Connecticut
Profile Type: Artist
NEFA Grant Recipient
Artist
Toto Kisaku

Toto Kisaku, is an award-winning Congolese playwright, actor, director and producer who studied drama at the National Institute of Arts in Kinshasa. After establishing the K-Mu Theater in 2003, he spent the next 15 years traveling the world to produce and participate in plays. Toto arrived in the United States in late 2015 seeking political asylum, which he was granted in March 2018. Since his arrival, Toto has spent his time learning and redefining his artistic expression based on the tension that both his country of origin and the country which has welcomed him are enduring. In his work, Toto focuses on transcending the constraints of daily life and examining how people living in poverty or under oppressive regimes can recreate their environments and improve their lives through artistic activities. Toto’s pieces invite both spectator and actor to find ways to go beyond the walls of both the performance and living space.  
His last piece "7 dialogues" was performed at Yale School of Architecture by Sydney Lemmon and Toto Kisaku through the Garden Pleasure project. The first International Festival of Arts & Ideas Artist in residence 2019 led workshop programs and Talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, Europe before the U.S at Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac University, Hampshire College, etc.

Toto’s piece Requiem For An Electric Chair premiered at the 2018 Festival with three sold-out performances and is his first play to be performed in English. Toto was the recipient of the 2010 "Freedom to Create Prize,” presented in Cairo, Egypt. He was also the recipient of the 2018 Rebecca Blunk Fund award, granted by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Requiem for an Electric Chair have been performed at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC last November 2019 and will be touring in the US on 2020-2021. In April 2020 the play will be performed in Portland - Maine at The Portland Ovation with a residency.

Additional Links: 
"Does the acquisition of an identity change our being? Does looking for and discovering our identity strengthen or weaken our capacity for personal and community development?"

I Have Worked With

  • March 2019

    On Wednesday, March 20th, our Artist in Residence Toto Kisaku visited Quinnipiac University class “Drama 101: Introduction to Theatre”, taught by none other than Arts & Ideas’ own Lousie Endel Community Engagement Manager, Aleta Staton. Read the student reflections below, following Aleta’s opening remarks.

    Students in my Theatre 101 class at Quinnipiac University were exploring a section focused on Social Justice and Intersectionality in the Theatre when they were visited by Arts & Ideas 2019 Artist in Residence Toto Kisaku, who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He shared with us, among other things, how he was introduced to the world of theatre by chance, how stories he told through theatre got him into trouble and nearly executed in his native country, and finally, the redemptive power of the theatre that ultimately spared his life. Here are some of their responses:

    Francesca Andranovich: I think that this was the most important discussion I was ever involved in here at Quinnipiac. There was so much shared, and I learned so much today that a lot of people don't have the opportunity to learn when they should. We touched on millions of topics. Theater, of course, as well as politics, travelling, emotion and more. These are things that should be important to everyone, and the conversation opened up an opportunity for kids my age to be exposed to things that we are fortunate enough to never have to face like Toto had to.

    Peter Thomas: I found today's discussion to be extremely interesting. It was fascinating to hear about Toto's life and exactly what he went through on a first-hand basis. I learned about how the government in Congo works and how these people are being treated. I really enjoyed this conversation and found it to be useful, one that many people should have the opportunity to attend just to hear about someone else's life and experiences.

    Alexander Bosio: I enjoyed our class's meeting with Toto for several reasons. His story demands attention, as his words carry a different kind of weight when you first learn of his imprisonment in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He showed by example how he has used his story as a platform for social justice and change, and furthermore, he explained how he has done this through theater. I particularly enjoyed how Toto explained his viewpoint on theater in the grand scope of society, and how it exists in a sort of cycle that encompasses social change and its fluid nature. I got to speak to Toto after the class and his passion for social change was clear, and I found it very inspiring.

