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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

‘The Colored Museum’ features all black cast

During the first week of Black History Month, NMU will play host to its first all African American theater production.

“To my knowledge, I don’t think the Forest Roberts Theatre has ever done any kind of play with an all African American cast,” Ansley Valentine, director of “The Colored Museum,”

“The Colored Museum” is an acclaimed play written by George C. Wolfe in 1987. The play consists of 11 different “exhibits” (scenes) that take a satirical approach to various stereotypes and issues pertaining to the African American community.

“It is a museum, so each one of [the scenes] is meant to be like a museum exhibit. Some of it’s funny—a lot of it’s funny—some of it’s serious, and some of it is just strange or weird or unconventional,” Valentine said. “When you go to a museum, you’re supposed to see different kinds of artwork, and it’s the same kind of thing.”

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Nathan Morgan, one of the actors in the production, said what he likes about the show is how humor makes it universal.

“Even though there are references specifically to black culture, even if you don’t get any of those references or fail to see any of the deeper meaning, you’ll still laugh and think it’s hilarious,” Morgan said. “Obviously, that’s not what we want. We want people to really look into the show and understand it and to get something out of it. But even if you get nothing else out of it, it’s still really funny.”

The play, Morgan said, takes very serious subjects and uses humor to make them easier to talk about. Especially at the beginning of Black History Month, discussions regarding race and culture move to the forefront. Valentine believes that “The Colored Museum” is able to have these
discussions in ways unlike other plays.

“I think it’s interesting because it’s not your typical Black History Month play,” Valentine said. “When you see that type of program, it’s like, ‘well here’s Dr. Martin Luther King and here’s Harriet Tubman,’ and this play is not that at all. It really is a satire, and it really looks at all the stereotypes or tropes that we have about African Americans or African American culture.”

The nine-person cast is the first all black cast for any production held at NMU. With the help of the Black Student Union (BSU), “The Colored Museum” was able to recruit students for the roles. For some of the actors, it’s their first time on stage. Morgan said he believes the message the play is giving was a large part in drawing the actors to it.

“I think there’s a draw to be a part of something that has cultural significance and impact,” Morgan said.

Though on the surface, Morgan said, he enjoys the play because of the comedy aspect, he appreciates that it goes deeper than that.

“It’s a great way for me to look at my culture in my own light and for me as an actor to experience it and take the message out of the show.”

Valentine said the BSU approached him last year wanting to do a production. Unable to do it last year, he was able to work it into the theater’s regular season this year. The BSU has helped support the production and will aid with greeting and ushering on the night of the performance.

At a school that has a small African American population, it’s important that the students are able to have open discussions about their lives and culture.

“I think it’s really nice having something for the black students so they’ll feel, ‘Oh this is telling my story or showcasing something about my culture,’ that they’re actually inspired to come out and get involved,” Valentine said.

The play will be performed in its entirety at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 in the Whitman Commons. The show is free to everyone and will be performed in whole only the one night. Selected exhibits will be performed at the Fringe Festivals from Feb. 11 to 20.

“I think it’s nice that we are doing something, because I feel like it’s something we’ve missed out on, not having anything like this,”
Valentine said.

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