The UCSC African American Theater Arts Troupe came together in 1991 with their first performance as a student group mentored by Don Williams. The first performance, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, was produced and directed by Don Williams in May 1992. This production, through donations alone, raised $1500 to establish the African American Student Scholarship Fund. The production ran for four nights at Stevenson College and in attendance we had 250 staff, students, and community members nightly.
The African American Theater Arts Troupe has several missions and goals that it is always striving to obtain. One of the primary missions of this Theater Arts Troupe is to have a direct affect on quality of life, for African American students. Additionally, AATAT provides an African American Scholarship Fund to encourage and support the professional growth of African American actors. While serving as a vehicle to expose African American theater to this campus and community, AATAT provides its students with an enriched college experience regardless of their history.
AATAT provides an outlet for the creative talents of African-American artists and encourages the development of marked abilities in theater on many different levels giving them confidence with community support. AATAT supplements the UCSC experience with honest, vital, interesting, exciting, moving, and colorful theatre, reflecting the historic reality of the African American life.
To ensure success of the students, AATAT offers four major scholarships through the African American Scholarship Fund, t awarded annually to the most outstanding students. Two are based primarily on financial need, one is based on academic standing and the fourth is based primarily on leadership and support in AATAT’s current production. These are awarded based on the consultation by a five-panel committee consisting of a financial aid officer, African American Student Life Director, an African American student representative, an SAA/EOP representative, and the AATAT producer/director, Don Williams.
AATAT not only casts people of all walks, but often times, also makes a strong effort to be inclusive of people from the greater community of Santa Cruz. Since the Troupe's pioneer year, we have increased our outreach productions to the greater community by teaming up with the Santa Cruz Arts Commission, as well as the Seaside Arts Commission and the Community Partnership for Youth (CPY). CPY is an after school and intersession program that sponsors prevention programs for children from at-risk environments. The newest of our partnerships has been First Night Santa Cruz. The Troupe has an open door for such venues as the Louden Nelson Community Center, Cabrillo College, Monterey Peninsula College, the Oldemeyer Center at Seaside, Santa Cruz High, Harbor High, and several junior high schools in the Seaside, Monterey area.
AATAT aids the lack of support at UCSC through engaging educational activities that retain our students and help maintain quality educational programs for African American students and the wider community. We have been achieving this through the scholarship fund and exposing students to professional level productions that bring history and experience to life. AATAT served to set the tone for Rainbow Theater, produced a few years later.