The African American Theatre Arts Troupe (AATAT) is a student-based organization that came together under the leadership and direction of Donald Williams in 1991. AATAT was formed as a vehicle to create unity, higher visibility, and understanding of the African American culture here at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the greater Santa Cruz community. AATAT not only casts UCSC students from different educational backgrounds, but also casts students that have little or no experience with acting, technical, and administrative work. This allows anyone the opportunity to get involved with the program. The troupe is the only one of its kind in the UC System.
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.
To ensure success of the students, AATAT offers four major scholarships through the African American Scholarship Fund, 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 intercession 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.
In addition to validating and affirming the cultural experiences of African Americans on campus, AATAT's goal is to raise funds for the awarding of the annual scholarships. The troupe delights in awarding at least five thousand dollars in scholarships to individuals participating in the program exhibiting exemplary academic performance. Since 1993, AATAT has raised over $100,000 in annual scholarship funding.
•Workshops facilitated by AATAT students create an atmosphere to introduce theater performance and technique from a historical perspective.
•Students engage in various theater games and improvisations.
• Students participate in a discussion about higher education, social life, academics, and cultural awareness.
• Brings multicultural theater to high schools in Los Angeles and the greater Bay area.
• Offers information about the UC system, college and admissions in areas with a high minority population offering insight into college life, academics and the application process.
•Provide an analytical perspective on plays and playwrights of color.
•Educates students on the history of theater with an emphasis on African American playwrights, actors, directors and their presence in communities around the world.