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WMU well represented at National Black Theatre Festival

July 24, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Three professors and a cast of students from Western Michigan University have a pivotal role in the 2007 National Black Theatre Festival being held in Winston-Salem, N.C., this summer.

The festival, which runs July 30 through Aug. 4, is expected to attract more than 60,000 people, including stage, screen and TV celebrities.

"Conspiracy," by local playwright and WMU professor of theatre Dr. Von Washington, will be featured at the festival, in the Readers' Theatre of New Works. Kim Brockington (Guiding Light, West Wing, School of Rock) will read the leading role.

Washington will also stage his most recent work, "Remnants from Senegal," as part of the festival's Fringe series, which highlights some of the finest, most professional collegiate theatre productions from around the world. A troupe of WMU students will headline the festival performance.

"To be invited to appear with the best is a very special vote of confidence," Washington says. "The gathering will attract well-established and successful theatre professionals from around the globe. Students will have a chance to network with them and get feedback on their past training, current work and future plans."

Performing in Wilson's production will be WMU undergraduate students Halbert L. Bates Jr., a senior majoring in theatre performance; La'Avery O. Black, a sophomore majoring in theatre performance; Brandon A. Higgins, a sophomore majoring in pre-business; Oliverliski K. Murphy, a sophomore majoring in theatre performance; Crystal J. Lucas-Perry, a freshman majoring in theatre performance; Bianca S. Washington, a sophomore majoring in theatre performance; and Iva Washington, a sophomore majoring in theatre performance. English doctoral candidate CaSaundra Flagg also will perform.

The "Remnants from Senegal" creative team includes Laura Williams, stage manager, a junior majoring in theatre design and technical production; and Janai L. Travis, understudy and production assistant, a freshman with an undecided major.

Also contributing to the festival are WMU faculty members Dr. Joan Herrington, chair of the Department of Theatre, and Dr. Olasope Oyelaran, interim director of international studies for the Haenicke Institute for Global Education. Both are working on the festival's international colloquium on Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, who was deemed by many to have drastically changed the face of American theatre. He won two Pulitzers for his ten-play "Pittsburgh Cycle, " which chronicled a century of black history, touching the lives of artists and audiences and reshaping the conversation on cultural diversity in American theatre. The symposium will explore Wilson's work and its impact on the future of theatre.

Herrington, who is a renowned Wilson Scholar and knew Wilson personally, has been integral in preparing the event. Oyelaran is the colloquium chair. Both have found equal joy in serving Wilson's memory through their involvement.

"August recognized the importance of this festival and I know it would have made him smile to once again be a part of it," Herrington says.

For more information on the National Black Theatre Festival, visit www.nbtf.org.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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