JSU Theatre Department MADDRAMA seeks donations for improvements

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Dr. Mark Henderson

The Jackson State University Theatre Department Chair, Dr. Mark Henderson, has embarked upon a fundraising campaign to raise money to make improvements within the department. These funds will enhance the productions of the MADDRAMA Troupe, the premier group of actors that are world-renowned. 

The MADDRAMA student experience has yielded actors such as Tramelle Tillman who has played Broadway in New York. Additionally, Jared Henderson has become a professional hair stylist to celebrities in Hollywood, and Marc Yates has appeared on the TV series “All American” and “All American Homecoming” and has been featured in the Las Vegas show “Awakening” that is running at the Wynn Hotel. Ashlei Victoria, a MADDRAMA offspring, who works at Disneyland as part of the “Warriors of Wakanda Show,” said, “MADDRAMA Performance Troupe served as the primary catalyst for me deciding to change my major to Speech Communications & Theatre.  It boosted my confidence on stage and helped solidify my purpose in life which is the gift of storytelling. I am proud to be one of a few honorary members and extremely grateful to Dr. Henderson for welcoming me into the organization with open arms.”

Dr. Henderson states, “I am reaching out to Mr. Curtis Nichols, a former student, about screenwriting as he was responsible for his work on the Bruce Willis film, “Day to Die.”

According to Dr. Mark Henderson, the fundraising campaign began on December 20, 2023, and will end January 24, 2024.  The funds raised are to be utilized to make improvements in the areas of:

• Costume Shop/Seamstress Works

• Makeup Artistry/Hair Design

• Scene Shops/Set Design/Development

• Language Translation/Linguistics 

• Choreography Development

• Photography/Art Design

• Script Library (Built Scripts)

• Concession Shop

• Program Development

• Software, Lighting, and Technology (Computers, Cameras, Audio/Microphones)

Donations and sponsorships are being solicited to facilitate all theatre improvements. Substantial sponsorships can be used to assign specific named entities that will appear in all production announcements and program booklets.  

As an incentive for sponsorship and donations, Dr. Henderson wants to allow the community at large to be able to bring forth their own stories from an Afrocentric perspective utilizing actors from the community.  “I want to collaborate with actors from the community that hold these stories that have been passed down from generation to generation via oral history that MADDRAMA can bring to life on the public stage at JSU.  Over the years, I have gotten feedback from the community that confirmed the fact that they want to see themselves represented on stage because MADDRAMA is bigger than Jackson, Mississippi, and our productions frequently rival Broadway,” commented Dr. Henderson in a personal interview.

The MADDRAMA Troupe has produced and presented works such as “The Black Nativity,” “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” “Afro Angel,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that have received national and international reviews and acclaim. 

The MADDRAMA Troupe was the brainchild of Dr. Mark Henderson and has been producing and staging productions since 1998 on and off the Jackson State university campus. MADDRAMA has been invited to command performances at the local, state, regional, and national level.  Dr. Henderson said, “I’m motivated to bring the community into the work that MADDRAMA does because we illuminate the social issues of the day.  For example, when we did “The Color Purple,” we brought awareness of domestic violence within families from the shadows into the forefront of the lives of everyday people. That is and was expansive to all races not just Black lives but the lives of the majority, along with other indigenous people throughout the world.  Another aspect of what we provide to our audiences is the chance to get away from the day-to-day cares to laugh a little.” 

The Department of Speech & Theatre offers a BA/Art undergraduate degree. At present, Dr. Henderson says, “I just got notification that our department has gotten approval to receive the original screenwriting from the Bayard Rustin story regarding HIV.  I try to expose my theatre students to pertinent topics making them aware of the history of people who look like them while they are at JSU. I am planning on getting the 2024 Season announced and advertised publicly by March so that the community can purchase tickets and memberships in advance to accommodate our schedule of events and performances. I especially want to let the community know that we will be offering a 2024 Theatre Summer Camp that was shut down due to COVID for youth interested in the MADDRAMA experience.” 

To make donations, please call the JSU Office of Development at 601-979-2872, CashApp: $MADDRAMA, or email: mark@MADDRAMA.com. To discuss specific sponsorship opportunities, Dr. Mark Henderson is available to meet individually with potential sponsors. For additional information about MADDRAMA, please visit www.MADDRAMA.com.

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JSU Theatre Department MADDRAMA seeks donations for improvements

By Brinda Fuller Willis
January 1, 2024