Essential Theatre presents ‘Classic NEC’

What are the ingredients of good theater? Could it be witty dialogue? Perhaps it’s the spectacle of the elaborate costumes? Or perchance it’s the talent of the show’s key players. Whatever the case, the folks involved with Florida A&M’s Essential Theatre certainly seem to know. When it comes to their theatrical productions, most theater students agree that their plays honor their respective African-American playwrights.

And this time is no different.

Their latest show – “Classic NEC” – is a compilation of scenes from classic African-American plays of the 1970’s. Directed by Marci J. Stringer, a professor of theater, the show boasts a slew of the university’s theatre students who each auditioned to be a part of the production.

Brandon Hollins is one the actors that made the cut. A spoken word artist, Hollins, a native of Texas, said the show was a unique idea.

“The play was put together in an acumination of several scenes from various plays of the Negro Ensemble Company accompanied by spoken word and video clips along with pictures as well,” said Hollins, 25. “The role I play throughout the production is the narrator and historian. I give a brief description of each scene before the lights come up. Through the art of spoken word I deliver an in depth examination of questions we must ask ourselves when evaluating our purpose for whatever it is we do.”

Also on board is Sierra Service, 22, who appears in two of the show’s ten scenes. She said she believes black theater is significant and hopes the audiences learns a thing or two from the production.

“Black theater is important because before the 1960s there was not that much representation of African-American life on stage in America,” said Service, a student from Tallahassee. “Companies like the Negro Ensemble Company provided an outlet for all the talented actors that were not getting any roles of real significance. I hope the audience leaves with an understanding of what the NEC was and what an important of part of theater history it is.”

Hollins agrees with her statement and said black theater is still vital today.

“Black theaters are very significant because they instill within the audience that blacks or Africans in America don’t have to play roles that are in following with the oppression and racism that has occurred for the last four hundred years,” he said. “The play will show how strong the Black arts movement truly is and how relevant it is that we persist on with expanding our horizons as artists and forces of creation in this universe.”

Both Service and Hollins said they are proud of the production and credit the director for the play’s quality.

“Professor Stringer is a wonderful director,” Service said. “She pushes me to grow as an actress and gives me the freedom to explore on stage. “

Hollins is of the same opinion.

“Professor Stringer enhances the quality of identifying the actions to be conveyed throughout the play,” he said. “She as a director teaches us how to stay in line with the message that we as the characters want the audience to know. Stringer executes with precision and a zero tolerance for being less than what we can be. She also allows the go lucky spirit to still exist within every moment of our rehearsals.”

The Essential Theatre’s final showing of “Classic NEC” is tonight at 8 pm at the FAMU High Cafetorium. Admission is free for FAMU students with valid ID, $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students. For more information contact 850-561-2425.