By Jay Pham
In honor of Black History Month, Pensacola State College (PSC) presented two plays directed by Lawrence Gamell, Jr. The plays illustrated the lives of influential blacks in history and inspired all who saw it.
“Everybody’s gonna enjoy the show. It’s for Black History Month, it’s educational, it’ll be fun.” Gamell said.
The first play was Harriet,’ written by Kisha Kenyatta, directed by Gamell, and starring Jessica McMillan.
McMillan was grateful that she had the opportunity to play Harriet Tubman.
“I think, because the character goes through so many different phases that there will be something for everyone to enjoy about the character,” McMillan said.
Kelli Green and Chelsea Floyd were in the audience.
“I thought the plays were really interesting and inspirational,” Green said.
“I really liked it, especially the Harriet play, it was really good,” Floyd said.
McMillan is a University of West Florida (UWF) alumni who is an instructional coach in Escambia County. Along with acting, she sings and enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.
The play opened with McMillan playing an older Harriet Tubman reminiscing. When it was time to explain what happened when she was a child, she ran around voicing a younger Harriet with a high-pitched voice detailing her tough childhood. The audience saw her transform the character through young adulthood, contemplating running to a free state—all the way until she grew older and started assisting other slaves along the Underground Railroad.
“Personally, I really enjoyed the Harriet Tubman play, just because of the format. I love how it went back and forth between when the fugitive laws were put in place, then back to a time when she was 10,” Gibson said. “I thought that kept the audience captivated.”
Josephine Mayo, retired registered nurse and educator, is the narrator for the play, ‘MLK and Mandela,’ produced, directed and starred by Gamell.
During ‘MLK and Mandela,’ Mayo, the narrator, refers to Gamell as the Recognizer, as Gamell takes the audience through time and distance as powerful influencers who made a global impact on the progress of blacks.
From Martin Luther King, Jr. in America to Mandela in South Africa and even Bobby Kennedy speaking of the character of Dr. King, Gamell’s depictions were spot on. Gamell’s acting expertise was witnessed when he switched from Dr. King’s deep, reverential timbre to Mandela’s measured, African accent.
Ryan Gibson, PSC alumni, enjoyed the rare experience of hearing powerful speeches in the voices of their original deliverers. “I loved to hear those speeches. I loved his impersonations of great and legendary people in our culture. I thought that was amazing and I think he did a wonderful job.”
Gamell is a seasoned actor that has appeared in over 150 plays. He turns 55 on Feb. 12 and has been acting since he was five and started producing at 18. He is part of the well-respected Screen Actors Guild and has been producing and playacting at PSC for nine years.
Near the end, Mayo, offstage, explains that she refers to Gamell as the Recognizer throughout the play because he recognizes who he is. If you don’t recognize who you are, you won’t know where you’re supposed to go.
In the voice of Barack Obama, Gamell said, “As we understand in America today, that as people, we have to come together. We have to understand: that if we do come together, we can and we will conquer everything.”