In an ever-changing world, actor-singer-model Keith Illidge sees it changing for the better when it comes to Black artists.
“Although we still have a long way to go, what we do have now is opportunity for artists like me. The question is, however, can it sustain itself? It has happened before, but then faded away. But the reason I see it as different now is because the writers are different. It’s not just white men who are producing works of art.
“We have a lot of diversity now. We have women writing, whether it be women of color or just women in general. We also have men of color writing for pilots or writing screenplays. We have a lot of Black playwrights. So a lot of our stories are being told. And not just history stories but stories of today and many of the experiences of Black artists.”
Illidge is a Delaware native who has worked in film, TV and theater in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. He received a Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination for his portrayal of Lincoln in “Topdog/Underdog.”
His own beginnings as a Black artist began when he was just 10 years old and back in elementary school. He remembers that in the fifth grade the whole class would put on 35-minute plays. And for this young boy that was all it took.
“Those little plays cemented my desire to grow up to be an actor,” he says. “So in high school I joined the drama club.The difference between our club and others was that we joined with other schools in Delaware to put on a number of plays. It was like a play festival, and at the very end various awards would be presented.”
Following his dreams to college, Illidge graduated from Wilmington University with a bachelor’s degree in video production before realizing that if he wanted to be a really good actor, he’d need really good training.
“So after working at various jobs for a number of years and saving up money, I started studying different techniques with different coaches. I realized there was so much more I needed to learn if I wanted to make my dreams come true. I wanted to go to grad school, and auditioned for seven of the great ones before finally settling on the Theatre School at DePaul University,” he says.
Graduating just last year with a master’s of fine arts in acting, Illidge continues to enhance his theatrical abilities.
He is appearing at Inis Nua Theatre in the American premiere of “Untitled.” The solo show runs through May 12.
“Untitled” is a monologue play in two parts, with Illidge playing twin brothers born on Nigeria’s Independence Day. But on the night of their traditional naming ceremony one infant brother cries out and refuses to be named, plunging him into a life of chaos.
“It’s quite a challenge playing both parts. One brother grows up in Nigeria, and the other one in London. So I had to master various dialects and accents to make the audience believe I am two different people. This is the first one-man show I’ve ever done and I’m finding it fascinating.”
Years from now Illidge sees himself working consistently “as an actor, which is my No. 1 preference, and building my brand even more,” he emphasizes.