“We were sitting together at Starbucks and someone said, ‘Let’s start a theater company’.”
That’s how the production company NuAfrikan Theatre was born, says BMCC alumnus Marcus Dargan. He and some other students were sharing a caffeine break and the next thing you know, they were staging plays as part of BMCC’s African Heritage Month.
Those productions included Jean Genet’s The Blacks: A Clown Show; George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum, and Amiri Baraka’s Slave Ship. Cast and crew came from BMCC, as well as from Hunter College, Queens College, Brooklyn College and City Tech.
From Torch ‘N Blues to classical tunes
“As a student at BMCC, if I showed an interest in anything, I didn’t have one professor who wouldn’t spend time outside class, helping me develop that interest,” says Dargan. “If you’re willing to do the work, they’re willing to work with you.”
One professor who inspired Dargan the most, was musical performer and adjunct professor Rosemary George, who then taught voice and now teaches music history in BMCC’s Department of Music and Art.
“We speak every week, even now,” says Dargan. “We have a musical revue, Torch 'N Blues, opening Tuesday, April 3 at the B’Hai Center in the East Village of Manhattan. I’m singing, and she’s the featured artist. I’ve been touring with Rosemary ever since I graduated, singing jazz, Broadway show tunes, and classical pieces.”
A change agent for other aspiring artists
After graduating from BMCC, Dargan earned a B.A. in Theatre from City College/CUNY, and has taught in performing arts camps for kids in rural Pennsylvania, as well as at Manna House Workshops and Our Children Foundation, in Harlem.
Having graduated from the Fiorelli H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he understands the importance of guiding young talent.
“I love it,” he says. “I like the experience of giving people the tools that make them successful in theater. Whether it’s ensemble building, communications skills, or making connections to literature, you’re exposing young people to a better world than they see on MTV or the Internet.”
Looking back on his studies at BMCC, he says, “I’m grateful for the chance they gave me, and now I want to be a change agent for others.”
BMCC theatre professor Diane Dowling has also, Dargan says, been “a phenomenal support” for his work.
“I had initially considered myself a musician and vocalist,” he says. “I was a voice major in high school, and I used to do musical theater, but I didn’t consider myself an actor.”
Even so, he switched from liberal arts to theatre, as soon as the new major became available at BMCC, and in his last semester, “Professor Dowling offered to let me direct a production, Pippin, the musical,” he says.
“Two years before that, directing would have been the furthest thing from my mind. But her support is what inspired me to do it. I had some struggles, and eventually went to City College as a jazz voice major—but I kept looking back on that experience.”
Today, Dargan describes himself as a “director, performer, playwright and teaching artist.”
His play, Dream Deferred, won the Jacob A. Weiser Playwright Award, and he was last seen performing in Harlem Repertory Theatre’s production of the Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller classic, Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Dargan began writing Dream Deferred during his undergraduate studies.
“I was at City College in a playwriting class,” he says. “We had to write a monologue for class, and that ended up becoming the beginning of Dream Deferred. I started with the monologue then walked in mid-semester with a full-length play.”
Dream Deferred Discount for BMCC Students
NuAfrikan Theatre’s production of Dream Deferred opens April 19 and runs through April 29 at the 133rd Street Art Center, in East Harlem.
BMCC students can attend for $5 during the matinee performance on Wednesday, April 25—thanks to the BMCC African American Heritage Committee and Department of Speech, Communications & Theatre.
The one-act play highlights racial tensions and social action, as African-American residents of an apartment building in East Harlem struggle against the looming commercial dominance of a newly built condominium, just across the street.
The cast includes BMCC alumnus Curtis Williams, as well as Bisa Y. Dawes, Shannon Harris, Donald Paul, Eddie K. Robinson, Richard Mays, and award-winning actor Johnnie Mae.
Deborah Sitton-Garvin is the play’s Executive Director, and the Technical Director is BMCC alumna Cynthia Staton.