By Lynn Jones – ‘DA HANDS,’ a devised theater piece written and performed by the students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Theatre of Color (TOC) class and cast, recently debuted to a packed COVID protocol house selling out seven shows. The production focused on Douglass anderson, the schools namesake and the school that provided a way for blacks to thrive during adversity to fulfill their life’s purpose.
TOC is a history course to fill the gaps of theater history through the lens of people of color.
“The storytelling practices of the African Diaspora has greatly influenced what we know as the American Theater, but unfortunately, almost all the major practitioners of color are missing from theater history,” said Arts TOC instructor Keith Johnston. For research purposes,the school reached out to DA alumni and Mrs. Joyce Lawson, Anderson’s daughter who became the catalyst for the extended journey to the DA HANDS stage play. The play is set in various scenes and different decades from the eyes of the school janitors who knows and sees everything that goes on in the school. The scenes depict reenactments of racism, sexism, protests, African-American history, revolutions, dress codes, opportunity, uncomfortable situations, conversations and uprising.
The class came up with the choreography, dialogue and historic moments that leads to the central question: What can we learn from the past that can inform the present to assure a better future? The audience reaction was ‘it’s all in ‘DA HANDS,’ of past and present alumni, heirs, teachers, students and historians. The shows were dedicated to the invisible people, indigenous people, enslaved Africans and those who fought for human rights in addition to Douglas Anderson, his family and Sam Davis, a DA Alumni president and consultant who passed away during the second week of production.