AACC Press Room
Buffalo Vibe by: Ann Marie Cusella | January 28th, 2019
Native Son at Paul Robeson Theatre is 90 powerful minutes of intense and compelling theater. At the center of this thought-provoking abstract play is a brilliant performance by Alphonso Walker, Jr. as Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old black man raised in rat-infested poverty and soul-killing racism on the south side of Chicago in the 1930s.
Native Son is a journey into the mind and soul of Bigger. Playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation of the Richard Wright novel captures the essence of Bigger’s mind through the addition of a character who acts as the personification of his thoughts. Called "The Black Rat," excellently portrayed by Augustus Donaldson, Jr., he follows Bigger throughout the play, a shadow who sometimes tortures, sometimes cajoles, and sometimes tries to save Bigger from himself. But Bigger is ultimately at the mercy of forces beyond his control.
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Onstage / TEN QUESTIONS FOR Alphonso Walker Jr.
BY DONNA HOKE
What’s your relationship to this show?
It begins with Bigger Thomas, the fact that we are both black men in America; and what that means for us. He’s a young man trying to stay alive in a world that society built against him. He wants to provide a better life for his family, peacefully. But through a series of violent and unfortunate acts, he becomes the very thing he did not want them to think he was. I am a proud black man—never wanted to be anything else—but there were times, especially during the years between college and transitioning to New York City, where I felt the need to prove I was educated. That I was not the “stereotypical black boy” that people were exposed to in media or real life, especially if they did not live near or know any people of color personally. Whether I wear a hoodie and sweatpants or a three-piece button up suit, that does not take away from who I am, the knowledge I have acquired through life and education or the content of my character. A person should not have to change who they are in order to make someone else feel comfortable around them. I like to think that if Bigger lived in present time, he would be well aware of this.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
There are no right and wrong answers. This is art. Art is interpretation. There are choices; make strong ones.
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
It’s absolutely one for the books. The night after opening night of the show, a castmate showed up still drunk from the night before fifteen to twenty minutes before we were to go onstage. I would just like to say that night proved our strength as a cast. It helped that we knew cue lines and transitions for scenes we weren’t in. We survived and promised to not mention it ever again...until now.
Full interview here
Westside Connection 2017
The African American Cultural Center's Dance & Drum Company participated in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Westside connection which enables the BPO to reach out to its neighbors on the diverse West Side of Buffalo. Through educational activities, guest artist visits and a culminating concert, this project involves students in the 12 Buffalo Public schools in the neighborhood of Kleinhans, including three Spanish bilingual schools, a Native American magnet school and three international schools serving the West Side population of recent and past immigrants from diverse countries. Exploring diversity under the umbrella of music — a theme uniting all cultures across the globe — allows us to address relevant social issues through an exciting and educational medium.
The center has been a participant for four years.
Empire Star visited the
Paul Robeson Theatre
Paul Robeson Theatre opened their 50th Anniversary Season with a intimate discussion and Meet & Greet with Empire actor Trai Byers.
Trai shared his experiences in getting to where he's at with the attendees. He gave insight on how he had to get into character and expressed how bipolar disorder affects many families.
Having Mr. Byers with us was a treat!