North Star director Melinda Wilson and CMT Artistic Director Scott Eckern.
North Star is not just the first play of the season at Sacramento State, it’s also a joining of educational and professional institutes—the University’s Theatre and Dance Department and California Musical Theatre, the city’s oldest professional performing arts organization.
The play, written by Gloria Bond Clunie and directed by Sacramento State professor Melinda Wilson, runs Oct. 11-21. It focuses on Relia, an 11-year old African American girl coming of age during North Carolina’s lunch-counter sit-ins in 1960. Tickets go on sale Aug. 22 and are available at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323, or at www.tickets.com.
CMT, producer of Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento, is collaborating on the production, providing rehearsal notes, fliers, posters and underwriting other costs, says CMT Artistic Director Scott Eckern. The partnership is a recent one, beginning last year with Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and 365 Days/365 Plays presented by Sons/Ancestors Players, a student performance group dedicated to African American theater. It grew out of CMT’s Martin Luther King Theatre Project, which began presenting productions at Sacramento State in 1995. That project produced works that explored the African American experience, Eckern says.
Two years ago, CMT began exploring opportunities to expand the scope of the MLK project, one that was more integrated with the University’s own productions. Wilson joined the department’s staff about that same time. “It turned out her vision and her goals were the same as ours,” Eckern says.
One thing that attracted both of them to the project was the educational benefit, not just to the University students who have the chance to work in association with a professional theater group, but also to those outside the campus.
CMT will cover the cost of a free, morning performance on Oct. 19 for an audience of local high school students, and the educational effort doesn’t end when the curtain comes down. Wilson and CMT are assembling a resources guide of follow-up studies for the teachers and students.
CMT also hopes to bring Clunie to the University to talk with students and lead a playwriting workshop. The department does not have a playwriting class, so students who wish to explore a writing career lack the necessary guidance, Wilson says. “With CMT bringing in the playwright, and having the workshop, that’s going to open even more doors for our theater majors,” she says.
Wilson adds that the partnership is an unusual one. While professional theater groups in other cities might have an intern program for the local college drama department, CMT personnel also come to Sacramento State to talk and work directly with the students, Wilson says.
Eckern notes that CMT has always fostered dramatic theater, and the organization is particularly focused on furthering the work of African American artists because the stage is such a powerful forum. “That’s where truth is revealed. That’s where truth is explored. That is where truth is shared,” he says.
For more information on the play or to schedule a high school class for the performance, call the University’s Theatre and Dance Department at (916) 278-6368. CMT may be reached by calling (916) 446-1370. A photo is available at www.csus.edu/news/imagedownload/. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.