Playgoers attending THE DIVINE NINE this weekend at the Glen Theater in Gary will sense a definite Indiana University Black alumni presence! Intermission will spotlight two classic initiatives for graduates of color – the African American Arts Institute (AAAI) and the Groups Program, about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary.
Gary native Mary Stephenson is only the fifth director of the IU Groups Program in its amazing 50-year history. When started, the program brought Black students to campus immediately following high school and paid for their first year in Bloomington. Now the program provides the entire four-year undergraduate experience.
The 50th Anniversary will kick off during Indiana Homecoming Weekend October 12-14 and culminate during graduate May 4, 2019.
Stephenson commented, “Coming to the play Saturday night provides a rare opportunity to speak directly to some of the many Groups graduates from Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, Merrillville, and throughout Northwest Indiana. We will announce more 50th anniversary information and answer questions following the play.”
AAAI is a program within IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA) comprised of three performing ensembles — the African American Choral Ensemble, the African American Dance Company, and the IU Soul Revue. Former participants in Northwest Indiana will learn about the November 2018 joint production of all three.
The emphasis on I.U. should come as no surprise since theater operator Dr. Vernon G. Smith is an Indiana graduate as well as “The Divine Nine” playwright and producer Vernon A. Williams. Indiana products performing in the two-act comedy include Alaina (Williams) Renae, Darian Fitzgerald and Brandon Washington.
The play centers on the plight of Black Greek-letter organizations on a predominantly white campus and the issues of race and prejudice in America today. While the play addresses serious subjects, it is a light-hearted comedy for the entire family, says Debora Farrell, director. “The Divine Nine” premiered in October 2017 at the Neal Marshall Alumni Club Reunion in Bloomington and has been staged four times in three cities, including Indianapolis and Michigan City.
The real-life “Divine Nine” consists of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho Sororities – along with Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma and Iota Phi Theta Fraternities.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the play begins at 6 p.m. Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets for the play remain available at Beautiful Things in the Village Shopping Center, from participating Divine Nine members of Gary alumni chapters, and www.EventBrite.com.