SALEMBURG — An avid supporter of the arts, North Carolina’s first lady Kristin Cooper was more than happy to visit Tarheel ChalleNGe Wednesday and take part in an unique experience presented to students at the school.
The Sampson Arts Council was the recipient of a cARTwheels grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, which allowed students to experience five days with actor and playwright Mike Wiley, who presented his one-man production, “Jackie Robinson: A Game Apart,” and held teacher and student workshops throughout the week.
Cooper made the visit to take part in the opportunity.
“The cARTwheels program provides high quality stage performances and residency experiences to students across the state,” Sampson Arts Council executive director Kara Donatelli said. “The grant includes a teacher workshop, two 50-minute live performances and four days of student workshops.”
According to Donatelli, the teacher workshop and the student residency events included participation by Wiley, as well as North Carolina award winning playwright and poet Howard Craft. Wiley presented his first performance Monday for the students and staff at Tarheel ChalleNGe, and a second, free to the public, will be presented Thursday at Sampson Community College at 4 p.m. for the community.
“The Sampson Arts Council has enjoyed partnering with Tarheel ChalleNGe and Sampson Community College to provide a unique and memorable experience for students in Sampson County,” Donatelli explained. “This is the first artist residency experience for Tarheel ChalleNGe and we hope to offer more arts opportunities for their students in the future.”
Wednesday, during Cooper’s visit, she was able to take part in one of Wiley’s student workshops, where he talked with the cadets about taking charge in their future.
“Eighteen years ago, I decided I didn’t want to wit for someone to give me my opportunity,” Wiley stressed. “So, I made my own opportunity.”
Wiley’s performances and workshops include audience participation, and Wednesday’s session wasn’t any different. The cadets, Tarheel ChalleNGe staff, Cooper and her staff were all invited to engage in the experience.
Wiley has 15 years of credits in documentary theatre for young audiences, plus film, television and regional theatre. He has written 10 original plays and performs as a one-man show, portraying up to 30 characters in one performance.
An Upward Bound alum and Trio Achiever Award recipient, he is graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a masters in fine arts and is a former Lehman-Brady visiting joint chair professor at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. He has conducted numerous educational residencies funded through grant programs of the North Carolina Arts Council.
Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities across the country. In the early days of his career, Wiley found few theatrical resources to shine a light on key events and figures in African-American history.
Jackie Robinson: A Game Apart provides a glimpse of Jackie’s Robinson’s life during the time of segregation.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.