Origins of the Friends of the Theatre
In 1992, Mrs. Dorothy Mells enjoyed the productions of the Alabama State University Theatre Arts Program were her grandson Michael Wimbush was a student actor. Her love for her grandson extended itself to all students of Theatre; and on one occasion Mrs. Mells was overwhelmed by the talents of the cast of “Dreamgirls” and was moved to complete the perfection of the character “Effie”. After the show she stopped the Director of the Theatre Arts Program, Dr. Tommie H. Stewart and pointed out that Effie’s wardrobe was not complete; her shoes did not match her beautifully beaded gown. Without hesitation Mrs. Mells removed her own shoes and sent them backstage to improve Effie’s total look. From that point forward she declared love and support for the Theatre and worked with anyone willing to help the students.
Soon, like minded individuals from the community began to meet with Mrs. Mells to discuss ways to assist the students and the program. From these first steps, the Friends of the Theatre (FOT) was formalized to become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Its simple mission was to carry on the determination and desire of Mrs. Mells to help ASU Theatre students in need. Following the leadership of Mrs. Mells, individuals devoted their time and resources to helping students by financing travel to visit sick family members, paying rent and utilities, and sponsoring travel to auditions and conferences to New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Detroit. Members of the Friends of the Theatre donated props and costumes, furnished apartments and even financed expenses for undergraduate students to relocate to graduate school.
Twenty-nine years later and FOT is still dedicated to helping the Alabama State University Department of Theatre Arts. The Department is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre and Dr. Wendy R. Coleman; who played “Effie” in the 1992 production of “Dreamgirls” served as the department chair from 2010-2019. Dr. Tommie H. Stewart served as the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts from 2010 until her retirement in 2019. Mr. Brian Martin, who also studied under Dr. Stewart is the current chair of the Theatre Arts Department at ASU.
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