WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – UNC School of the Arts made its first debut at the National Black Theater Festival with ‘Black Magic,’ a play written and co-directed by graduates of the school.

Members of the cast are current students and alumni: Carl Bryant, J. Andrew Speas; 2017 grad Christian O. Jiménez; rising sophomore Lance Smith; 2017 Drama high school grad Darron Hayes; rising senior Jason Alton; and rising junior Malik Childs.

The play tells the story of seven dead Black men who come back to confront life, love, death and the systems that killed them in a direct audience address.

The work incorporates various performing elements like spoken word, dance and red nose clowning.

According to a press release by UNCSA, ‘Black Magic’ explores the paradox of the African American experience: “How we can disappear and still be here, forever.”

As a cast member, Speas said, “the show isn’t quite easy to be in or to take because it is such volatile and such visceral experiences that occur.”

Written by Tony Jenkins, and directed by Jenkins and colleague Chessa Metz, “Black Magic” is being presented in the NBTF Fringe program, which showcases collegiate theatre to help the next generation of black theatre professionals thrive in the art.

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“We will be here every festival from now on,” said Krisha Marcano, UNCSA Drama professor.

Marcano produced the play for the festival through the funding of the UNCSA Semans Art Fund.

“The fact that this is our first as a University to be presented in this capacity with seven Black men, I think it is absolutely amazing,” Marcano said. “The University as a whole is really, really excited.”

The play premiered last summer at the New York International Fringe Festival, and received one of the three “Best Play” awards.

The presentation of the play at this year’s National Black Theatre Festival is an opportunity for the young Black actors to receive exposure and learn from the more established ones.

A rising senior in the Acting program, Bryant said “there aren’t many Black actors in my school. There are seven Black actors in my class, and that’s I think is a record for the University. That is a reminder we must continue to push forward, because Black actors are just as good as our counterparts.”

Speas noted that five of the play’s members are Winston-Salem natives and attended Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.