Navarro College students win awards for 'Home Free'

Jan. 7—The Navarro College Theatre Department recently participated in the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival with its production of "Home Free," a musical written and directed by Theatre Chair, Dr. Shellie O'Neal.

The 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. 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.

Two Navarro College student designers were given awards by KC/ACTF: Skell Hough was awarded a commendation for Excellence in Lighting Design and Wes Davis was awarded a commendation for Excellence in Costume Design.

Three Navarro College students earned Irene Ryan Acting Awards. The students given the awards were Jatavia "Tee" James, Courtavious Bryant, and Ty Thompson.

For this production, Navarro College partnered with Corsicana's Meetinghouse Revival Project to raise money to help restore a historic Black church in Corsicana as an arts center. The building contains 25 stained glass windows, which is a rarity among Black churches of this period.

Over the course of our four performances, three at Dawson Auditorium and one at Corsicana's First Independent Baptist Church, which was founded by former enslaved persons, the production raised $1,271 for the project.

O'Neal presented the money and a certificate to Dr. Alysia Nicole Harris, founder of the Meetinghouse Revival Project.

"This was a community outreach project, and we are delighted to report that over the course of our four performances, we performed for approximately 803 audience members," O'Neal said. "Our cast included a number of community members including: Sandra Huffman (longtime supporter of NC and wife of the late Lloyd Huffman, former NC board president); Emanuel Garnerway (NC Theatre Alumnus); Todd Jones (NC alumnus and star of several NC musicals); Petrina Johnson (NC alumnus and music teacher at Carroll Elementary); Dr. Shellie Buckley (Chair of NC Speech Department); Pam Dudley (Corsicana resident and playwright); Kaitlyn Lewis (NC Theatre alumnus and current student at UT Arlington)."