PHOTO GALLERY: NCCU Theatre’s ‘Underground’ brings the atrocities of slavery to life


The Department of Theatre at N.C. Central University is preparing to take the stage for the second week with their production, “Underground.”

This play is a musical adapted from writer and director Akil DuPont’s original short film “Underground,” which won two Student Emmys.

The plot tells the journey of Bali, a brave slave who escapes slavery to rescue his daughter, Emala, from an abusive slave master.

The production thoroughly explores the horrors of slavery. Nothing is left to the imagination of the audience. On stage the actors portray scenes of rape and torture. At the same time, video projections plaster images of real-life beatings, lynching, and assassinations of social leaders.

Professor Arthur Reese chose to direct the production immediately after reading the script.

Soon after, he reached out to DuPont to see if he would mind NCCU Theatre performing his work on stage. According to Reese, DuPont was excited and gave his blessing for the production. He was also open to Reese’s creative direction.

However, Reese would face many obstacles leading up to opening night.

He said it took a lot of creativity and effort to get the production ready. Reese went through several cast changes, financial restraints, and losing his assistant director.

“About three times, I wanted to cancel this play,” he said. “I wanted to say nope, can’t get it done.”

Despite these barriers, Reese persevered through his setbacks.

Reese hopes that “Underground” opens more conversations regarding the truth about slavery and what it means today. When asked about how the audience would react to some of the production’s raw content he responded, “I hope we make someone think.”

“Arts, theatre in particular, at best not only entertains but educates,” Reese added.  “It lets people open their minds, hopefully.”

He said he is proud to have the production underway, but knows more work must be done for “Underground” to be at its best. He hopes, in the remaining shows, that he can manifest every part of his vision for the play.

“Underground” will be showing this weekend in the Farrison-Newton University Theatre on the following dates:

  • Friday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.

Story by Ambria McNeill.

The Campus Echo is the official student newspaper of N.C. Central University, an HBCU in Durham with about 8,250 students. The Campus Echo is one of the most highly recognized HBCU student newspapers in the nation. In the last 15 years our print and online editions have won over 250 national and regional awards from the Black College Communication Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press and the North Carolina College Media Association.

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