Path to Broadway Goes Through North Carolina A&T PDF Print E-mail
By Aasiya Townsell - Black College Wire   

The ongoing success of North Carolina A&T's theater program can be felt in Paul Robeson Little Theatre, Harrison Auditorium and on Broadway, where graduates are becoming famous.

A&T Register
Kaurie Daniels, Danielle Mills rehearse

The third floor of the New Classroom Building is the most active. Not a day goes by when laughter, singing and dancing are not heard as you walk down the halls. An eclectic group of talented students are held to high standards in the theater program where classes are taught at a graduate level to prepare students for their next destination.

"We're preparing them for the business. The pinnacle is making it to Broadway," said program director Frankie Day.

Day added that faculty members teach classes after their scheduled hours, and practices last until the next morning so that productions are performed to perfection.

Students who leave the program and go off to graduate school have the knowledge of their specialized field on a graduate level.

Among the program's long list of success stories in the department is Zonya Johnson (now known as Zonya Love).

A&T Register
Zonya Love Johnson in 2003

The 2003 graduate always had a certain radiance about her, so it comes as no surprise to the department that she's the new addition to Broadway.

"Despite her talent, she always found time to help her peers and be of service to others," said adjunct professor Banita Vactor.

Love has taken the role of Celie, formerly played by singer Fantasia Barrino, in the Broadway musical "The Color Purple."

"Her success validates our program," said associate professor Miller Lucky. He said Love was known for her outstanding vocals.

Natasha Reed is another A&T alumna involved in "The Color Purple." She recently stepped down from her role as Miss Sophia. Singer Chaka Khan was later cast as her replacement.

The faculty has noted six of its former students who have made it to Broadway from their theater program.

"To have that many students make it to Broadway speaks a lot about our program," said Donna Bradby, marketing and publicity coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts Department.

Students from the theater department have also been in HBO's "The Wire," "ER," "Touched By An Angel," plays including "Tarzan" and "The Lion King" on Broadway and one is casting agent for "One Life to Live."

On a campus known for its engineering and agricultural programs, the theater reflects the colorful side of A&T. Plays including "Mufaru's Daughters," the traditional "Black Nativity" and the upcoming "Pretty Fire" give students the opportunity to get a dose of culture.

The E. Gywnn Dancers are also under the Visual and Performing Arts umberella. The troupe allows people interested in dance to pursue the field even though there isn't a dance major offered.

During show times people will line up coming from all parts of the Triad to purchase tickets to see A&T students perform.

"I like the program a lot," said senior professional theater major Asha El-Shair. "It's challenging, very time consuming, but I know that it's preparing me for the professional world."

The Visual and Performing Arts Department includes majors in music, art and theater and provides a concentration in dance.

Aasiya Townsell is a student at North Carolina A&T University. A version of this article originally appeared in the A&T Register.

Posted Jan. 17, 2008

Posted Jan. 17, 2008
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