09/20/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/20/2019 20:14
After a successful one-off performance in March 2019, the Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented three encore performances of 'Africa to America: A Celebration of Who We Are' on Sept. 17-19 in the Proscenium Theatre. The play was written by Wendy Coleman, chair of the Department of Theater Arts at Alabama State University, and re-imagined and directed by Deron Williams, theater professor at Eastern.
'Africa to America' chronicles the heritage and legacy of African Americans throughout history. The play opened with 'Movement 1: Reigning in Africa,' which illustrated the previous lives African Americans had as kings and queens. Next came 'Movement 11: Suffering Towards America,' which portrayed the brutal slave voyages to the Americas. The play continued with depictions of slavery, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, journeying chronologically through the trials and tribulations that African Americans have faced through the years.
Screenwriter Coleman stated, 'Americans would not be who they are today had it not been for the contributions that were made, often at great cost, by people of African ancestry. This play sheds a light on our ancestors' passions, strengths and courage.' Director Williams added, 'This piece is very timely, particularly because August marked the 400th anniversary of the first ship's arrival on the coast of Virginia carrying 20 enslaved Africans.'
Components of the play included special effects, music, dance and speeches by iconic African-American figures. Visuals included moving waves symbolizing the voyage from Africa to America, and plantation fields depicting the sites where slaves endured forced labor. Overhead projections also showed pictures of inspirational figures such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Students vocalized famous speeches and reenacted pivotal events, such as the escape of slaves and the Selma March. African beats and spiritual songs sung by student performers filled the theatre and emphasized the hardships and resilience of African Americans.