Not only can Arts & Science students at North Carolina Central University Department of Dramatic Arts learn from Dr. Arthur M. Reese to mount 30 diverse productions in a week for a festival they can also learn the sensitivity of a dramaturg, director and gatekeeper of African American theatre… a provocative genre in the Humanities.
Professor Arthur M. Reese received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Virginia. Reese was the first and to our knowledge, is still the only African American to earn this degree from UVA. He was the coordinator of the Communications, Media Arts and Theatre division at Chicago State University and is now a professor of technical theatre at North Carolina Central University.
Professor Reese is known throughout the United States and abroad for his technical prowess in the theater realm. He has set the mood for the past 22 years as Technical Director for the National Black Theater Festival held every two years in Winston-Salem, NC. He has designed sets and lighting for Maya Angelou, John Amos, Samuel L. Jackson, the Negro Ensemble Co. and over a thousand other productions from Broadway to Off- Broadway, television and film. Reese was also the technical director for the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in New York (Fame)
I had a feeling of déjà vu while watching By a Black Hand, the North Carolina Central University production co-written and directed by NCCU theater professor Arthur Reese. Eventually, I realized what felt so familiar: The show, which tells the story of Nephi (Deshauna Dudley/ Moriah Williams), a jaded black teenager who learns about the richness of her racial heritage through the aid of her grandfather (Gil Faison/ Dartez Wright) and an instructional visit by her favorite rap group, reminded me of those educational performances I used to have to watch in elementary school.
Typically, we’d all get called into the cafeteria (which doubled as the auditorium) and be treated to a presentation about the dangers of drugs and alcohol or the perils of joining a gang. But these performances would be riddled with jokes and songs and pop culture references appropriate for a bunch of kids, and we’d eat it right up.
By a Black Hand is exactly like those performances. It’s a theatrical educational special presented to coincide with Black History Month, and its vague narrative exists solely to link together hip-hop songs about black inventors and the importance of racial pride. That’s not a criticism: By a Black Hand is not trying to be subtle. Reese knows his target audience, and he knows that the best way to get students to sit through an hour-long lecture about black history is to throw in music and dancing and video slideshows. And it works: The actors and dancers seem to be having an amazing time and, despite technical difficulties and lame lyrics, their energy is infectious. When rappers The Force (Terence Anthony) and Hardline (Neil ‘GR’ McGilberry) urged the audience to “put your fours up” during the show’s finale, a musical tribute to Barack Obama, all hands pumped in the air to the beat. And when Reese took to the stage after the show to answer questions from the audience, the lone comment was an earnest “That was great!”
More of Mr. Reese’s Bio and Contact Information
This festival is an Artie Reese Technical Master Piece