Theatre program premiers new play


North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Theatre program premiered their first production of the school year, “Mississippi Born and Bred” on Oct. 19, 2017.

“Mississippi Born and Bred” is the original creation of Theatre Director, Dr. Darius Omar Williams.

The coming-of-age story follows a 14-year-old, Mook, as she struggles to confront her own insecurities to grow into the woman she was destined to be.

At the center of Mook’s spiritual journey is a local seer, Miss Emma. Throughout the production, Mook travels with Miss Emma to a sacred place known as Root Valley so she can find ‘whole.’

“Mook’s biggest passion is climbing trees, which she learned from her father. At a young age, she was raped by a Ku Klux Klan member, and she watched her father be hung for fighting those men off,” said Asha Duniani, the actress performing as Mook.

“Due to these traumatizing experiences, Mook is on a personal journey to find her ‘whole’ in life.”

The setting is Clarksdale, Mississippi during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This adds increased tension to the drama. The various themes of the play revolve around lynchings, segregation, the blues, and West African mythicism.

Miss Emma is played by guest actress, Johnnie Mae Allen. Allen has an extensive performance history in film, stage, and television.

She has appeared in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “30 Rock,” and “Blue Bloods.” Allen’s portrayal in the lead role was a standout. The pain and struggle presented through her diction made many in the audience tear up from the reality of it all.

Though the play begins with themes that are common and relatable to many in the audience, the complexity behind many of the characters’ background stories left the viewer often times confused as the show progressed.

In the first act, the flow and pacing of the production needed some strengthening. There were many characters and subplots introduced without much in-depth explanation.

This made it harder for viewers to truly understand who Mook and Miss Emma were and what they were trying to overcome as the main characters. The first act, which was an hour and 45 minutes, was also long for one act.

Often times it is uncommon for a playwright to also direct their first production. This was one obstacle that came with “Mississippi Born and Bred.”

In his own review of the production, Scott Michaels from the News and Record commented about Williams writing and directing his first play.

“Theater is a collaborative art, and the focus on one role or the other may have benefited the production more.”

The set, which was designed by David Tidwell, was eye-catching and made the setting and time-period legitimate to the viewer.The use of a real tree and dirt helped to enhance the theme behind their usage.

However, many of the costumes and hair lacked cohesion with the main characters to the time period.

“Mississippi Born and Bred” is only the first installment in an intended trilogy. As the story progresses, hopefully there will be more explanation on certain plots of the overall story and deeper insight into the main characters’ personal stories.

Overall, the production had an interesting concept with many of the main characters standing out in their roles.

However, the sometimes confusing central plot and lack of concise flow between scenes leaves the viewer stumped as the play progresses.

Yet, with more work in strengthen the script, this story could turn into something beautiful and promising.

The show will continue to run until Oct. 29. All weekday shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Ticket prices vary.

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