The Road to Black Anthology: Installment 1

Katie Bry | Digital Contributor

Black Anthology, a Washington University production written, choreographed, produced and directed entirely by undergraduate students is celebrating its 30th year of production in 2019. The show will run Feb. 1 and 2. Up until then, StudLife will be covering the lead-up to the show in a new series, “The Road to Black Anthology.”

Today, we present interviews with three of the show’s most involved members.

Taylor Bailey
Grade: Senior
Role: Producer

Katie Bry: What is your role in Black Anthology?

Taylor Bailey: I am the producer, I manage the executive board and make sure that everything runs smoothly.

KB: Why did BA start at Wash. U. 30 years ago?

TB: So, it originally started for the students to put on a production for the Wash. U. community to showcase Black theatre and experiences. Black Anthology is so important to allow Black creative voices to be heard on Wash. U.’s campus and in St. Louis. Before it was created, there was not really a place for it on campus.

KB: How is the original goal of BA shared with the current board and crew?

TB: The founding advisor, Marcia Hayes-Harris, comes back at the beginning of every year and right before the show to talk to everyone about the history of Black Anthology, about how it began, what it means to her that it continues to be relevant and to encourage us to keep it going. Because it is our 30th anniversary year, we are bringing a lot of alum back to campus to talk about how Black Anthology has affected them.

KB: What part of the road is BA on right now?

TB: So, right now, we are just getting the cast and dancers together, and we are planning our philanthropy that we are doing with the St. Louis Black Repertory Company here in St. Louis. We always try to include the St. Louis community, so we do a lot of community service and work closely with the Black Rep as well.

KB: Any closing thoughts?

TB: Black Anthology has really been a vital part of my Wash. U. experience. I have done it for the past three years, I went my freshman year and after I saw it I knew I needed to get involved.

JT Bridges
Grade: Junior
Role: Actor

KB: How did you get involved in BA?

JT Bridges: Well, my brother who graduated in 2013, told me about it and I found myself looking for community to be comfortable and fit in. Sophomore year, I still felt like something was missing so I ended up auditioning for BA I am very glad I did, because I definitely found that sense of community.

KB: What does BA mean to you?

JB: Honestly for me it just means, just to see the Black experience all put together. Like Black theater for me is something that is really amazing and being able to see something and be a part of something that I can connect with and share with others to me I think that is very, very important.

KB: Why is BA important to have at Wash. U.?

JB: Black Anthology is a way for Black students, specifically Black drama students, to communicate our own experiences with the rest of the campus in a way that is easily presentable. We talk about a lot of issues that are specific to the Black community. I think it is really important just to have that medium of communication that is really easily presentable and understood.

Ryadah Heiskell
Alumnus, class of 2013
Previous role: Choreographer

KB: What was your role with BA?

Ryadah Heiskell: I was involved in Black Anthology all four years that I was a student [at WashU]. I started off with a small acting role and dancing in the show. And then sophomore year I did backstage tech and helping out with that during the show. Junior and senior year I was choreographing the show and was part of the exec board.

KB: Why is BA important?

RH: It almost represents a safe space for students of color on campus. It has always been that space for people who wouldn’t normally have been cast in shows and wouldn’t normally have an outlet to choreograph or write a play or whatever. BA has been that space for a lot of students.

KB: Can you speak to the community of BA?

RH: I mean, put simply, it is a family. Some of the connections I have made through Black Anthology are some of the strongest connections I still have today. BA in general, just because of what it is, brings people together in a way. Everyone seems to have the same type of investment in making the show a success. It is kind of rare that, everyone has that pride in the show and making it what they know it can be.

KB: What perspective can you bring as an alumnus of the organization?

RH: From when I was involved in it directly seeing how it has grown, even in the past few years, is crazy to me. We used to struggle getting people in the audience, we used to struggle getting costumes or things like that like. And they have just come a long way, and to see how it has grown into what it is today but still keeping the integrity of the show and the message of BA has been great to watch.

KB: What do you think this growth says about Wash. U.?

RH: I think that even since I was there WashU has done a lot to grow in terms of diversity, inclusion and student understanding of that and students being open to that. A big part of [the growth of BA] is speaking to the WashU audience and students being more open.

Read part two of “The Road to Black Anthology” here.

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