Past Programs

Late Nite


At Late Nite at Mama Laurie’s: The Late Nite Series, curator e.g. bailey continued Laurie Carlos’s legacy of bringing some of the best interdisciplinary performers from New York and Minnesota together to explore the cross-currents of contemporary culture through music and sound, text and images, and movement and dance.

Truth Maze

At each Late Nite performance, you were part of a family. Food from local chefs was served at no extra charge on the second floor, where audiences mingled with artists before every show.

We treasure our memories of Late Nite over the years, and hope you do, too.

Past Late Nites have included: Daniel Alexander Jones, Nioka Workman, Jessica Huang, Matana Roberts, Curio Dance, Quinton Moore, Sol Light, Katherine Glover, Dylan Fresco, Sun Mee Chomet, Juma B. Essie, Ellen Hinchcliffe, Lisa Brimmer, Jose James, Zell Miller III, Kenna Sarge, Idris Goodwin, Queen Drea, Stacey Robinson, José James, Chris Smith, Gideon van Gelder, Pramila Vasudevan, Zell Miller III, Katie Ka Vang, kim thompson, Bill Cottman, J. Otis Powell, Dipankar Mukherjee, Kenna Sarge, D’Lo, St. Paul Soapboxing Slam Team, Carl Hancock Rux, Machado-Thompson, Nazirah P Mickey, Pyeng Threadgill, Reg E Gaines, Sharon Bridgforth, Tiye Giraud, Toshi Reagon, Black Ice, Idris Goodwin, Xelias Aerial Arts, Tou SaiKo Lee, Ellena Schoop, Peter Jenson, Marilyn Amaral, Tish Jones, Signe Harriday, Truthmaze 2, Stacey Robinson, Ashley Gold, Anton Jones, Amy-Salloway, DJO, and many, many more.


Laurie Carlos

Laurie was a beloved and fierce artist, friend, mentor, mother, playwright, director, and force of nature.

Lore Said, “Everything Is Already in the Room”
by Sharon Bridgforth

“Oya whips through and changes everything
a gale that uproots trees and human lives
subtle breezes that lick the ears with promises of something more
once she passes, nothing is the same.” Omi Osun Joni L. Jones
From Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àse, and the Power of the Present Moment
by Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

“The Marrow: Laurie’s Chapter,” Page 36.

Laurie Smith Carlos

has returned to the Wind.

In Yoruba cosmology, the Force of Nature that is associated with the Wind is Oya. Oya’s name is translated to mean—she tore it.  If you know Laurie, you know—she tore it. Laurie walked in the room (any room/every room) with swirling clairvoyance, artistic genius, embodied rigor, fierce realness—and a determination to be free . . . and to free others.  A Magic Maker. A Seer. A Shape Shifter. Laurie told me once that she went inside people’s bodies to find what they needed. And lawd2day/she was a quick study.

In an instant Laurie knew your fears, your hurts, your dreams. And because she knew that the only thing that could save any of us, is for us to break ourselves wide open/to stand strongly in that—to be witnessed making choices from that place . . . to make art from that/there . . . to never rest in the comfort of what feels comfortable  . . . she’d do the kindest, most humane thing—she’d go in.  She’d help us get to and work from that place. Not everyone was ready. Those of us that were Blessed enough to have been in the room and to have had something in us say yes to that work . . .  well/really—she saved us. And I believe that that was exactly Laurie’s intention. To save us. From mediocrity. From ego. From laziness. From half-realized art making. From being paralyzed by fear.

Laurie wanted to help us Shine fully.
In our artistry.
In our Lives.

“I tell the stories in the movement—the inside dances that occur spontaneously, as in life—the music and the text. If I write a line, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a line that is spoken; it can be a line that’s moved. A line from which music is created. The gesture becomes the sentence. So much of who we are as women, as people, has to do with how we gesture to one another all the time, and particularly through emotional moments. Gesture becomes a sentence or a state of fact. If I put on a script ‘four gestures,’ that doesn’t mean I’m not saying anything; that means I have opened it up for something to be said physically.” Laurie Carlos
From Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àse, and the Power of the Present Moment
by Omi Osun Joni L. Jones

“The Marrow: Laurie’s Chapter,” Page 49.

Laurie dedicated a significant amount of time, effort and resource to walking with emerging artists. I am Blessed to say that I am one of those artists. There are so many of us. Truly, honestly, too many of us to name. Artists that Laurie mentored. She would “See” us . . . and push us through that fragile/critical time of learning and choosing.

