Western Carolina’s Black Theatre Ensemble wants to expose everyone to the history of black entertainment like it’s never been seen before. Put down your textbooks boys and girls, this lesson is being taught this Thursday and Friday evening through the use of acting, singing and dancing and poetry reciting on the stage at Niggli Auditorium.
“Timeline: A Journey Through Black Performance” was written, choreographed and directed by Western senior Bobbi Tokii Baker, who also co-instructs the Black Theatre Ensemble class. Weaving together bits of music and the past, Baker has created a performance piece that not only shows the growth of black entertainment, but that of the people as a whole.
“This play can enrich the campus in so many ways,” said sophomore Jermaine Perry, who stars as narrator Langston Hughes in the production. “It not only shows the problems that black actors and performers had, it shows the things that the whole black community had to go through to make it where they are today.”
Starting with African celebration dances and ending with modern day R&B dancing with stops in between for jazz, Motown and breakdancing in between, the play shows the evolution of black expression, while also illustrating the common themes that most of its forms have had in common over the years: a love for God and a strong sense of rhythm.
“This show deals with the power of music, poetry and dance to make oppression bearable, to define people and movements, and ultimately to unshackle a culture,” said Baker.
Other historical black figures make appearances in the play who, like Hughes, made an impact on generations of people. Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jackson and others are represented in the play that spans the decades.
Perry says that it’s a challenge to portray such great figures on the stage, because one has a lot to play up to.
“You just memorize your lines and keep your fingers crossed that you don’t tarnish their name,” he said. “I’m just hoping that I do (Hughes) justice.”
The cast includes singers Devina Connelly, Barbara Lee Palmer and Josh Sellers, orators Chanelle Joyner, Daphne Moore and Jermaine Perry and principal dancers Rosalyn Bingley, Cedea Bowden, Karen Kim, Jessica Neal and Kamata Potts.
The show also showcases the talents of more than 30 other cast, staff, and crew members who have been preparing for the production since the class began in early October.
“Timeline: A Journey Through Black Performance” will be presented Thursday and Friday evening at 7:30 in Niggli Auditorium. Admission is $3 for everyone.
For reservations or more information, call (828) 227-7491.