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Behind the Scenes of “Akeelah and the Bee”

By Kristen Combs | Contributor
On April 21, 2017



Running lines, blocking positions, and practicing transitions kept the cast and crew of “Akeelah and the Bee” very busy during their rehearsal last Thursday. FAMU’s Essential Theatre has been working hard, in the Charles Winterwood Theatre, located in Tucker Hall, to put together a great show for FAMU and its community.

With only a couple of days left of rehearsal before their first performance, on March 29, the Director of the show, Anedra Small, has been pushing the actors into gear.

“Rehearsal has been intense lately, because we’re working with some really big set pieces,” said Small. “Lately, my main focus has been about working on transitioning from one set to another as smoothly as possible.”

The actors, along with a couple of the crew members, practiced pushing and pulling the sets on and off stage in a timely fashion, while Small had her right-hand man and Stage Manager of the play, Taylor Hinton, a senior theatre major, by her side during rehearsal.

Hinton’s role as the stage manager entails being the director’s “second pair of eyes.” She also explained that she’s in charge of updating the faculty and making sure that everyone is in order.

Hinton’s role as the stage manager can be so complex that there are three assistant stage managers including theater students , Semaj Lee, Chelsea Maloney, and Tiana Jarrell. Lee, 19, expressed some of the stresses of the rehearsal process.

“We’re working with a very large cast, which is why we assembled a small team of stage managers. However, when one person isn’t where they’re supposed to be, it falls on us,” says Lee.

The members of the crew aren’t the only ones who have to make sure they stay on task; the cast is also putting in hard work for the show. Jewelisa Fagg, 19, theatre major, who is playing the leading role of Akeelah, took some time away from rehearsal to share some details about the rehearsal process.

“I’m very excited because everything is starting to come together!” said Fagg. “As actors, our biggest task is memorizing our lines and portraying the correct emotions to the audience. We have all been working very hard with Mrs. Small and it has been amazing!”

Fagg also explained that all of the actors had to be off-book within the first two weeks of rehearsals. Fred Douglas Lee, who is playing the role of Dr. Larabee, Akeelah’s spelling coach, described how even he had some trouble being off-book in such a short amount of time.

“As tough as memorizing can be, there are other factors that come into play while memorizing lines,” said Douglas Lee. “We also have to focus on blocking.”

The theatre term “blocking” deals with the staging of the actors. Each member of the cast has to consider where they need to stand, what position they need to stand in, and what emotion they need to portray throughout the entire play.

The Essential Theatre’s cast and crew of “Akeelah and the Bee” have been pushing to overcome any obstacles they might have to face before the big opening night.

“Akeelah and the Bee” will be holding their preview performances on March 29th-30th at 8 p.m. in the Charles Winterwood Theatre, located in Tucker Hall. Opening night will be on Friday, March 31st, at 8 p.m. The play will be running through Sunday, April 2nd. For details on all of the showings for this play visit


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