Building a Community of Partners and More

by Barbara Malendez
from the School of Theatre & Dance of The University of South Florida in Tampa, FL
Volume VI. Jan-April 2013

University South Florida (USF) is the only educational institution in a five-theatre consortium brought together to produce a new play about Florida’s Black Seminoles. Juneau, Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre, the Los Angeles Theatre Center, the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis and the Lark Play Development Center in New York comprise the rest of the group presenting Marcus Gardley’s “the road weeps, the well runs dry” throughout this year and into 2014. The play comes to the USF School of Theatre and Dance production in April 2014.

USF Theatre faculty member Professor Fanni Green, the play’s director, and Marc Powers, director of the USF School of Theatre and Dance, have called on their associates in the College of The Arts and other departments across the university campus, as well as organizations in the area, to form a special community of “partners.” This special community of partners will then help to support the production. 

“We want our artistic community to join us on this journey,” said Green, who is an assistant professor of theatre, acting and movement. “It has to be an interdisciplinary effort simply because there are so many elements in the play itself that speak to a variety of disciplines, art, music, architecture, writing and dance. It takes a community to put on a successful production like this one.”

She describes the play as “provocative and engaging” as it deals with the migration of Black Seminoles from Florida to Wewoka, Oklahoma. “They were both African and Native American people and they are responsible for creating the first incorporated all-black town,” Green said.

Although it is a year away from its appearance on the USF stage, the playwright and Green are in the midst of numerous related activities taking place in the months leading up to the play’s run at USF. Gardley will conduct community playwriting workshops and lead a class this summer investigating the historical elements of the play. He will also be part of a storytelling festival that is being planned.

A live reading of Gardley’s first play, “The Rocks Are Gonna Cry Out,” was presented in a radio broadcast on WMNF 88.5 FM Tampa in February. Recorded at Studio@620 in Tampa, it is the first part of a trilogy of which “the road weeks, the well runs dry” is the second installment. The concluding play is yet to be written, Gardley said.

Green and Gardley, as well as their consortium colleagues are reaching beyond their respective typical theatergoing and artistic communities in order to engage a broader public. “Because the play is about Native and African-American communities, we want people with these backgrounds involved in the process and to make up a significant portion of the audiences,” Green said. “This play is not only for and about them, though. The historical aspects are of value to everyone and it will also introduce ideas that will resonate with everyone because of the emotional truths that are universal.”

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