Last night, students at Withrow HS performed a play on the Withrow stage for the first time in over 20 years. The six act play “Bringing Back Our History” was conceived by senior Nya Williams-Jones in November of last year. Science teacher Mrs. Jody McOsker helped Nya develop the script and lead auditions. Stagecraft Instructor Mr. Zachery Riggins ‘72 mentored the stage production.
Mr. Riggins, a ’72 Withrow grad has been actively working at Withrow and with the Board of Education to bring music and theater back to the school. Withrow has a rich history of involving students in music and the theatrical arts, but tight budgets have supported only skeletal art and music programs over the last several years.
Last night’s play looked at a timeline over the last six decades of African-Americans who dreamed big, worked hard, didn’t give up, refused to be defined by their circumstances and changed the world. Each decade was represented by a successful individual of that decade, for example, the 50’s by Barry Gordy founder of Motown Records, the 60’s by Martin Luther King, Jr., the 70’s by the Black Panthers, the 80’s by poet Maya Angelou, Opra and a rapper, the 90’s by musical entertainers represented by a performance of Destiny’s Child, and the 2000’s by Tyler Perry’s character Medea.
Prior to the play, an International Fashion Show celebrated the diverse cultural heritage of the 250 international students enrolled at Withrow. Participants in the show included Fatou Gueye, Guy Ossebi, Oury Niangane, Bintou, Luis Sanchez Gutierrez, Khadim Seck, Tirhas Bahta, Awa Coundoul, Saron Asmelash, Ndeye Seck, Sokhna Seck, Bintou Niangane and Adonette Cimpaye.
The student actors were also directed by chemistry/physics teacher Mrs. Caroline Burns, a CCM graduate. The cast includes seniors Nya Williams-Jones, Adam Kelly, Imani Brantley, Dominic Johnson, Kenneth Alexis, Pamela Printup-Brown, Angel Prince, Charity Hinton, Noah Hawes, and Darnell Crumpton-Stanford; juniors Shemar Pinnock, Teaira Martin, Shonyae Griffin, Tomika Smith and Antwnazia Fant; freshman Joshua D’aventure-Woods, and alum Juwan Carter.
Students in Mr. Riggins Stage Craft class assisting with the production include seniors Kendal Neal, Tia Roberts and Derrick Gunn and juniors Isiah Houston, Dare Moffett. The production also thanks Access Audio Productions who helped with sound equipment. In addition to last night’s performance, two other performances will be given for Withrow students today.
All reactions were enthusiastic.
Mr. Zachery Riggins: “What a joy to have the dramatic arts back at Withrow.”
Senior Imani Brantley: “I’m very honored and privileged to be a part of this play that represents the many different cultural aspects of Withrow and black history.”
Mrs. Jody McOsker: “I loved watching our students discover new talents and potential that they didn’t know they had. I love hearing them say they want do more theater.”
Senior Charity Hinton: “We’ve been working to start a theater program for three years; and this year, we were able to get the support for it. I’ve always been interested in theater and want to go on with it.”
Senior Angel Prince: “I didn’t think this was something I’d like; however I auditioned for a part in Destiny’s Child and won the part. I’ve gained more confidence, and this has been the highlight of my senior year.”
Junior Darnell Crumpton-Stanford; “I enjoyed working with fellow students in bringing theater back to Withrow. An excellent experience.”
Chemistry/Physics teacher Mrs. Caroline Burns: “I enjoyed working with students I’d taught in a different setting and time. It’s good for students to have other platforms in school to show and develop talents and abilities.”
The restoration of the musical and theater arts at Withrow is a long term effort that will require generous support from our alumni. As many of us remember, participation in music and theater was valuable to our personal development, improved our ability to work with others and fun. We ask for your support of this program. Donations may be made online by clicking HERE.or by a check made payable to “WAI” with “SOUNDS” written in the memo line. Please mail the check to Withrow Alumni Inc., P.O. Box 8186, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208. We do need, and thank you for, your support.