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Milwaukee native John Ridley brings new movie home for early look

Milwaukee native John Ridley on set with Regina King during the filming of "Shirley."
Glen Wilson
Milwaukee native John Ridley on set with Regina King during the filming of "Shirley."

John Ridley has never forgotten his hometown. After piling on success as an author, screenwriter, producer and director, he established Nō Studios, a hub for Milwaukee’s creative community. In just a few weeks, those many facets will come together as Ridley — and the city he came up in — celebrates his latest project, Shirley.

The film starring Regina King tells the story of Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 became the first Black Congresswoman and in 1972 ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. The rest of the world will get their first look at the movie when it hits Netflix on March 22. But a lucky audience in Milwaukee will beat that by more than a week when Shirley premieres at the Oriental Theatre on March 14.

A movie theater can only hold so many people, though, and there are a lot of folks connected to the film who deserve those seats. That doesn’t mean the general public won’t get a chance to join the festivities, however. After the screening, the celebration moves over to Nō Studios for an 8 p.m. reception hosted by Ridley, who will discuss Shirley and what his Milwaukee initiative has planned for the year ahead.

"Nō Studios is pleased to partner with Netflix and the historic Oriental Theatre to bring a preview screening of Shirley to Milwaukee,” Ridley said in a press release. “I am also looking forward to hosting a reception at Nō Studios following the screening to celebrate the film and acknowledge our members, partners and patrons that have supported our five years of business building and community engagement."

The creative-arts hub first opened in October of 2018 as a way for the city’s talent to, as Ridley told the Journal Sentinel at the time, “socialize with purpose.” More than five years later, that phrase is still emblazoned on the website of Nō Studios, which has become an influential force in Milwaukee’s artistic scene.

The same can be said of its founder, whose career encompasses a staggering variety of roles in entertainment — standup comedian, novelist, television and screenwriter, NPR contributor, comic-book writer for both Marvel and DC, producer and director.

For a chance to hear Ridley talk about his latest project at the Shirley premiere reception March 14, pick up tickets on the event’s webpage.