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Arts Troupe Benefits African American Community

BY Arturo Aldana

For the past two years, organizers of the African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT) have worked to expand the number of roles in the theater arts for African Americans at UCSC.

Last year, their work paid off when the troupe’s performance of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men was a smashing success. Now, the troupe hopes the campus community will respond equally well to the newest AATAT production, The Amen Corner.

"I saw the great need and the real potential for students of color t have a stronger participation in the world of theater," said AATAT director Don Williams.

But Williams said the troupe is not limited to African Americans. "When we do plays, we open it up to anyone and everyone who wants to participate in the program, " said Williams.

However, a large percentage of the troupe members are African American. According to Williams, is that the plays that the Troupe works on "utilize a great number of blacks because [they] were written by black artists…and developed and shaped to create the black image."

Williams said that he is pleased with the troupe’s track record and the campus response. "The reactions [to the troupe] have been overwhelmingly positive," said Williams. "We have definitely been getting help from the Theater Arts board to continue our endeavors in bring forth plays of color."

Along with performing plays, the troupe also raises funds for the African American Student Life Scholarship Fund (AASLSF). The fund was established to help retention of African American students on the UCSC campus.

According to Williams, the troupe performance of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men last may raised $1,500 for the AASLSF through funds taken at the door. The money raised will be distributed to three African American students who members of the AASLSF , will benefit from the $500 grants this year.

Last year’s production "definitely created a foundation" for the Troupe, said Williams. "Black students have the ability to stimulate and who their culture in a unique way," he said. " I think that [by being a part of the troupe, they] are clearly demonstrating that."

Troupe members say they feel the production has helped build relationships between members of the African American community on campus. "I didn’t know a lot of the people in the cast," said Fitima Mariama Morris, who plays a solo singer in the upcoming play. " But we learned to work with other people and learned to deal with them."

Troupe members say their experience s in the past productions have definitely set the stage for the future.

"We have a commitment to the Troupe," said Keiko L. James, stage manager for The Amen Corner. "We have a common bond that brings us together."

The Amen Corner, a play written by James Baldwin, is scheduled to be performed several nights at Stevenson College beginning February 17.

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