“Let the story be read and read well” kicked off the third annual Presidential Scholarship Dinner Theater Gala. The event gave director Dr. King David Godwin to tell the story through the play Tell Pharaoh. The play was a two night special held in the Fredrick C. Hobdy assembly center on April 16th & 17th. A special silent auction was held prior to the play which gave student artist and faculty a chance to sell and display their artwork. The winners of the bid are to be later notified and the money from the silent auction is to go to the theater department.The Saturday performance was opened by the Mistress of Ceremony Joyce Evans the General Manager of KGRM. Following a wonderful blessing a beautiful meal was served on behalf of Chuck Parsons and Aramark. Students involved with the hospitality department served the audience a scrumptious salad, grilled chicken entrée and cheesecake. As faculty, students and members of the community devoured the delicious smorgasbord of food excitement began to fill the air for the play to begin.
The symphonic drama consisted of two acts of three scenes. The Ensemble/Community Choir opened the play with a heart-warming rendition of “Let My People Go”. The first scene began in present day Harlem, New York. The characters urged America to “get off Harlem’s back”. Harlem was a representation of the America we now know. However to know the story of Harlem the cast had to tell pharaoh to let the story be told. Emerging from that were the dancers from the Orchesis Dance Company, giving a performance of African dance that transitioned the play returning the scene to the Valley of the Kings. The period of slavery created a since of unity in experience among the cast.
Although the play slightly lagged on the performance of “Motherless Child” by The Ensemble/Community Choir along with a line from Miss Black (Jonte Smith) somberly noting “mothers and sons should run government they would never send husbands and sons to fight.” The play switched to tackling issues of early 1920’s Harlem including overpriced rents for blacks, the effects of World War 2 on blacks and issues between blacks and city immigrants in New York.
“I love how the play shows the personification of the African American changed over generations,” was what Dale Smith a criminal justice major enjoyed about the play.
This was perhaps shown best with act two as the different periods in the African American experience. Act two opened with a setting from 1945. The Orchesis dance company gave almost a show stealing performance with moves echoing the time period which transitioned from a pre civil rights era to a more modern era almost stole the show. Many audience members enjoyed the dialog between Young Mr. Black (Leon Andy Norville Jr.) and Mr. Black (Justin Madden) about if it’s was better for blacks to move to Canada or wait it out which received a standing ovation from the audience. “I hope the audience understands from the play that all people have been oppressed and that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel” is the message Dr. Godwin wants people to get from the play. Hopefully we all understand that pharaoh needs to tell everyone’s story.