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"To Be Young, Gifted and Black” Comes to MCCC’s Trenton Campus Feb. 7-9 as Part of Black History Month Events


Trenton, N.J. – The Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Theatre Program presents “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” at the Trenton Campus as one of the highlights of its Black History Month events.  Performances are Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. in Kerney Hall. Students from the college’s Entertainment Technology Program will provide lighting and sound. Kerney Hall is located in MCCC’s Kerney Building at 102 N. Broad Street.  Parking is available in the garage across the street from the campus.

The play is based on the writings of Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, author of “A Raisin in the Sun,” which debuted on Broadway in 1959 and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. Hansberry was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway.  Her promising career was cut short when she died from cancer in 1965 at the age of 34.

Adapted after her death by Robert Nemiroff, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” features passages from Hansberry’s plays, interviews, diary entries, letters, and other observations.  As described in the book’s foreword, it is "the portrait of an individual, the workbook of an artist, and the chronicle of a rebel who celebrated the human spirit." In turns angry, loving, bitter, amusing, and defiantly proud, the story, voice, and message are all Hansberry's own, coming together in a major work about the black experience in mid-20th century America.

The MCCC production will be performed in the round, guaranteeing a good seat for all.

In rehearsal for “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”
are Theatre students Tonya Treadwell and Jon
Cintron. Director Deena Jiles-Shu’aib looks on.

The cast includes Dwayne Barnes of Trenton, Jon Cintron of Trenton, Marisa Dixon of Princeton, Ashley Hines of Trenton, Madison King  of Dayton, Mariah King of Dayton, Elizabeth Koenig of Yardley, Pa., Wellington Talkpa of Trenton, Tonya Treadwell of Trenton, and Amariss White of Trenton. The show is directed by Deena Jiles-Shu’aib and produced by MCCC Theatre Program Coordinator Jody Person, with stage management by Shauri Johnson, light design by Robert Terrano, and sets and costumes by Kate Pinner. Jon Cintron and Madison King created the show's musical arrangements.

Notes Jiles–Shu’aib, “I want people to walk away knowing that Ms. Hansberry’s work lives on through each of us, in everything we touch, feel, and experience.  In the play her struggle to find her artistic identity unfolds before our eyes.  I am truly excited to present this work with MCCC Theatre students and hope all who share this experience find the power in their own ideas.”

The show follows last year’s performance of “The Colored Museum” at the Trenton campus.  According to Professor Person, the idea was to keep the positive energy from that show alive.  “That experience had an astounding impact on our actors and audience members alike.  The energy was fresh and tangible. There was a reciprocity between actors and the audience that pushed them all to new heights.  The actors discovered new self-confidence and the characters they created became more nuanced and full-bodied.  At the end of every performance, many people from the audience thanked us for expanding their awareness and expressed the need for more productions in Trenton,” Person said.

Jiles-Shu’aib says she too is looking foward to bringing another performance piece to the Trenton campus.  “It adds to the arts in the Trenton community, especially for the youth of the city.  By exposing young people to theatre in new ways, we capture the talent of Trenton and help it flourish into something the city has never seen before.”

Person notes that this year’s performances, united by the theme “Ideas are Power,” will continue with “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler, which will be performed at the Trenton campus March 7, 8 and 9, followed by the musical “Hair,” by Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot from April 25 to May 4 at Kelsey Theatre on the West Windsor campus.

“It is truly a season of provocative thought and phenomenal presentations,” Person said.

Tickets for “Young, Gifted and Black” are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $8 for students, staff and faculty.   Tickets are available online at www.kelseytheatre.net or by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333. Tickets are also available at the Bursar's Office (KC218) at the Trenton Campus. A limited number will be available at the door.

Students interested in studying theatre and dance at Mercer may pursue their associate degrees in either Liberal Arts or Fine Arts. Read more about the Theatre/Dance program here.

For more events at Kelsey Theatre, see the schedule here.

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