Tony Award winning actress Trezana Beverley returns to Baltimore for a production at Coppin State this week. Beverley—who graduated from Western and went on to win a Tony for her performance in the Broadway production of for colored girls who have considered suicide... when the rainbow is enuf —will direct five performances of Constant Star, a musical about Ida B. Wells, the legendary African-American journalist and civil rights figure.
Beverley, who was in the original production of Constant Star, says it's a timely play to stage. "Ida Wells spoke up for folks who were disenfranchised and put her life on the line," she says. "These days, there are so many people who need a break and could use someone up there speaking for them. Folks could use a good dose of Ida Wells."
Five actresses will portray Wells—including Coppin student Christian Harris and Coppin alum Nickole Scroggins—and perform various spirituals in five-part harmony. Beverley has been impressed with their vocals, especially Harris's lyric soprano, but adds that she's been challenging the cast and crew to step up to the task at hand. "The students here are wonderful," she says. "They are my crew, so, except for the designers, we don't have a professional crew. That means the young people need to make good choices and work hard."
Still, she realizes that resources are thin, and this isn't Broadway. She also realizes that Coppin is trying to take its theater department to the next level. "Coppin has provided me with as much as they can," says Beverley. "We've had to make a few compromises, but we're doing this with as much artistic integrity as possible. Doing this is very, very important, because these professors are very eager. We're all pulling the wagon."
She praises Dr. Garey Hyatt, the chair of Coppin's Visual and Performing Arts Department. "He has tremendous vision," says Beverley. "He is moving this program forward, and I am happy to share my talents with this group."
Beverley, who taught for awhile at Baltimore School for the Arts, notes that she didn't have these type of opportunities growing up in Baltimore. "I got all my theatrical training at the church and at the YMCA," she recalls. "My first acting class was at the Y across the street from the Enoch Pratt Library. I loved it! There might not have been a School for the Arts at that time, but I found that necessity is the mother of invention. Opportunities were rare, but they were there."
She also credits her mother, who got her Masters at Coppin and won the school's Fannie Jackson Coppin Award. Beverley says her mom will be in the audience on opening night.
Constant Star runs from March 3-7 at Coppin's James Weldon Johnson Auditorium. The show starts at 8 pm, except on Sunday, when the curtain goes up at 3 pm. Tickets are $15.
[photo courtesy Coppin State]