Performing on board PARTA

Elizabeth Myers

Black Theatre Association mixes drama, public transportation for unique performance

For most students, riding the bus is a pretty mundane experience. But this weekend, the Black Theatre Association is giving PARTA riders a little more than the usual campus loop.

Christian Boykin, president of the Black Theatre Association, worked with his PARTA employers to allow the group to put on a production on a company bus.

“I’ve worked there for three-and-a-half years so I thought I could pull some strings to see if they’d let me do this,” Boykin said.

Boykin got the idea for the bus performance from a former theater professor who told stories of doing improvisational performances on the old campus bus service. Since the buses merged with PARTA, nothing like this has been attempted. After reading the script for “The Dutchman” in class, he thought it would be a good choice to adapt to the bus since the original setting was a subway car.

After receiving permission for the show, Boykin held auditions to cast the show, not expecting much.

“I was surprised at the turnout,” he said. “I started running out of audition forms.”

Sophomore theater major Kat Palcsak was cast as the female lead Lula and Kent State alumnus Chris Raglin received the male lead, Clay.

“The Dutchman” is a one-act play set in the 1960s, written by playwright Amiri Baraka. In the show, Clay, a middle class black man meets Lula, a flirtatious white woman who pushes the boundaries between flirting with Clay and insulting his attempts at a successful life as a black man.

“Clay is just trying to figure her out,” Boykin said, who is playing the role of the conductor and will be driving the bus. “By the end, he has a pretty good idea of what her angle is.”

During the performance, the audience will almost be a part of the show as the confines of the bus seating will put audience members and actors right next to each other.

“That’s the beautiful thing about black theater, its that there is no separation between the audience and the actors,” Boykin said. “And on the bus, the actors don’t have a choice but to interact.”

The group is running its performance four times; twice this weekend, March 1 and 2, and twice next weekend, March 8 and 9. All performances are at 8 p.m.

The performance is free to anyone who wants to attend, but reservations must be made at the box office inside the Music and Speech Building due to the number of available seats. The box office can be reached at (330)-672-2497.

Contact performing arts reporter Elizabeth Myers at [email protected].