Theatre MSU is teaming up with Blackfriars Drama Society once again to bring the second completely student-run production of the semester to Mississippi State University's campus.
Dominique Morisseau's "Pipeline" is set to play on Feb. 26, 27 and 28, concluding MSU's events in recognition of Black History Month. The story provides an intimate perspective of the inequalities in the American education system, the emotional conflicts of underprivileged minority students and the relational struggles between a mother and her wronged son.
Donovan Andrade, a senior double majoring in communication and kinesiology, is the director of the show. Following the production of Janet Langhart Cohen's "Anne and Emmett," Andrade hoped to follow the theme of exposing social injustice but from a different perspective.
"When I knew we were doing "Anne and Emmett," I wanted to also do another play that highlighted a different group of people," Andrade said. "I wanted to find a play that is minority-heavy. There's a different story that I wanted to tell."
Andrade said he uses art and theatre as a means of communication. Even as a first-time director, Andrade said he feels ready and is looking forward to giving his message through the show.
"My way of protesting, my way of getting my word out, is through theatre. It's not only entertainment, and one thing I strive to do is educate," Andrade said. "I am excited and 100% ready for opening night."
Victoria Newton, a senior communication major with a theatre concentration, served as the stage manager for the show. Newton had an unusual induction into her particular position in the show.
"We had a stage manager picked out originally. But because we are students and school commitments get in the way, they had to step down, and I was approached," Newton said. "I've loved every second of it, even though I've only been a part of the show since the beginning of February."
Although Newton has been a stage manager before, she said it had been a long time since having the role. Newton spoke of some of the challenges and responsibilities which came with the abrupt addition of stage manager to her light designing role, which included being required to attend all the rehearsals.
"The stage manager does everything behind the scenes," Newton said. "I make sure that the crew is up for tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals, and I make sure that everyone on the production team is on the same page."
COVID-19 has greatly impacted performing arts and has made them much more challenging to produce. However, Newton said the passion and commitment that all the students involved in theatre share overcomes the social-distancing challenges.
"I personally don't know what I would do if I wasn't allowed to create right now because the world is currently in such a dark place, and we want to create something beautiful," Newton said. "I would do everything within the guidelines because that would mean I get to create with people who love doing what I do."
Rodney Saulsberry II, a junior finance major, is one of the lead actors in the show. Saulsberry joined the MSU theatre community after some encouragement from Newton, with whom he acted in high school.
Saulsberry plays the role of Omari, a boy involved in a controversial issue at his school. Saulsberry said he is entering a role with which he can relate, having had and seen experiences similar to the challenges Omari faces in the show.
"This role gives me the opportunity to show a different side of being a Black male in this day and age and society," Saulsberry said. "It's just a play, just a written story, but this is real life. And these are real 17 and 18-year-olds that go through these situations every day."
Saulsberry said he has found motivation and meaning in the artistic release. Although COVID-19 has presented many complications for the production, Saulsberry said he believes the show is well worth working through the extra obstacles.
"There are just six people in the show. It's not a bunch of lights or dancing. It's people having real-life conversations, exposing themselves and being truly vulnerable on stage and giving a perspective that you wouldn't normally see," Saulsberry said. "We have a great cast, and I think we're going to do something special.