It’s exciting to hear about the treat that a Florida-based Historically Black College is getting.
This fall, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) theatre students will have the unique opportunity to train with one of the institution’s most accomplished alumni in Hollywood.
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, internationally acclaimed and award-winning performer, director, writer and producer, will become FAMU’s first W.K. Kellogg Foundation Artist-in-Residence in the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (CSSAH) theatre program. Keymáh, who has returned to the University on several occasions and is also the namesake of an endowed scholarship, views the position as an opportunity to pay it forward.
“I can’t miss this opportunity,” she said. “I can’t forget what it’s like being on the other side. I can’t forget being that student wishing that somebody I knew from television or film would come and visit me. I come back and perform because I loved when people came to my school and performed,” Keymáh said.
After first gaining national fame as a regular cast member on the comedy show “In Living Color,” Keymáh also gained notoriety for her role as Erica Lucas on the CBS sitcom “Cosby” and as Tanya Baxter on the Disney Channel sitcom “That’s So Raven.” She recently completed the first season of her newest series, “There’s Johnny,” a comedy produced for NBC’s digital platform, Seeso, in which she plays Johnny Carson’s secretary Roz.
Keymáh earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre from FAMU in 1984 and received an honorary doctorate from FAMU in 2011. She wants to share the wisdom she has gained over the years with her students.
“I intend to bring my experience as a series regular on six on-camera series to the classroom, in addition to what I learned on and off the set,” Keymáh said.
Valencia Matthews, Ph.D., CSSAH dean, believes having Keymáh as the theatre program’s first Artist-in-Residence is significant and underscores her willingness to give back to the program and the University in general.
“The fact that T’Keyah loves and supports FAMU and the Essential Theatre has been demonstrated consistently, and in many ways, over the past 30 years. She inspires loyalty, so it was an easy decision to select her as the first Kellogg Artist-in-Residence for the Essential Theatre,” Matthews said.
Matthews believes having Keymáh on campus for an extended period and the overall Artist-in-Residence program will leave a meaningful and lasting impression on FAMU students.
“It is an exciting opportunity to have an individual of T’Keyah’s prestige to share her professional experiences with our students. It also leaves a lasting impression for them to see our alums return to the very place where their training began. We look forward to having her as an addition to our theatre faculty for the next several months,” Matthews said.
In addition to teaching an acting for the camera class, Keymáh will also conduct three workshops and will direct “The Nacirema Society” by Pearl Cleage, which will be the first play in the Essential Theatre’s 2017-2018 season.
Ultimately, Keymáh said she believes historically Black colleges and universities should be at the forefront of what Black theatre is, and she hopes to help raise the bar during her time as an instructor.
“As people of color in an industry where people of color are horrendously underrepresented, we have to be the standard-bearers,” she said.
Future plans for the Kellogg Artist-in-Residence Program include an annual rotation between the theatre and music programs respectively.
“Next year the music department will have the opportunity to select an artist of its choice to enhance programming in that area,” Matthews said.
Funding from the Kellogg Foundation plays a critical role in FAMU’s performing arts programs. In 1993, a grant from the foundation attracted top-notch theatre faculty and staff such as Matthews, Luther D. Wells and Carey B. Robinson. It also led to the establishment of an Eminent Scholar Chair and now Artist-in-Residence Program to be shared between theatre and music.
The program provides the opportunity for the Essential Theatre and Department of Music to foster intellectual, creative and professional growth among artists, students, faculty and staff.
For more information on Keymáh, visit: www.tkeyah.com.