National Black Theatre Festival in August Will Feature CSU Dominguez Hills Production of “The Heiress”
California State University, Dominguez Hills Department of Theatre Arts and the New African Grove Black Theatre Program on campus will stage a special three-night performance of “The Heiress,” Wednesday, July 22, through Friday, July 24, as a fundraiser to send the cast to the National Black Theatre Festival Aug. 3-8 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The CSU Dominguez Hills production was one of four university productions selected to perform in the festival’s Fringe Performance program. The National Black Theatre Festival is a biennial event started 20 years ago to showcase black theatre in America. This year’s event features more than two dozen plays of all genres chosen from among 116 submissions sent in by professional, community and university theater companies across the nation. For more information, visit www.nbtf.org.
Students and alumni from CSU Dominguez Hills will perform “The Heiress” at the festival on Aug. 4 and 5, two shows each day.
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected to the National Black Theatre Festival,” said theater arts professor Donis Leonard. “Many of the top professional and collegiate theatre companies around the country will showcase their work. This journey to North Carolina will provide national exposure and extraordinary learning opportunities for our students.”
The university’s version of “The Heiress” — a drama set in 19th century New York about a shy young woman transformation into a cold-hearted spinster as a result of a loveless father and charming fortune hunter — features an all black cast. The non-traditional cast was a conscious choice of the play’s director and theater arts professor Donis Leonard, who wanted to incorporate into the play the story of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, the African American surgeon credited with the first successful open heart surgery in the country.
After the play’s run in March this year as part of the department’s regular theater season, assistant director Vincent Conard, who plays the father in the production, submitted footage of the performances for consideration to the National Black Theatre Festival and it was selected among hundreds of submissions. Thanks to a university grant and private donations, the majority of the money needed to send the cast and crew to the week-long festival was secured. However, more needs to be raised.
Proceeds from tickets to the performances July 22-24 — 8 p.m. each night in the Edison Theatre on campus — will go toward those remaining costs. Ticket price is $10 and will be sold at the door.
For more information, call (310) 243-2847.
- Amy Bentley-Smith
Photo above: The CSU Dominguez Hills adaptation of "The Heiress" will be featured in the National Black Theatre Festival in August. Theatre arts alumnus and assistant director Vince Conard as Dr. Austin Sloper, warns his daughter Catherine, played by senior Chenaye Gaston, against her fortune hunting suitor.
Photo by Tom Marinello