Terrace Wyatt’s play “Mel ‘n E [Melanin & Educated]” defined the meaning of melanin from his perspective. Wyatt focused on how black empowerment impacts the lives of young people of color, especially how they see the world while being black in America. He also focused on how young adults think about the world and find solutions to live in a healthy and safe environment.
Wyatt’s work was inspired by Amanda Underwood and Tyler Perry.
“Freshman year, Jewell alumni, Amanda Underwood wrote an original play titled ‘Torn,’ a one-act play that touches on the dangerous effects of suicide and how important it is to discuss this situation versus ending your life too soon, especially as a young adult/teen,” said Wyatt.
Underwood gave Wyatt the idea to exercise his expressions through writing, then acting.
“Her efforts, her presence, everything she put into this production has moved me to do so myself,” said Wyatt. “She’s not only my best friend I’ve met since day one, but she is also one of the reasons to never be afraid to speak up when you’re telling a story that you believed needs to be told; whether or not society likes it.”
“Tyler Perry is an example of show business. He started as a playwright; he had a dream of making it big from his first play “I Know I’ve Been Changed” in 1998. Hoping 20,000-30,000 people would show up, only 30 showed up but few in the audience invested in his craft and gave him a platform to tell his stories not just because of the important messages, but the amount of energy through comedy and drama together he plays around with is what the theatre world needs to see.”
The world we live in now has led to this story. It needed to be said based on the news, politics and racial issues.
Despite the comedy, Wyatt wanted the audience to understand that no matter your race or gender, every individual was made to be equal. This message is especially for African-Americans who’ve been treated like they are fictional characters.
Wyatt presents the meaning of melanin through black empowerment. The art forms created by all black men and women have been sources of empowerment for all people of color, not just for black people. All aspects of melanin art are what brought all people of color together to enjoy each other’s presence, instead of the premature death of youth today.
Wyatt conveys the message that life is too short to waste on someone who got the best of you instead of forgiving them and moving on with your life. Wyatt learned this from Tyler Perry’s plays. Perry discusses topics everybody can relate to, saying that life is short, so enjoy it while you still have one.
Wyatt stated that his favorite part of the show is the visual effects for the projector screen designed by Elise Villarreal, junior English and theater major. Villarreal’s effects made the show even more dynamic. Before the show started, and during intermission, Wyatt talked to his production team about what he wanted in the show, and they made it happen as best as they could. There were also slides showing pop culture references that defined the art of melanin.
Wyatt’s target audience was the faculty, college students and people in general. The show takes place in a college dorm where the character took the opportunity to express how he feels, not just as the only black student at a predominantly white school, but as a college student in general. Every subject the character talks about is something every person can relate to, whether you went to college, have experienced negativity caused by the color your skin, family crisis or relationships. The play mostly covers topics that reflect the status of today’s society, especially the lives of young adults today.
When Wyatt wrote “Mel ‘n E,” he knew what he wanted to bring something other than ridiculous comedy to the stage. He mainly wanted to deliver the important messages involving today’s society, including lack of world peace, police brutality towards black men and how we as individuals can choose to live our lives hating each other or loving each other.
Act two was a struggle for Wyatt because he had never expressed his inner thoughts in such a deep way before.
On top of that, the topics that were mentioned in the show were personal. Wyatt found that he best way to release the pain he was experiencing was through writing. He hardly expressed how he felt to his family or friends, and he got very uncomfortable having serious conversations.
Playwriting is the best way for Wyatt to release his emotions because it gives him the confidence to get everything off his chest as a performer. He also enjoys every second on stage and letting his voice be heard in front of a live audience, almost like a two-hour therapy session.
It is important to write because you can get what’s on your mind off your chest.
All his life Wyatt has observed things such as how people think, choices of clothing, music and other life decisions.
As a Theatre major, Wyatt learned that if you want to write a story, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, always observe your surroundings. Anything you witness can give you ideas for a story. Stories don’t have to be based on what you see from other people, they can be based on what you’ve experienced in your life.
Once you know what to write about, there will be times when you’re going to rethink what you’re putting on the paper because every source you collect won’t always work. As soon as you have a vision of the show in your head, think of the purpose of the play using the 5 W’s: Who? What? When? Where? Why?. You should also know how the story is connecting and question the importance of what you’re bringing to the stage.
“Mel ‘n E” was the first full-length play that Wyatt created, but he is in the middle of creating more. Along with films and musicals to share with the world, he hopes to find the right organizations outside of Hollywood to help him bring them to life.
“Mel ‘n E” took about 1 ½ years between Junior year and holiday breaks to complete the writing lab process. With any play or musical that’s an original, the writing process never stops because ideas are always popping into the writers’ heads.
In late November, Wyatt was in his room watching John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” on Netflix. Watching this Broadway production got him standing on his feet observing this man delivering the best performance in Broadway history as a one-man show. Wyatt immediately grabbed his Ipad and started writing his first rough draft. Before it was officially titled “Mel ‘n E [Melanin & Educated],” it was first titled “Life’s A Happy Hell.”
Wyatt and theater professor Chris McCoy have been working on this day after day. McCoy guided him down the right path considering the show’s plot. It felt like he had been in the writing lab for life because that’s how it feels when you’re writing an original play. Over the summer, while getting off book and knowing what he wanted from the show, Wyatt went over his lines, cutting some things out for the sake of time and connections. No matter how good it sounded, if it didn’t connect, he took it out.
Instead of getting rid of lines, dialogues and monologues that Wyatt worked so hard on, he saved them in a folder of Google Docs. This went on until the day before opening night. More ideas had to be cut for timing. If Wyatt hadn’t made these tough decisions, “Mel ‘n E” would have lasted three to four hours.
The play turned out to be a major success for both Wyatt and his production team, without whom the show would’ve been a tragic mess.