East Sider Helen Baskerville Dukes found her passion for theatre in third grade, when she nabbed the role of Mrs. Claus in her school’s Christmas play. She says the fact that her mother encouraged her and her sister to perform songs and dances at family gatherings prepared her for her elementary school acting debut. It appears the performing arts bug never left her.
Dukes wrote her first screenplay in 1998, yet soon found out she couldn’t submit it to a major production company without an agent, and couldn’t submit it to an agent without experience. An entrepreneur at heart, Helen decided to start her own company, Inspired By Grace Productions (IBG). Since then, she has not looked back. A prolific artist, Dukes has written and produced twelve plays, as well as the 2014 film Ladies Night, adapted from the play of the same name, which screened at the Columbus Theater.
2017 is off to a busy start. In February, IBG staged the play Men Hurt Too about two brothers who have a history of dating jealous women, and in April, the popular play series Ladies Night will return with Ladies Night 3 on April 22 at McVinney Auditorium. The series follows four women who, faced with life issues and relationship dilemmas, struggle to continue to live according to their faith, as well as maintain their friendships after secrets are revealed that place their bonds in jeopardy.
Not wishing her work to be categorized as merely Christian or primarily for black audiences, Dukes says, “The plays are inspiring, therapeutic and empowering; they’re drama, they’re comedy. While they may have some Christian undertones, anyone can relate to them and attend, depending on the age of understanding adult situations.”
A well-known community advocate in her Mt. Hope neighborhood, Dukes has tutored young people, and led free dance and theatre lessons at Martin Luther King Elementary School, Mount Hope Neighborhood Association and Unified Solutions in South Providence. Not one to rest on her laurels, her dream is for IBG to be the largest film production corporation in Rhode Island, with a diverse portfolio ranging from theatre and film to television and web material. Her family fully supports her work, and the love, passion and dedication she has to want to help, inspire and entertain people with reality-based storylines. With her family and dedicated audience, and Dukes' determination, it seems she is destined to fulfill the dreams first seeded by her mother and that third grade acting debut.