also programs a diverse season of shows & events for patrons of all ages. Learn more about Fantasy Theatre Factory’s diverse programming by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.
The M-Ensemble Company, Florida’s longest running African American Theater organization, serves as a resident company, producing their exciting season of programming on the main-stage. The M Ensemble is a Miami-Dade major cultural institution, recognized widely for its artistic excellence and bold programming. The M Ensemble company has won multiple Carbonell Awards among its many honors. Learn more about M Ensemble’s exciting programs by clicking the link the bottom of the page.