Audience Blog

Audience Blog #12: Avery Neveille Thompson (Pennsylvania)

Audience Blog #12: Avery Neveille Thompson (Pennsylvania)

Progress Theatre’s “Audience Blog” features responses to live PT performances written exclusively by show attendees we meet on tour.

How did you hear about PT?   — In my “Africa 1800s” class, my professor, Dr. Christine Saidi spoke about Dr. Truscott coming to Kutztown University to talk about Progress Theatre and SoulWork.

Was this your first PT performance, workshop or engagement?   — This was my first PT performance.

When was the last time you made progress?   — The last time I made progress was when I finally finished my website for my art, specifically, Blakk Starr. It took some time to develop, but now that it’s finished and I try to update it daily with new work.

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Super Power: Unshakeable Emotions

Recently, Dr. Cristal Truscott paid my school a visit and told us her story through an event called, “Soulwork: Art and Activism.” I was inspired by her words and the way she uses her talents as a medium to speak out and discuss the social injustices that happen on a daily basis. To me, when you discover what your skills and talents are and how to use them, they become your “Super Power.” Seeing Dr. Truscott and Progress Theatre in action was like witnessing a team of Superheroes at work doing what they do best. When I spoke to her after the SoulWork event, I talked with her about how much she moved me with the work that she has been doing all around the world and that I wanted to share with her my Super Power. I am in the process of finding my purpose for it, but I figured I would share it with her anyway: I write comic books and I have been working on one specifically for four years now.

My comic book is called Blakk Starr and it’s a sci-fi, superhero comic. It’s basically about people who have powers based on their “ethnicity,” which is based on the colors of the rainbow. There are themes about corruption, love, revenge, power and well-being. But, it’s mostly about racism. Blakk Starr, the main character, is not from the planet where the series takes place but his family had a deep history on the planet before he was conceived. The story revolves around Blakk Starr’s life after his 18th birthday as he searches for acceptance, finds his true parents, and discovers his purpose in life — which ends up being to save the planet!

That was a mouthful. But when Dr. Truscott told us her message and her story, I was so eager to tell her mine. Once she told me that they were performing soon in Allentown I knew I had to be there!

When Professor Saidi, some other Kutztown University students and I arrived at the Muhlenberg College Theater in Allentown, we entered a theater full of people all excited for this musical, The Burnin’. It was packed. Having just discovered Progress Theatre, I knew very little about the performance. I was so pumped for this event. I was seated in front row. It was great the way the performance used the entire area of the theatre. I was blown away.

I had never been to an acapella musical. Emotions were swayed, tossed and turned to the various themes that were tackled through song and story. I was fully absorbed in the stories being told, some even being relatable. With all that being said, the full effect and the impact of the play did not hit me until the end when the song lyrics, “It’s Ok…for you to hate me,” were sung. I was overcome by an instant tsunami of feelings. After the show, the audience was asked to share how we felt about the play in one word. I raised my hand and said, “Pain.” As the discussion continued and more questions were being asked and opinions being given, I could not hold my feelings in much longer. My soul, was crushed.

I sat in my seat, tears uncontrollably falling from my eyes. It took all of me not to completely breakdown in the front row. I was so moved by the last song that I was visibly trembling. My body was so tense. These emotions hit me out of nowhere. These feelings came from something deep inside me. Deep inside, somewhere that I never allow myself to venture. But The Burnin’ reached inside of me and brought it to the surface all at once. There was a character that Derrick Brent II played named “Crush” that revealed to me where these feelings were coming from. Crush was a young man fighting for his education, pushing through the violence that he experiences in his neighborhood and home, and suffocating in the poverty that plagues the streets he walks. Crush had to choose: He could continue to push through the odds and grow to be a stronger person, or he could crumble under the pressure of success and be just another poor Black kid with no hope for the future. That kid was me. I grew up in poverty and all I’ve ever been surrounded by in my neighborhood were people comfortable with just barely getting by. To be the man I am today, I had to grow up a lot faster than my peers. I have to work twice as hard as the next guy to keep up. I broke down because that character and that song just made me think of all the stress and the strain I have been through to get to where I am today.

Ultimately, it was refreshing. It wasn’t a bad reminder of what I’ve been through. It was a chance to reflect upon all the feats that I have accomplished this far. I am beyond thankful for Progress Theatre. They were amazing and their ability to provoke such emotions from someone who had only heard of them in such a small amount of time is very powerful. If these guys were a group of Superheroes, they would definitely be a force to be reckoned with. I thoroughly enjoyed Progress Theatre and I cannot wait to be at another performance!

My name is Avery Neveille Thompson. I am a junior, Electronic Media Major and Digital Media Minor of Kuztown University. I love art and anime, so much so that I am in the progress of making my own anime called, “Blakk Starr.” I consider myself and Illustrator and a story-teller. Connect with Avery on Instagram, Facebook or his website: http://veilliestarrcomics.weebly.com/

⇐⇐ Read Audience Blog #11: “Listening & Learning” by Clara Marsh

Read Audience Blog #13: “It All Begins With Awareness” by Hanna Khan ⇒⇒

Progress Theatre

January 16th, 2017

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