Prince George’s Community College students continue to do surprising work, and that includes the theatre department. As the college continues to move forward, the theatre department continues to play a huge role in the college’s mission.

The department prepares the students for careers on stage and screen while producing high-quality plays at the Hallam Theatre. PGCC President Charlene M. Dukes and the rest of the administration say its success is attributable to an outstanding staff.

“Dr. Dukes is deeply moved by the commitment of the staff,” said Alonia Sharps, PGCC chief of staff. “She enjoys the fact that they choose projects that resonate with audiences while highlighting real-life challenges and opportunities.”

One of those plays, staged in September, was For black boys who have considered homicide when the streets were too much. Written by Keith Antar Mason, it was motivated by Ntozake Shange’s 1975 choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The production drew rave reviews from many people, including Mason.

“This was my first play ever, and the person who wrote it came here to see us perform it,” said Harrison West, a senior. “He told us at the end of the play that we were able to bring something out of ourselves that we had never seen before and that just made sense to me on so many different levels.”

The college is producing high-achieving students as well. David Joel, a recent graduate who attends Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York, earned a speaking role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to be released in May 2011.

The school is also proud of Gina Boyd, a finalist for the Irene Bryant Acting Scholarship – making her the only student from a community college to make it this far in the process.

Current students also praise the program as they say it’s enabling them to challenge themselves and live out their dreams. First-year acting student Rudy Anthony credits department chair Tammy O’Donnell and acting teacher Gina Alvarado-Otero in helping him to come out of his shell.

“Especially in the Black community, sometimes being beyond who you are, coming out of your shell or having the bravery to do what you want to do is kind of hard,” Anthony said. “Tammi and Gina really helped me come out of my shell and now acting is just second nature.”

Justin Swinson, a second year student in the department, changed majors from computer graphics to theatre. He says it wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy computer graphics, but having to bring the same effort every day in acting presents a unique challenge.

“I didn’t really know it was that hard. You know people see it and say ‘oh I can do that.’ I tried and realized how difficult it was,” he said. “It was kind of one of those things where some people see a challenge and they’re interested and fascinated by it. Once you realize you’ve kind of got something, you just have to keep going with it.”

PGCC will hold productions of {Women and Wallace}, Nov. 11-14 and 18-21 and Two Trains Running, April 7-10 and 14-17, 2011.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO