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I recently went to The Ameri- can Theatre of Actors on West 54 Street in Manhattan to review “A Lesson in Blood” and was rocked. It exploded off the stage. The play was about the old south, a period piece that took place in rural Georgia. It was not stereotypical in terms of what happened in 1945, but was truly a lesson on what is was like. It took place in an old shack that I remembered as a child in Ala- bama. Aggie, the love interest played by (Cristina Carrion) a white woman, returns home and reveals to Osceola, she’s had a child for him, a colored man played by (Carmen Balentine), who is now with Clara, a colored girlfriend, played by (Rokia L. Shearin). This love triangle is what has put the family and themselves in the crosshairs of Sheriff Johnny Ray, who is a member of the Klan, played by (Christopher Stokes). Calvin, (Rommell Sermons) who is the brother of Osceola is the pro- tector and the voice of reason in this family unit with Aunt Lucy (Christina Thorington) keeping him in line. The Aunt appeals to Osceola’s employer, a lawyer from Germany (he got the accent right) played by (Larry Greenbush). I don’t want to give away the plot because it is a mystery. However all of the actors were Superb. The language can make you cringe, but it is appropri- ate for the time period.The set transported me home to the table I use to sit at eating bis- cuits and syrup with my sisters and brothers. The costumes and props made me believe. I have re- viewed writer Anne L. Thompson- Scretching’s work at least three times, I saw “You Shouldn’t Have Told,” “Four Men On A Couch” and “A Certain Audacity.” Anne L. Thompson-Scretching is society’s mirror. She’s not afraid to put the truth on the stage. She is a story teller and she is abso- lutely brilliant.
May 12, 2011 - Michael Johnson of the New York Beacon
Escaping the post-Civil War segregationist South with their harsh and brutal memories of slavery's injustices, four black women set out for Kansas. They are "Flyin' West" to homestead in the black community of Nicodemus. As playwright Pearl Cleage sat in the audience Thursday night, a strong N.C. A&T cast commanded the full attention of an enthusiastic audience in this reminiscence of an actual community on the frontier. Director Vanita Vactor places her cast on Rashaun Marcus' evocative set, where Jeffrey Richardson's sound direction provides a prairie wind to be heard in the background. Thursday's crowd alternately held its breath, muttered warnings to endangered cast members before crucial moments and applauded lustily when villains got their comeuppance. This identification with the cast and the story stemmed not only from skillful acting, but also from the contemporary resonance of the play's themes. One is a rejection of second-class citizenship. The other is feminine solidarity in the face of male violence toward women. Amy Lynn Williams' Miss Leah is the crotchety matriarch of the household who is also loving and inventive. Melanie Matthews plays Sophie. She strides about with a double-barreled shotgun, determined to protect the status of the pioneer women on the first land they've ever owned. Rokia Shearin plays Fannie, a peacemaker and supporter of the others in the household. Her bashful beau is Anthony G. Marshall's appealing Wil Parish. The fourth member of the female quartet is Minnie Dove Charles. Her arrival from England with her husband, Frank, leads to violence. Christopher Berry plays Frank, a man who rejects his black heritage and whose skin is so light he can pass for white - something Sophie in particular rejects with horror. It is Berry's Frank who beats his willowy, pregnant wife and attempts to take her share of the family land. How that effort is foiled provides the play's last scenes, which delighted the audience. Abe D. Jones is a freelance contributor.
February 25, 2007 - Abe D. Jones of the Greensboro News & Record
Roles of a Lifetime
Rokia Shearin's heart has always been in the arts. She just didn't know how she could turn her dream into a career. "I didn't get the whole background on theater," said Shearin, a 24-year-old N.C. A&T senior. "I only knew, basically, you either make it or you don't. I thought of it that you're either a Halle Berry or you're going to be a starving actor." So on her first tour of duty through A&T, she ignored her dreams and majored in animal science. The thrill of performing draws many students to study theater, but among some people, the stereotype that theater majors will be broke and starving artists persists. Through internships and classes, the theater department at A&T is working to ensure students graduate with multiple skills useful in the arts world - even if they aren't on stage. "We demand that our kids have two areas of interest," said Donna Baldwin Bradby , who teaches in the theater department. "So when you graduate from school and you go to New York, if you don't have an acting gig, you can be in a scene design shop and get paid for that." A background in theater can help usher students into a variety of careers, said Frankie Day , director of A&T's theater arts program. She has a list of possibilities including marketing, audio engineering, casting, theater education, set designing, fund raising, play writing and cartoon voices. "I'd rather see you working in a box office than flipping burgers at McDonald's," Day said. "I want you working in the business." Shearin learned about the many options when she started thinking about studying theater while she finished her first bachelor's degree in animal science. This summer she interned at Greensboro's Barn Dinner Theatre, working in the box office and doing some sound and lighting work among other duties. Ric Gutierrez , general manager and producer at the Barn Dinner Theatre , said the training helps students make a bigger impact than someone without that background. A&T junior Chris Berry , who acted in a production at the Barn Dinner Theatre this summer, said the diversity of opportunities makes his degree limitless. "Acting is my thing, but I've also done lighting design, sound design," he said. In A&T's program, Berry said, "they try to teach us that you have to be able to do everything, be a well-rounded weapon. You're more marketable if you can say, 'I can act, I can sing, I can design.' " That ability helps students meet their ultimate goal, Bradby said. "As an actor, the goal is to work," she said. "We tell our kids, 'If you are working, you are successful.' You don't have to be on Broadway to be successful."
August 31, 2006 - Lanita Withers of the Greensboro News & Record