Black students present Dramafest '94

March 02, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

The hushed crowd stared at the scene unfolding before them in the pulpit of Baker Memorial Chapel at Western Maryland College.

Two brothers -- one white, one black -- were reunited after discovering that their mother, a fair-skinned black woman, had given up her darker-skinned son because she was trying to pass for white.

As James Felton entered the final scene of his original dramatic monologue, the emotional strain on his face throughout his performance faded away into a smirk.

"Ooh, yeah, well," stammered Mr. Felton, a junior psychology major. "And I just forgot my lines."

The crowd erupted into laughter -- a tremendous release of the tense energy of Mr. Felton's otherwise powerful performance Sunday night during the Black Student Union's "Dramafest '94."

The chapel filled with laughter, other lost lines and a few soulful exclamations as BSU members and alumni performed for a diverse audience of 50 college students and staff members.

"I came last year, and it was terrific, incredible and moving," said Maura Ziolkowski, a senior French major. "It was just as good tonight."

A sassy rendition of Langston Hughes' "Freedom Train" started the fete on the right track as performed by Sisters of Diversity members Donna Cooper, La Keisha Rivers, LaVita Westbrook and Quiana Pollard.

The BSU women continued to show their muscle as Ms. Rivers and Kimberly Smith performed anthems to strong womanhood: "Yes, I Am a Beautiful Black Queen" and "Ego Tripping."

Several performances searched the soul, such as Mark Hughes when he pondered the question of passing judgment in "Who Am I?"

April Johnson -- who later returned to the pulpit with James Felton to deliver "Sister's Point of View" -- wondered why a black child could not be the star of "Annie."

"They said I didn't look the part," Ms. Johnson said after belting out an excellent rendition of "Dumb Dog" in her dramatic monologue, "An Excerpt from 'Annie.' "

"Didn't look the part. Huh, you and I both know what that means," she said.

"Remembering Our Past" humorously examined obscure African-American history facts through the interaction between two mothers scolding their children on a hot summer day.

"I know you like going around to the store to get that penny candy, but I bet you didn't know that a black woman . . . sculpted the bust of President Roosevelt that is on the back of the dime," Ms. Pollard told the imaginary children.

The audience was helpless with laughter as Ellen Gross, a member of the Sisters of Diversity, lampooned love songs in "Pop Top 40."

"It came as a surprise/ can't you see it in my eyes/ let's spend the rest of our lives together -- tonight," she crooned.

The program ended on a lively beat as the Howard Burns Quartet, featuring Western Maryland College alumni and pianist Eric Byrd, performed four jazz numbers including "Emblem," the title track from their new album. WMC student Melvin Brennan sang three of the songs, "Something's Going On," "I Go Crazy" and "She," with the ensemble.

Deandra Brice, a junior business economics and political science major, enjoyed the show. She said she felt that as an African-American woman attending WMC, she has an obligation to support the BSU.

"Black awareness is not stressed enough on this campus," said Tiffany Jenkins, a senior art history major. "It is refreshing to connect with our history."

Paco Ruiz, a Spanish exchange student doing graduate work in psychology, agreed.

"I've been participating in many of the activities organized by the BSU this month, and I empathize very much with these actions," Mr. Ruiz said. "The Dramafest . . . lots of creativity and moving performances. They've got the power."

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