College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Theatre Arts

The Theatre Arts Division was founded in 1969 as part of the Department of Speech and Drama.  

The genesis of the Division dated to 1898, when Mrs. Susan B. Dudley (1865-1933), wife of the then A&T president James B. Dudley, founded the A & M Players (until 1915, the University was called the Agricultural and Mechanical College).  As her first production, Mrs. Dudley wrote, produced, and directed the Commencement play “How Shall I Go Up to My Father?” 

She persuaded her husband in 1923 to hire the celebrated actor Richard B. Harrison.  He directed a play and taught the course “Expression and Dramatic Art” each summer until 1930, when he left to star on Broadway in Marc Connelly’s The Green Pastures.  

As a tribute to Harrison, the A & M Players adopted his name in 1932.  And today are called the Richard B. Harrison Players. 

Professors in the English Department directed The Richard B. Harrison Players and Dr. John M. Kilimanjaro who taught in the department added Theatre courses and turned the Players into a disciplined theatre group, which traveled throughout the U.S. 

Kilimanjaro continually lobbied to separate Speech and Drama from the English Department.  After his petition was granted in 1969, he completely redesigned the curriculum. 

He oversaw the design and the construction of The Paul Robeson Theatre in 1970.  He retired in 1981.


Othello

The role of Shakespeare’s Othello made famous by Paul Robeson will be performed by North Carolina A&T State Universities Theatre Arts Program at Paul Robeson Theatre

Othello Poster ImageA&T’s Theatre Arts Program tackles one of Shakespeare’s most intimate family tragedies.

Othello, the full title is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, in 1603. Othello is a rare example of a dramatic work by Shakespeare that remained popular in performance during the latter half of the 17th and 18th century and remains relevant today.

Famously Paul Robeson who A&T’s theatre is named for was an American actor (1898–1976) played the title role of Othello, in the Theatre Guild production in New York in 1943–44. It became the longest running Shakespeare play in the history of Broadway. But there were mixed reactions to Robeson as Othello in London and New York.

The son of an escaped slave, Robeson made his name as a singer and athlete before developing his acting career. Having faced racism at home, he first played the role, alongside Peggy Ashcroft’s Desdemona who is Othello’s white wife, in London in 1930.

Robeson told the press in 1930: “They certainly wouldn’t stand in America for the kissing and for the scene in which I use Miss [Peggy] Ashcroft, roughly. The audience would get very rough: in fact, might become very dangerous.” His Othello of 1930 was a West End success, but racist prejudices lived on in many reviews, while offstage, Peggy Ashcroft received threatening letters.

Robeson used the new mass media to insist that the play was a challenge to the modern world. “It is a tragedy of racial conflict,” he told transatlantic radio audiences. “Othello in the Venice of that time was in practically the same position as a coloured man in America today.” 

Continuing the legacy of Paul Robeson this 2023 Othello is skillfully directed by Xulee Vanecia J. Under her guidance the searing social commentary of prejudice, betrayal, abuse, and jealousy masterfully unfolds. Othello, a Black Moor, and military commander serving as a general of the Venetian army seems to have everything — power, position, and passion. He soon finds his world decimated by the intense mind games played upon him by someone he trusts the most, his closest confidante, Iago.

As the love of Othello and his wife Desdemona is destroyed by envy, and fact is twisted by innuendo someone will pay the ultimate price. Shakespeare’s thunderous drama explores who we trust and the price we pay for choosing wrong.

Production Dates and Times

  • Thursday, February 23 @7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, February 24 @ 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 25 @3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 26 @3:00 p.m.

Performance Location

Paul Robeson Theatre on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University

Cost

  • Adults - $17.00
  • Senior Citizens & Non-A&T Students - $11.00
  • Children 12 & under - $6.00
  • A&T Students – Free with Aggie One Card 

For tickets call 336.334.7749 or visit www.ncataggies.com

 

Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Professional Theatre with two Options:

  • Acting
  • Technology

Our Mission

…to provide excellent educational opportunities, culturally enriching activities, diverse and life-changing artistic experiences for our students…the Campus Community, Greater Greensboro, and the NC Triad Region.

Our Vision

….to produce theatre that reflects the human experience from, but not limited to, an African American perspective inclusive of supporting new works and experimental theatre. To become the premier training program in acting and theatre technology that uses the arts as a means to impact local, national, and international communities.

The goals of the Theatre Arts Program are to:

  1. teach students how to use theatre as a means of self-expression, awareness, and discipline
  2. enlighten students to the great works of theatre through reading, research and producing
  3. prepare students for professional careers in acting, technology and admission to graduate school
  4. provide students with the necessary skills to promote theatre as a tool for community engagement, economic growth and cultural inclusion
  5. inspire students to create theatre that is informative, innovative, progressive and meets the needs of an ever-changing global society

  • Donald Eugene Coffey Scholarship Fund
  • Eric Raye Wooten Memorial Scholarship

In addition, the Theatre Arts Program offers a limited number of out-of-state waivers, as well as small scholarships

The Richard B. Harrison Players and Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honorary Society

The National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) accredited the Theatre program in 1987, making it the first accredited BFA at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in North Carolina and only the second in the nation.  NAST re-accredited the program in 1996, making it in 2000 the only accredited BFA at an HBCU.

Our average enrollment is 45 – 65

We are ranked the #1 Theatre Program for African Americans in North Carolina. Out of 34 HBCU’s with Theatre Programs in the US we are ranked #3 in the country.