LSUS is celebrating Black History Month with a pair of plays, one showcasing superstars of the Civil Rights Movement while the other highlights lesser-known figures and their contributions to African-American history.
Jeff Stetson’s play “The Meeting” revolves around an imaginary conversation between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in a hotel room and the topics they would have discussed.
“The Drum,” a play by Judi Ann Mason and Vincent Williams, features students who are given an assignment to tell the story of black history in America through the lives of history makers.
The students end up choosing figures who weren’t as well known, like Bessie Coleman, the first female aviator of African-American descent.
“The Meeting” will run Friday and Saturday at the University Center Theatre on the LSUS campus. Friday’s showing is at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday’s showings at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 with $5 for students.
“The Drum” is a one-time, free performance on Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. in the University Center Theatre.
The production of “The Meeting” is a collaboration between the LSUS Drama Club and the Mahogany Ensemble Theatre.
LSUS associate professor of theatre Robert Alford II said that while the conversation between King Jr and Malcolm X was fictional, the two giants in the struggle for African-American freedom would have had a lot to talk about.
“You see their differences, but the play suggests they have more in common than you think they would,” Alford II said. “Even though it’s fictional, it is a real reflection how toward the end of their careers, their views grew more closely together.
“(King Jr.) turned much more radical in his mission. He never gave up non-violence, but his point of view of what was necessary in terms of economic justice and other things were as important as the right to vote and the right to integrate.”
Malcolm X didn’t shy away from what he considered “any means necessary,” which included violence, but he did come around to African American’s integration into American society at large in terms of voting rights and education.
“The Meeting” appeared this fall on the LSUS stage, and Alford II said the success of the play spurred another showing this month.
“We had about 250 people come to the three shows combined during the fall, and we heard from more people that they would have come if they knew about it,” Alford II said. “So we felt this is an appropriate time to bring it back.”
“The Drum” is presented by the LSUS Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.
The “poetical, lyrical and spiritual journey through the Black Experience in America” highlights figures such as Coleman, Maggie Walker (first African-American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president) and Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American feature filmmaker (both silent and sound films).
Dr. Kenna Franklin, assistant vice provost for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement aims to invite a large number of middle and high school students to the showing.
“The theme for this year is African-Americans and the Arts, and this celebrates unique contributions from various African-Americans that these students may not have been introduced to in the course of their study,” Franklin said. “This is a unique way for these students to experience a college campus and broaden their horizons.
“Research tell us one of the best ways to engage a population is for them to see themselves in a positive manor, and we want to strategically engage these students who may not otherwise be exposed to a college experience.”
The students in the play are also on a path of self-discovery and find they have personal links to the figures on which they are studying.