‘North Star Shining’ lights up the Saville Theatre


Common Ground Theatre troupe perfoms an excerpt from the upcoming play “North Star Shining” at the Saville Theatre on Feb. 5. Photo credit: Richard Lomibao

Franchesca Walker, Co-Arts & Features Editor

The red stage lights dimmed down onto the stage as the sounds of African drums streamed through the speakers of the Saville Theatre. The cast, all African Americans, entered the stage in a choreographed dance illustrating a story of native Africans being captured by settlers, then their journey to America to become slaves in colonial times.

The cast of the upcoming play, “North Star Shining,” performed an excerpt for City College students, faculty, and those interested on Feb. 5. The performance kicked off the first event for the semester’s World Cultures Program and for Black History Month.

“When the call came and asked to present something at City College, I’ve always wanted to do Hildegarde Hoyte Smith as a fully staged production. It was a great opportunity to transform this book … into a full production,” Charles W. Patmon Jr., artistic director of The Common Ground Theatre said.

The show continued as each actor performed multiple personalities of notable African Americans while photos and illustrations of African Americans were displayed behind them.

The actors portrayed known and unknown African Americans who impacted and made a difference in history. Public figures such as Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman were brought to life. The actors also portrayed those who have affected the United States and Black history greatly who are overlooked or given much credit such as Mary Anderson, an opera singer and Doris Miller, a military hero during the second World War.

Patmon adapted the play from the 1971 book of the same name written by Hildegard Hoyte Smith.

Patmon enlightened the audience about why he feels celebrating Black History Month is important by detailing a variety of topics. Some of the things he said are core to the play’s story.

“Black History Month allows us to rejoice, to celebrate some of the accomplishments and be reminded of some of the struggles that no one wants to repeat,” Patmon said.

He continued to say, “The people that we are talking about today are true pioneers who overcame hurdles long before the rest of us, and we have to give them credit, because I think we are still standing on their shoulders.”

City College President Anthony Beebe introduced the play and said a few things about the Common Ground Theatre, which he was involved with for about a decade while president of Continuing Education sites.

“The Common Ground Theatre has very deep roots in the San Diego community and particular, the south San Diego community,” Beebe said. “It’s so nice to have those roots now spread to City College.”

The Common Ground Theatre originated in 1963. It is the oldest African American theater is San Diego, and third oldest in the United States, according to Production Manager and board member Dorothy Smith. The theater’s latest home resides at the Educational Cultural Complex in Southeast San Diego.

The entire production of “North Star Shining” will debut Feb. 20 at the Common Ground Theatre at ECC.