    Lindsey Guadagni: Today's discussion has opened my eyes to new realities. Toto Kisaku has a larger value to the community. I had not previously known his story, but I feel it is one to be spoken about. I believe he is an inspiring man. I learned about how theatre helped the people of Congo and how theatre is more than just a show and performance. Toto was an amazing speaker with very deep thoughts, and I believe I do not meet enough people that are as deep and inspiring as him. I appreciate the opportunity of having such a great speaker come to my class today.

    Alex Taglieri: Listening to Toto Kisaku's story today was eye-opening and inspiring. I had no prior knowledge of the oppression and corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it was shocking to hear what happened to Toto simply because he spoke out against the government. It was also impressive to see how quickly Toto grasped a new language, since he's only been in this country for three years. In addition, it was interesting that Quinnipiac students and professor helped him gain political asylum, yet none of the students in the class had heard Toto's story prior to meeting him. I think that Quinnipiac students would benefit from hearing Toto's story or seeing one of his plays. At a school with very little diversity, it's important for students to learn what goes on outside of their own four walls. By doing so, students may uncover a passion that they were not previously aware of, which could lead to positive change.

  • February 2019

    Led Workshop "Le Petit Studio" a workshop space for dramatic readings by and for children and adolescents, with optional participation by adults, including teachers, parents, and grandparents!  

  • July 2018

    Programing the reading version of "Requiem for an Electric Chair", Talk and a workshop with Hight school Fellow students.

Pages

  • NEFA Grantee
  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Toto
Job Title/Position: 
Theater Maker
Mailing Address: 
323 DeKoven Dr. Apt 2w
Middletown, CT 06457
Physical Address: 
323 DeKoven Dr. Apt 2w
Middletown, CT 06457
Last Name: 
Kisaku
Phone: 
203-808-8759

About

Profile Type: 
Artist
Primary Discipline: 
Theater - General
Additional Disciplines: 
Literary Arts - Spoken Word
Theater - Children's
Theater - Playwriting
Theater - Storytelling
Populations Served: 
Adults
Businesses
Elders
Families
General Public
Immigrant Populations
Incarcerated (or Formerly Incarcerated) Individuals
LGBTQ Populations
Native American Tribes
Nonprofits
People with Disabilities
School Groups
Teens
Veteran/Active Duty Military Personnel
Youth-At-Risk
Languages Available: 
French
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Arts Instruction / Lessons
Community Arts
Creation of a Work of Art (Including Commissions)
Performance / Concert / Reading
Professional Development / Training
Professional Network Gatherings / Events
Residency - Community
Residency - In School
Residency - Production / Development
Residency - Other
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
Events Per Year: 
300
Seasons Active: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
Geographic Reach: 
Town / City
County
Multi-County Region
State
Multi-State Region
National
International

Affiliations and Accomplishments

Awards: 
Rebecca Blunk Fund (2018)
Freedom to Create Award (2010)
Artist Fellowship Award, COA. (2020)
I am a NEFA Grant Recipient

Accessibility of Services

Access accommodations for people who use a wheelchair and have limited mobility
Access accommodations for people who are blind, partially sighted, and have low vision
Access accommodations for people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing
Performances and workshops can be developed to meet the audience members' and participants' needs, upon request.

I am a Touring Artist

I am NEST eligible
Technical Requirements: 
Vary based on performance or workshop
Portland Ovations, Portland Maine
Fee Range Minimum: 
$7,000
Fee Range Maximum: 
$15,000
State of Residence: 
Connecticut
Minimum Number of Performers: 
1
Maximum Number of Performers: 
1

I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Afterschool Program
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Corporate Business
Healthcare Facility
Private Studio
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Arts Integration - Communications
Arts Integration - Foreign Languages
Arts Integration - History and Social Science
Theater
Ages Served: 
Elementary School-age
Middle School-age
High School-age
College-Age
Adults
Seniors
Fee Range Minimum: 
$900
Fee Range Maximum: 
$2,000