The California State University, Dominguez Hills Department of Theatre and Dance will celebrate Black History Month with a production of the award-winning play “The River Niger,” by Joseph A. Walker, in the Edison Studio Theatre, Feb. 25, 26 and March 4, 5 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 27 and March 6 at 2 p.m.
Making history, theatre arts major Barry Maxwell is directing “The River Niger.”
“This is the first time we have given a student the chance to direct one of our four mainstage theatre season offerings,” said Bill DeLuca, M.F.A., professor of theatre arts and co-faculty advisor for the play.
Issues of social change in the storyline drew Maxwell to “The River Niger.”
“I chose to direct this play because it focuses on issues concerning the struggles of minorities, and also because it offers a message of how positive role-playing can affect valuable change in, not just the African-American community—which is the play’s primary focus—but among people of other ethnic backgrounds. I want this play to get people to think about how they can make a change in their community in rational and effective ways. It is possible. The tools are available to all of us to help build a better foundation for our futures,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell, who has acted in CSU Dominguez Hills productions including “Everyman: The Musical,” “Three Sisters,” and most recently in “Macbeth,” is taking on this directorial project with aplomb.
“Barry has put together a very good cast, led by veteran alum Phil Bray,” said Donis Leonard, M.F.A., associate professor of theater arts and co-faculty advisor. “Familiar faces, like Alfred Pompey Jr., a guest artist who has been in several of our shows over the past five years, add nice moments to the mix. Under Barry’s direction and vision, our students have been working hard, but also appear to be having a great deal of fun.”
The play centers on the lead character Jeff Williams’ return from the service, and his struggles to reintegrate into his neighborhood.
“Everyone has expectations for what Jeff should become. His father, mother, girlfriend, and former street homies all have plans for him, but Jeff needs to find his fit in the community,” said DeLuca. “I think the play is about the importance of home in African-American society, and specifically, the black male’s role in it.”
“The River Niger” offers timeless themes of African-American struggle, camaraderie, and efforts to achieve greater equality.
“Although Walker dedicated this story to ‘highly underrated black daddies everywhere’ over 30 years ago, his play still deeply resonates with modern audiences today,” said Leonard.
“The River Niger” has won a Tony Award for best play, a Drama Desk Award for best playwright, and an Obie award for best off-Broadway production. It became a film in 1976, featuring acting legends James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson.
Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Group rates are available. For more ticket information and to purchase tickets online, click here. For other payment options, call the box office at (310) 243-3589.
For more information about “The River Niger” or the theatre arts program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.