She would lend all the weight from her luminous career—her name—her resources—her gifts/and she would work us through/to a next level. Sometimes with sweet, mischievous laughter and metaphors and through silent example. Sometimes with sharp knives and stormy might. Laurie was a free Black woman. Freer, she said, than her mother and her grandmother could have ever been. There was no going back for her. Laurie was determined to do what the fuck she wanted to do/how the fuck she wanted to do it.
And she devoted her Life to helping others cultivate the tools to do the same.
To improvise.
To innovate.
To imagine.
To Dream.
To grow
To fight.

Laurie Smith Carlos stomped open the ground. She and her Force of Nature buddies— Jessica Hagedorn and Robbie McCauley, and so many others—they made new roads/their way. With Colored Womanness/style and tenacity and brilliance.

“We came together in DeMonte bar, we performed there, we performed at universities. You know get on the bus or van and go and work in these universities. All us working together for a big chunk of time, so we had live playing. We’d work out movements through this language, worked on, ah, worked on a lot of breath work because of the influence of Dianne McIntyre. Yeah, through Jazz, through movement, through theater movement on the stage and we were really in a state of, oh my God, a state of deep radical controversy and studying renegadeism.” Laurie Carlos
From: Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies. Vol. 8, No. 2, June 2012
E. Angelica Whitmal
“So Many Possibilities before you Crack the Egg: A
Conversation with Laurie Carlos”

Laurie paid the price for her freedom.

I will spend the rest of my Life giving Laurie my personal thanks
in prayer and remembering
in action and Offering
in acknowledgement of her legacy in me.
In my Work.

May this/here
invoke volumes of testimonies and stories and rememberings and sharings
in honor of Laurie Smith Carlos.
It will take us all to tell it.

And still
we never will know the whole of it.

May Laurie’s daughter, her grandchildren, her sisters, her blood relatives, her beloved stepmother/her Ancestors be Eternally Blessed.

May the family of Angels that that so Lovingly cared for her Fully feel our collective Gratitude.

May we cook all the foods and speak all the languages that Laurie
a “real New Yorker” – a Lower East Side girl
SO Loved
as she dances towards the Sky
in her many colored
most favorite outfit.

May we put on
Hamza El Din’s, “A Wish” (Laurie told Omi that she listened to that song every Day for 30 years) or Laura Nyro, “And When I Die” (you know how Laurie loved Nyro)
and gesture Laurie Light.

May we find a way to Bless the tearing.
To do the work.
To help someone else along the way.

I am writing a series of Blessings. . . me the adult praying/talking to my eight-year-old self—the little girl that Laurie helped me hear/heal and release
during her Directorial Work on my autobiographical performance piece, con flama.
This Blessing is from me and that little girl/for Laurie


Gather yourself.
Your broken bits
your shattered dreams
the shards of shame.
Let your tears be your guide.

Collect your precious memories
your hopes and Intentions.

Gather yourself.
Bring what you are holding.
Toss it all to the Wind

Run as fast as you can towards the Sun

and Fly.

Power of Our Voices


Power of Our Voices (POV) used theater as the foundational tool to reach at risk teens who were in danger of dropping out or discontinuing their educations. POV’s goal was not to develop talented performers. Broadly speaking, the POV vision for participants was to develop leadership skills, acquire vocational strategies, improve academic performance and connect with community resources.

POV empowered students to develop patterns of cooperation, disciplined work habits and effective problem solving skills thorough the creation of high quality performances of theatre. POV met in high schools several days a week. It aimed to foster critical thinking, strengthen literacy skills and foster a greater view of how one fully participates in their community.

Home School Project


The Hennepin County Home School Theater Workshop was a five-week program that used playwriting, poetry and theatre to educate and transform the lives of residents at the Hennepin County Home School, culminating with community performances.

Professional artists mentored the young people and guided them through the theatrical process, writing and then performing their original script. The workshop developed creativity, social interaction and discipline and channels the diverse emotional energies of the participants into structured forms of artistic expression.

The result was an artistic production of the highest merit. The invited audiences included students’ families, neighborhood youth groups, community arts groups, and workers within the juvenile justice system.

School Residencies


Our school residencies developed youth leadership to build community and engage in dialogue about tough issues such as racism and community violence. Many of the youth involved in the partnerships had not spoken up prior to performing, but became vocal leaders after they experienced success in the program.

The purpose of our school residencies was to use theatre to examine social issues such as violence, poverty, racism, homophobia and religious difference, and the ways these issues impact individuals and their relationships. By building a spirit of ensemble collaboration among the youth in each residency, and by teaching creative writing and performing skills, we provided an avenue for youth to speak their truth publicly, and to share their perceptions, talent, energy and individual voices.

Past residencies included Green Central Middle School and Washburn High School.

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