On Feb. 6 2021, the Black Undergraduate Theatre Collective hosted Women of Soul. This event was streamed from the FAU Amphitheater via YouTube.
The showcase featured music from Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The event was meant to focus on the stories of these trailblazing women and pay tribute to black icons.
Rehearsals were held for three weeks, followed by three days of tech rehearsals, and one night of filming. In light of COVID-19, all participants were tested weekly and temperature checked daily. They also had strict social distancing in place and PPE enforcement.
“We did this event to kick off Black History Month by educating the multiple communities we serve on the contributions of Black artists to the integration of America…there are many who don’t realize how these women broke down the barriers for entire generations of artists, and how they did it with all of the daily trauma of being Black in America,” said Corey Rose, the director of the production. This is Rose’s fifth production that he has directed at FAU.
To determine which members of The Collective would play what parts, it came down to figuring out which women would produce a sound that closely resembled the original artist.
Ultimately, Manda Gomes played Aretha Franklin and Mary Wilson, Jayla Thompson played Diana Ross and Annette Beard, Noelle Nicholas played Martha Reeves and Cissy Houston, Cassidy Joseph played Dionne Warwick and Florence Ballard, and Elle White played Carolyn Franklin and Rosalind Ashford.
“I was able to get into character by researching interviews that the Supremes did and ones that only included Diana Ross. I also paid close attention to Ross’s mannerisms. Corey Rose also assisted greatly by providing me context on Diana Ross’s relationship with both Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson,” said Jayla Thompson, a junior BFA Theatre Performance major who played the role of Diana Ross and Annette Beard.
Thompson believes that this event was important because it educated the student body on important Black female icons and because it raised additional awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We have a lot more progress that must be made within this movement especially at FAU. This institution speaks greatly about diversity and has yet to hold up to this belief. I believe the more education and true exposure that this school can have to real diversity, the better the campus will be,” said Thompson.
Kelsea Coles, a senior studying international business, served as the Assistant Stage Manager and Costume Designer.
“I loved that we all could come together as a collective again after what happened with the coronavirus and we were able to put on such an amazing show that paid homage to the great ladies that helped pave the way for future black performers to come,” said Coles.
To design costumes, Coles looked at what was worn during the Motown era and put a modern day twist on it. “I also wanted to give it a BUTC touch hence why almost all the colors are black with gold accents when it came to jewelry,” said Coles.
Just in case you missed it be sure to watch it here:
“One of the Collective’s goals is to honor those who came before us, and it’s important that we give people their flowers while they’re still here. Two days after our concert, one of the original Supremes, Mary Wilson, passed away at age 76. After spending weeks going through her life story and tracking her career, it was incredibly sad to wake up to that news, but it felt good to know that we are already doing the work of keeping her name and her story alive,” said Rose.
Be sure to follow @thecollectivefau on Instagram and stay tuned for their upcoming events.