From Staff Reports
The Navarro College Department of Theatre is undertaking a groundbreaking project for the opening show of the 2022-23 season. Home Free is a new musical written and directed by NC Theatre Chair, Dr. Shellie O’Neal. This musical celebrates the life and ministry of Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915), the first African-American woman to become an international evangelist and social reformer. Home Free opens 7 p.m. tonight in the Dawson Auditorium at Navarro College.
Amanda was born into slavery, but through a miraculous occurrence, she and her family were freed. The Berry family home became a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Amanda was a gifted singer and a powerful speaker, and she crossed social and racial barriers to minister to others. Her life story is one of extraordinary courage and perseverance. Amanda ministered in the British Isles, India, the Congo, Liberia, and Canada. In the last chapter of her life, she toured tirelessly from America’s East Coast to the West Coast raising money to build the first orphanage for black children in the state of Illinois. Amanda ministered to persons of all creeds and races, and she encouraged unity in community and understanding among races.
Home Free the musical features spirituals and hymns quoted by Amanda in her autobiography. Admission to the performances is free, but NC Theatre is happy to announce that all donations will be designated for the support of Corsicana’s Meetinghouse Revival Project, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to restore a historic black church in Corsicana. This structure is being restored to serve as an arts center for the children in Corsicana.
The first three performances of Home Free will be given at Dawson Auditorium on the Navarro College campus in Corsicana. The show will open 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4 and will continue 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, and 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. The final performance will be given at First Independent Baptist Church in Corsicana, a church founded by former enslaved persons. This performance will be 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.
Admission is free, but reservations are required. The audience is encouraged to reserve seats online at https://www.navarrocollege.edu/fine-arts/theatre/index.html.
Students participating in the production include Meredith Awalt, Courtavious “CB” Bryant, Emily Chambry, Jasmine Clark, Wesley Davis, Kelton Dillinger, Sabien Escareno, Joey Finch, Rosie Garcia, Carlos Gaviria, Viridiana Hernandez, Chase Hoffman, Skell Hough, Paige Huse, Jatavia James, Pandora Janeway, Aiden “Juice” Kyle, Alexis Lewis, Jesseca McDaniel, Kjarius Mitchell, Jose Angel Orozco, Dakota Peacock, Cassidi Porter, Lashae Richardson, Jaxon Stubblefield, Ty Thompson, and Deja “Blue” Williams.
Dr. Shellie Buckley, NC Speech Professor, plays a leading role in the show.
Kevin Davis, Jr., NC Theatre alumnus and Emmy-nominated choreographer, serves as guest artist for choreography for the 2022-23 season.
The company is rounded out by several community members including Navarro College alumni Petrina Johnson and Todd Jones and NC Theatre alumni Kaitlyn Lewis and Emanuel Garnerway.
John Boswell, Corsicana’s Director of Economic Development, serves as guitarist.
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