Sing on, Ms. Griot to be performed for elementary students

The official program logo for Sing On, Ms. Griot
Photo credit: FAMU Essential Theatre 

Sing On, Ms. Griot by playwright Beth Turner, a child’s play that discusses the relation between African and African-American culture, will be performed for two elementary schools in the coming weeks.

Set in present day, African folk teller Madame Griot, played by Brianne Cidel, and African folktale character Ananese, played by Treyon Sargent, challenge each other using a representative from African and African-American culture to a competition to see who knows African heritage best.

Candis Dancy, a junior theatre performance student, who is a dancer and singer in the play, said although the play has a competitive aspect, Africans and African-Americans are one in the same.

“The show is a competition, but at the end they (Madame Griot and Ananese) came together because at the end of the day, we are all from Africa and we’re all one in the same,” Dancy said.

The play will be performed at Steward Street Elementary School on Feb. 28 in Quincy and at Bond Elementary School on March 1 in Tallahassee. The play was first performed at the Ronald O. Davis Actor’s Studio in Tucker Hall in November 2017 by Florida A&M University Essential Theatre under the “Writing for Life” series.

“Writing for Life” is a series that gives new and established playwrights the opportunity to showcase their work and discuss the challenges that come when writing a script.

Following the November performance, Turner discussed the play with audience members where she expressed having the played performed at elementary schools in the future.

Kyle Hunter, who plays the African-American character Kimathi, is a junior theatre performing arts student. Hunter said he wants the students to know that there is more to being African-American.

“You have roots, and heritage that do mean a lot especially when it comes to finding out who you really are,” Hunter said. “Everyone not only needs to understand where we come, from but respect where we come from and our roots.”

After the first performance, Turner explained that it is imperative to use the technology that is available to find ancestries.

“There are so many tools out nowadays. A lot of [the technology] have family trees,” Turner said. “The more and more people who put their information in these kind of systems, the more likely you’re gonna get a hit of some sort.”

Not only is it important for children to know where they come from and along with their cultural background, but it is essential for them to explore the different arts around them. According to Hunter, performing arts are not emphasized in the black community how they were in the past.   

“The arts aren’t emphasized in the black community as much as it was when I was little. Plays, literature, and music were emphasized and now it really isn’t at all,” Hunter continued.

Morgan Martin, who plays the African character Efua, is a broadcast journalism student with a minor in theatre. Martin said that students should be educated about their history while they are young to ensure that they grow up knowing more about who they are and where their family comes from.

“I think it’s important for them because it’s starting them at an early age to recognize their culture, the African side of you as well as the American side,” Martin said. “I think it’s good they get that home training at the beginning.”