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.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson directed by Miller Lucky Jr. starring Jayne Trinette as Ma Rainey

North Carolina A&T State University and Paul Robeson Theatre present Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by  August Wilson featuring Broadway actor and theatre alumna Jayne Trinette as Ma Rainey 

Jayne Trinette dressed up as Ma Rainey

Inspired by the real-life Mother of the Blues, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by Pulitzer Prize-Winning playwright, August Wilson takes place in Chicago in 1927 over a single day of making music, making jokes, and making deals. A young, ambitious horn player named Levee arrives with new band arrangements including one for a popular dance called The Black Bottom. But Ma insists on singing it the “familiar” way. The other band members—Cutler, Toledo, and Slow Drag—follow suit, warning Levee about butting heads with Ma. The defiant Mother of the Blues knows that she is the star of the show, and she won't be pushed around. After all, it's what Ma says that counts! As the day unfolds and Ma’s demands are met Levee cracks. He succumbs to the harsh realities of unjustly thwarted aspirations, revealing self-destructive consequences.

Directed by Miller Lucky, Jr. Ma Rainey is a searing account of what racism does to its victims. It is funny, salty, raw, and lyrical highlighting all the complicated emotions of the blues music it celebrates. Jayne Trinette an alumna of A&T’s theatre program and Broadway actor stars as Ma Rainey. Trinette is a powerful singer/actress with a three-octave range and has an impressive career as a performer, educator, and consultant. Her credits include Broadway Tour of Disney's The Lion King, Caroline Or Change, Ain't Misbehavin, Smokey Joe's Café, and The Buddy Holly Story. Jayne has written, directed, and produced a series of cabarets with tributes to Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin. You have also seen her on Live with Kelly and Michael singing with the cast of Walt Disney World's Festival of the Lion King. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is also one of the productions featured in the Amplify Black Voices Festival of Greater Greensboro. Building on Greensboro’s rich legacy of social justice and engagement in the Civil Rights Movement, Amplify Black Voices Festival of Greater Greensboro unites seven local college theater departments to collaboratively produce four theater performances focusing on African American lives and history. Staged at four different college theater venues in Spring 2022, the cast, and crews for each will be blended from the seven departments. After each performance, the actors and director will return to the stage to reflect on the significance of Black lives and stories and racial inequity. Our target audience includes university/college communities, the greater Greensboro community, and Guilford County Public Schools. 

The Theatre Arts Program and Paul Robeson Theatre adhere to all COVID-19 protocols and procedures. Seating will be limited to practice social distancing. Everyone is encouraged to follow safe hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Location:

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

Performance Dates and Times:

  • Thursday, April 28 @ 7:30 pm
  • Friday, April 29 @ 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, April 30 @ 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, May 1 @ 3:00 pm 

Cost:

  • Adults - $17.00
  • Senior Citizens & Non-A&T Students - $11.00
  • Children 12 & under - $6.00
  • A&T Students - Free w/ Aggie One Card
For tickets call 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.