by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
Florida A&M University has a long legacy of fostering artists through the Essential Theatre Program.
From its early 1900s beginnings as the Little Theatre Guild and its 1950s run as a Children’s Theatre, to its culmination today as one of the top competitive HBCU theater programs in the nation, FAMU remains committed to providing students with pre-professional training and experiences.
Equally, Essential Theatre’s dedication to creating new plays and connecting to the Tallahassee community rings true to the core of their practice.
In the Spring of 2020, the global community vibrated with rage and fear, shaken by an unexpected pandemic and yet another senseless death of a black man at the hands of authorities. The country sat in isolation as the George Floyd phenomenon, the murder and the civil unrest that followed, sparked a revolution in the streets which unified a movement, but simultaneously fueled an already seeded hatred in our country. Through it all, one artist chose to approach the conversation with love.
Marci J. Duncan was raised in Tallahassee. She attended Rickards High School where she found comfort in the arts and later followed her passion to FAMU; a place she now considers “my joint” and one filled with family.
This relationship fostered her career as a professor in the Theater department at FAMU for almost 8 years and has recently led to the development of a new play, “Dissonance,” written and performed by Duncan and produced by FAMU’s Essential Theatre.
“I knew that once it was done, I could bring it back to FAMU because it was my baby and FAMU would say, ‘Here, we’re going to treat it just as you would,’” says Duncan. “I knew I was safe. Those people are literally like family to me. They support me.”
Duncan’s production, “Dissonance,” revolves around two longtime friends, Marci, played by Duncan, and Lauren, played by Kerry Sandell, who decide to open a cafe performance space. “The dream,” Marci said. Still, that dream was overshadowed by the realities reflected in the play’s backdrop, the summer of 2020.
As the play progresses it becomes evident that Lauren is oblivious to Marci’s Black experience and that the two friends have never had a conversation about race in any vulnerable capacity. Secrets lead to a reveal of deeply held perceptions by the two about race, class, women in business, and an opening day that goes very wrong very quickly.
Click here to learn more about the FAMU Essential Theatre.
Click here to read the rest of the article in the Tallahassee Democrat.