The Northwestern State University Student Theatre Organization presented a Black History Month cabaret in collaboration with Make Your Own Theatre. It was held in the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium on Feb. 15. The cabaret was a small step in a yearlong effort to elevate Black voices inside the Department of Theatre and Dance.
Myjoycia Cezar, junior design and technology major, stated that the Black History Month Cabaret was an opportunity to amplify Black, Indigenous and people of colors’ voices in the program. She helped the department work to ensure that those voices in the room were being heard and helped to codify what improvements were needed with a written call to action.
“I was motivated to strive for some change in my department when I was shared a document for a company’s internal assessment,” Cezar said.
Cezar noted the call to action came after the killing of George Floyd when many theater companies began revaluating their work practices.
“So, we were sent a document that listed out the different characteristics and the antidotes of the way that you change these characteristics of white supremacy culture,” Cezar said.
Cezar recalled reading the document and seeing things that needed to be fixed after realizing what she and many other students had been experiencing was not unique in the world.
“So many organizations have this. So, I wanted to see how change could be brought about and how we could be the leaders in making that change,” Cezar said.
Cezar stated she created a call to action document as a means of elevating voices that are not normally elevated in the world of theater. She also noted the department is doing the work to amplify the voices of artists of color.
“They have started to hire more BIPOC faculty, which is good, and I think there is also more of a culture of listening now to the BIPOC folks in the room,” Cezar said.
Cezar felt listening to BIPOC could be further improved by having more Black playwrights and decentering whiteness in the Department of Theatre of Dance curriculum.
Cezar noted a show is being produced during the current semester by a Black director with a majority BIPOC team that she herself is a part of.
“So, yeah, we’re on the road and hopefully further amplify BIPOC voices,” Cezar said.
Cezar was overjoyed at the success of the Black History Month cabaret and was proud to see the art being presented.
She stated that the event was the most successful STO had produced this year. Cezar also read some of her original poetry during the performance, but attested that the most memorable part of the cabaret was watching her Black peers have their moment to shine.
“It was really nice to see that and know that there’s so much more potential than anyone else can see than what Black people can see in each other,” Cezar said. “I think that there is a certain awareness that we have that we know that each one of us holds some kind of greatness.”
The performers included Tristian Dotson, Mark Alexander, Allyson Adams, Joy Davis, Jordan “JT” Thomas, Drelan Evans and Luther Brooks. Each artist brought their own unique talent to the table. The acts presented ranged from original music to poetry.
Allyson Adams, a sophomore theater and hospitality management and tourism double major, performed “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo, a song featured on the soundtrack of the film “Harriet.” She stated that the message of her piece was timely and important and she chose her song with the hopes of connecting with her audience.
“We still as Black people have no real freedom. We must understand where we come from after being kings and queens to understand where we must go. After being Kings and Queens, we became slaves to the white man,” Adams said. “It took people like Harriet Tubman to help those of us in visible bondage. Now in the 21st century, we as Black or Israelites must realize it is time to stand up for ourselves. Police brutality, stereotypes and hate crimes are just the beginning. We are here and will continue to be here. We will get peace.”
Adams also advises future members of the Department of Theatre and Dance to come in with an open mind.
“When you come to NSULA to pursue theater, never give up. It will not be easy, but I promise you got this,” Adams said.
Mark Alexander, senior general studies major, performed an original rap piece. He stated that his influences as a rapper and songwriter are fairly diverse. Alexander is inspired by Childish Gambino, Logic and J. Cole.
Alexander noted he wasn’t originally a rap fan.
“I always thought rap was for real life gangsters or people who hated the government or something. I was more into electronic music and RnB. Childish Gambino was actually the first rapper I listened to,” Alezander said. “I listened to him because I heard his lyrics and he wasn’t rapping about tearing down systems, he was just flowing rhymes together and it was fun.”
Alezander noted Childish Gambino was the driving force that inspired him to pursue rapping and writing
He also stated that he has a “go-with-the-flow” approach when he is creating his music. The topics generally come to him later when creating rap and earlier when writing songs.
“I need a lot of material and inspiration to finish the song,” Alexander said. “That’s why most of my raps just feature rhymes on top of rhymes. I find it easier to focus on topics while writing love songs, or emo-pop ballads.”
Tristan Dotson, junior theater major, performed an original song. Dotson has always considered music to be a huge part of who he is. He plays piano, sings and is a songwriter.
“My inspiration to write music would be the sheer enjoyment of it and the fact that in most cases it’s the only time I feel that I am able to express myself. My music is an extension of myself in addition to my haven,” Dotson said.
Dotson noted he was bitten by the acting bug in middle school and hopes to incorporate his passions for music and theater into his future career path.
“I found my love for the arts in middle school when I started to perform with a small theater company in my hometown,” Dotson said.
Overall, the Black History Month cabaret allowed Black artists to be showcased and given the chance to shine and be in their element.