Southern Methodist University Students Take Black Literature from the Page to the Stage

4798Southern Methodist University master of liberal studies' program performed Dr. Njoki McElroy's African American Fiction: Interpretation of African American Literature through spoken word Friday night in Simmons Hall.
"I want to warn you," Dr. Njoki McElroy said, "that the n-word will be spoken twice and if you hear a gunshot - don't panic."

And with that, the performance began.

Dr. McElroy and her class of nine graduate students in the liberal studies' program performed short stories to entertain and educate the audience about African American literature.

"Our purpose is to promote and celebrate African American life and culture," Dr. McElroy said.

"If they could take something away they didn't know before watching this then I'd be proud."

Each class member sang, recited a monologue or a dialogue, as they completely transformed characters before the audience's eyes.

"Don't ever give up on love child!" pleaded Gwen Woodworth, who's character was an elderly woman advising a younger woman, Tomasina Betoncur, on a park bench what life has taught her about love -- and all the men in between.

Madea, or Assistant Director Mary Harris, in the story "Ma'Dear" by Terry McMillian, could relate to Woodworth's character in the previous story.

Madea, an anything-but-passive widow, walked us through her life and the different men in it. She rocked back and forth in her prop rocking chair, straw hat, apron, and slippers and brought bursts of tear-jerkn' laughter to the audience.

"I'd rather have a man with no money and something up here," Mary said as she gestured to her head, "or something at least somewhere...." The crowd then lost it after she delivered the suggestive line in her newfound thick southern accent.

"It's something to see my sixty-five year old white mom portraying a ninety-five year old black woman," Harris' youngest son Dan Harris said.

"I heard she was taking the classes and I was really proud and really impressed with her," he said.

The unique class of nine graduate students consists of teachers, a preacher, police officer, wives and more. But that didn't prevent any chemistry from forming. In fact, chemistry was established on day one.

"We told our own stories the first day of class and we all cried and laughed," Sarah Weatherford, stage manager and cast member, said.

"Dr. McElroy is pretty awesome," William Searcy, public relations and cast member said. "We became a family from the first day of class."

Source: SMU Daily Campus | Erica Penunuri - Email:
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