(Rock Hill, S.C.) — The Winthrop University theatre department held one of its first main stage productions to feature a mostly-black cast.
Performances of “In the Red and Brown Water” were held April 3-7 in the Johnson Theatre.
“The department picked a show for us to do and they wanted to do a black-based cast,” said Kaitlyn Dillard, a junior theatre major and stage manager for the show.
“They picked the show which is by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who also wrote Moonlight, and asked Chanel Blanchett, who is a director in Charlotte, if she would like to come and be a guest director for it,” said Dillard.
McCraney won an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight and he has been nominated for numerous other awards.
The play is inspired by West African culture and Yoruba religion, which cast members said required a lot of research to make sure the production properly resembled the ritualistic style.
“It’s based on Yoruba religion, the Ifá faith, which is a tribe in Nigeria, and so it deals with the deities and gods and goddesses and some of the stories surrounding the mythology around them,” said Le’ianna Gladden, who played the female lead of Oya.
“The play is about Oya. She runs track and she lives in Louisiana in the projects with her mom. It kind of just chronicles her life and her growing into being a woman and the struggles that she goes through.”
Gladden said this performance will likely inspire future productions that will focus on minority issues, including one she will direct.
“The one thing I’ve taken from being at Winthrop three years is if you want opportunities, make opportunities for yourself. As a black artist sometimes, the opportunities aren’t always there, so you have to create those opportunities,” said Gladden.