Wayne State University Gets Black Theatre Program Director

hen Billicia Hines, Wayne State University's new Black Theatre Program director, came to Detroit from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, she didn't expect that she alone would be the Black Theatre Program.

"Just to be straight up," explains Hines, "Anybody can see that the whole theater department is White."

Hines, 35, is the first to land the role since Aku Kadogo left Wayne State in 2010. The program, established nearly 50 years ago, hasn't had continuous leadership, says Hines.

"It hasn't moved up to where it could be," Hines says. "It would drop off, so it's never had that time to continually build up."

Hines, who already has family ties to Detroit, says her first move as director was to get her students more involved in the community.

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"I brought students (into high schools) to show kids there are Black students who are theater majors, and (they) can be, too" Hines says. Seeing a real-life African-American who is in theater has a greater affect on students than reading about Blacks in theater, she adds.

"They are going to need to see faces that represent them-and in more activities that represent them," says Hines. "If all your life you've encountered White people who have denied you opportunity, will this community really trust that face?"

Hines stresses the importance of Black theater not only at Wayne State but in greater Detroit at large, pointing out that WSU is in a city that's majority African-American; about 83 percent, by the latest census count.

"That's just automatic to me," Hines says. "I see a big gap between the community and Wayne State-particularly, with the African-American community." Hines says there should be a Black theater program in every college-especially in a majority-black city. Theater, she says, will only enhance the city's sense of passion and pride.

"Even though there was a bankruptcy, even though there are some issues with utilities cutting off-any craziness, the people have pride to be here," she says. "And that makes me happy."

And pride, she says, will lead you far, on and off the stage. "Wherever you are, if you don't have pride, you don't have anything."

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