Performing Arts Club showcases immense community talent

by Ryan Barba, Staff Writer and Luke Wrin Piper, Staff Writer/Photos by Ryan Barba

Drag queen Orphan Fortune begins her routine on the Laney quad, Nov. 14.

The Laney quad echoed with the sounds of poetry, singing, solo dance routines, rhyme and spoken word as a crowd of more than 50 gathered for the talent share hosted by the Performing Arts Club at Laney on Nov. 14.

“We’ve been talking about the talent share from the beginning of the club because our goal was to perform,” said Angelica Erskine, president of the Performing Arts Club at Laney College.

Erskine said that the idea for the club came from a creative writing class taught by Chris Weidenbach, chair of the English Department, in spring 2019. She and some of her classmates enjoyed their work and wanted to create a space for inspiration and growth on campus.

“I met a lot of like-minded students in the class,” said Erskine.

“We all saw that there was a need here to have a showcase — a place where we can all gather and support each other through performance arts.”

The creative spirit of those students came together beautifully during the event, which was open to students and friends in the community.

Laney student Darryl Brown, the first person to participate in the talent share, sought the opportunity to perform as a way to encourage others. He recited his poem, “Not Again,” which focused on his frustrations with the repetitiveness of some of the darkest moments in American history.

Darryl Brown opens the showcase with a piece of his own poetry.

“In my poem, it says again and again, anything opposite of right, anything that hates, is evil,” Brown said. “After learning about the history of colonization, I was so angry as to why someone would do this.”

Darrion White relays his personal experiences through spoken-word.

Performing Arts Club member Darrion White’s spoken-word piece, titled “Loss and Memories,” focused on the different ways that people experience loss and memories in life. He dedicated his performance to his grandmother and a teacher, both inspirations in his life.

“My life has really started over loss and memories,” White said. “Both can make you remember about the important things in life.”

The talent share showcased a wide range of talents with one standout performance coming from drag queen Orphan Fortune.

“A lot of times that people don’t express themselves is because they don’t have a platform,” said Orphan Fortune, a friend of a club member. “Being able to be funded for this is the best thing ever.”

Performing Arts Club advisor Chris Weidenbach said that the event served as the official launch for the club. It’s the first official activity that most people will know about.

“People who participate are going to get an audience,” said Weidenbach. “People who will listen, watch you perform, support you, and give you feedback.”

Laney College President Tammeil Gilkerson, who tap-danced and shared a poem written by Maggie Smith during the talent share, encouraged the club to keep going.

“I think that it’s incredible to give people a venue to share their talent, and I love the fact that they started,” Gilkerson said.

Laney College President Tammeil Gilkerson performs a tap-dance in the talent showcase.

Laney student Sheon Slaughter, recited a poem in the talent share, said that the college can benefit from hosting these events by building a connection with students.

“This is what’s needed, students need to feel connected,” said Slaughter. “And this event happening helped students feel connected to campus.”

The November showcase was just the beginning for the club. “I’d love to have some more community involvement,” said Erskine.

“With a lot of action on stage and a forum to help speak about everything going on. We need art as a creative outlet to get away from it all, but we also need to know what’s going on in the world.”

“We hope to do more events like this one,” Erskine said. “To support each other in creative expression is the end goal.”

The Performing Arts Club has weekly meetings at Laney College in T-450 on Thursdays at 4:20 pm. Students who are interested in joining the club can reach Erskine at [email protected] for more info.