National Theatre pays tribute to Luther Wells

Actresses Pauline Lamb, Crystal Henry Arful-Addoh, and Cynthia Davis in “From the Mississippi Delta.” Photo courtesy: Sharon Farmer for The Essential Theatre

Luther Wells, a professor at Florida A&M University and associate director of the Essential Theatre, has received a rare honor.

Wells’ work, “From the Mississippi Delta” by Ida Mae Holland, was cited in the Helen Hayes gallery located in the historic National Theatre. Cited was Wells’ direction of actress Crystal Henry Arful-Addoh as “Outstanding Supporting Performer in a play. “

Wells said, “Arful is an amazing actress, and I am so glad I received the chance to direct this play. There is always opportunity and I hope more opportunities will come.”

The play details Holland’s journey from Greenwood, Mississippi to the hallowed halls of academia. The play highlights women being backbones for their community.

The Helen Hayes Awards are named after the late Helen Hayes celebrating artists and over 90 theater companies that make Washington, D.C. a thriving internationally recognized theater community.

The awards are traditionally celebrated in the spring and 131 productions are recognized and broken into 41 categories.

Nominations are based off performances, design, direction, choreography and more. The recent productions are from the year 2022 and include 39 musicals. 97 plays and 38 world premieres.

FAMU’s Essential Theatre I is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the African American experience and touches on America’s rich, diverse cultural landscapes. The theater provides programs to help with job training and positive self-esteem.

Nicholas Martin, a senior theater student at FAMU, said, “Professor Wells is honestly such an amazing director to work with. He is determined to push and prepare you for the entertainment industry. He continually pours wisdom and knowledge into his students.”

Wells is an alumni of Florida A&M who received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater. In his entertainment career he worked as an actor, director and choreographer for the M Ensemble Theatre Company and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center of Miami. His directing credits include the Off-Broadway production of “Sugar Ray,” “Hands Up!,” “King Hedley II,” “Little Shop of Horror,” “Radio Golf,” “The Colored Museum,”  “The Color Purple” and more.

“I believe this is what I was called to do by God and the recognition is nice but I do it also because I love it,”  Wells said.

He has taught at FAMU for 30 years and plans to continue encouraging students who want to step into the industry.