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Line Breaks Festival at Memorial Union and A Room of One’s Own

March 30 @ 5:30 pm - April 1 @ 9:30 pm

An illustration shows multi-colored images of a keyboard, a turntable, a microphone, speakers, a "play" button," and sliders and indicators from a soundboard, all arranged in a grid-like pattern.

The annual Line Breaks Festival offers an ever-shifting testament to the bold visions of the students in UW-Madison’s First Wave program. Rooted in hip-hop and spoken-word, First Wave attracts artists who tend to mix together all sorts of disciplines, from theater to dance to fashion to visual art. As a result, the alumni who’ve come through the program since it launched in 2007 cover extensive ground: Poet Danez Smith, Black Arts Matter Festival founder Shasparay Irvin, writer/musician Hiwot Adilow, dancer/rapper/filmmaker James Gavins, blisteringly focused MCs like Defcee and CRASHprez, and that’s barely scratching the surface.


The Line Breaks schedule is a bit different each time out, but you can always count on showcases of multiple works from current First Wave students, alums, and some exciting guests. Visiting this year from Chicago is poet and scholar Eve L. Ewing, whose published works include the poetry/visual art collection Electric Arches and the nonfiction book Ghosts In The Schoolyard, which examines the decimation of Chicago’s south-side public schools under the mayoral administration of Rahm Emanuel. Another can’t-miss guest this year is Chicago singer-songwriter, poet, and playwright Jamila Woods—if you haven’t heard her expansive take on R&B on 2019’s LEGACY! LEGACY!, do yourself a kindness and catch up.

Registration is already full for a March 30 talk with Ewing and poet/UW-Madison professor Paul Tran at A Room of One’s Own—but you can still register for the waitlist. Either way, don’t fret: The real heart of Line Breaks is the performance showcases, taking place this year on March 31 and April 1, both nights at 6 p.m. in the Union Theater. Across these two nights, performers will include Diya Abbas, Azura Tyabji, Jackson Neal, Shasparay Irvin, Nate Marshall, Woods, and Ewing, among others. Trying to succinctly sum up just what you’ll be seeing here is beside the point. Instead, just set aside any expectations and get ready to embrace a remarkably fertile overlap of words, movement, music, narrative, and the myriad ways they can be combined.

—Scott Gordon

Illustration by Shaysa Sidebottom.


March 30 @ 5:30 pm
April 1 @ 9:30 pm
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Wisconsin Union Theater
800 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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Shows, screenings, and other cultural events around town, selected and previewed by Tone Madison’s writers and editors. Plus, info on upcoming Tone Madison-hosted events.


Please note: This is a small, picky calendar. It is not a comprehensive calendar. If you are looking for one, we strongly recommend visiting our friends at Madison Minutes.


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