May 30, 2020
Courtesy Fresno State

University Theatre welcomes its first African-American musical

Fresno State’s University Theatre proudly presents its last production of the semester and first ever African-American musical, “Carmen Jones,” directed by Thomas-Whit Ellis on May 3 through 11 at the John Wright Theatre on campus.

According to a University Theatre news release, the musical features an all African-American cast in Ellis’ new, original concept of a 1970s fictionalized version of a historically-black college based on Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy’s adaptation of Prosper Merimee’s “Carmen,” written by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Georges Bizet. The original story comes from a 1940s parachute factory.

“The major thing with this production, which hasn’t been done before, is it’s taking place on a black college campus during the early 70s,” professor Ellis said in the release. “This lends itself to black college life; step shows, black nationalism, etc. We also see a schism between the black fraternity/sorority community and the noncollege-educated workers who render support services to those students.”  

During the 1970s, Joe, a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) student, is enrolled at a historically-black college where Carmen Jones is employed at the campus cafeteria. Jones soon manages to steal Joe away from his fiancée and the ROTC as they run off to Chicago together. As the story unfolds, Carmen loses interest in Joe when she meets Husky Miller, a prize fighter on his way to the top.

Mad with jealousy, Joe waits for Carmen outside the stadium the night of Husky’s big fight to make a last desperate plea for her love. When she denies him, he stabs her to death in a rage of passion as the crowd cheers on Husky inside the stadium.

Performances are on May 3, 4 and May 7 through 11 beginning at 7:30 p.m. The May 5 performance begins at 2 p.m. Latecomers will be seated at the house manager’s discretion.

Tickets are available on the University Theatre website. They are priced at $20 for adults; $18 for Fresno State faculty, staff, alumni and military; and $12 for all students. Children under 5 are not admitted.

Group rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Box office hours are open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays and one hour before each performance.

This production is sponsored by Fresno State’s Office of the President.

Parking is free for shows on Friday through Sunday night. For shows on Tuesday through Thursday nights, parking permits are required and can be purchased for $4 at dispensers in parking lots on campus.For more information, contact the box office at 559-278-2216 or at

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