The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) opened its production of Anne & Emmett at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center on April 20, 2013.
A one act play that explores an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, both victims of racial intolerance and hatred. The beyond-the-grave encounter draws the startling similarities between the two youths’ harrowing experiences and the atrocities against their respective races.
Teddy Harrell, Jr. directed a cast that included Shawn Burgess, Zasha Shary, Kandace Crystal, Sheldon Cohen and Tommy O’Brien.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT) has just opened its version of Anne & Emmett at Miami’s African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. And, like the play itself, the production is uneven.
The most valuable asset director Teddy Harrell Jr. has in AAPACT’s Anne & Emmett is Burgess. The young actor gives a rich, credible performance as a teen whose vibrant nature and humor give way to traumatized stuttering and an understandable refusal to revisit his demise in words.
The rest of the cast is problematic. Shary, who is making her stage debut, has two chief emotional modes: angry and dreamy. She mispronounces some words (“Hedy Lamarr” becomes “Heidi Lamarr,” for example), and sometimes comes off as a petulant brat. Crystal gives an earnest performance as Till’s mother, but she’s so young (seemingly so close in age to Burgess) that she’s hard to buy in the role. Cohen fumbles and stumbles in trying to remember lines, undercutting his effectiveness. As J.W. Millam, one of Till’s acquitted killers, Tommy O’Brien spews unrepentant racism and hatred.
Michelle Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
Director Teddy Harrell, Jr. lets Langhart Cohen’s piece speak for itself, adding staging that creates wonderfully framed pictures to the thoughtful script — this imagined crossing of paths.
Burgess as Emmett is the standout here. He’s likeable, adding a bit of adolescent swagger to the boy who hoped to grow up to be a comedian or a motorcycle policeman. His awestruck innocence is infectious when he closes his eyes to take us through a bit of modern Black History
Shary’s Anne Frank is solid as a rock, smart as a whip, and as determined as one might imagine this heroine to be. Her overwhelming emotion at the horror of Emmett’s story is heart-wrenching and real.
AAPACT’s Anne & Emmett is a beautifully constructed portrait of two young heroes who, unbeknownst to them, made a world of difference.
The African-American Performing Arts Community Theater (AAPACT) production of Anne & Emmett plays at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center through May 12, 2013.