JSU performing arts shines bright at historic NASDA conference earning top accolades

JACKSON, Miss. – Jackson State performing arts students stole the spotlight at the 84th Annual Conference of The National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts (NASDA). The NASDA conference, founded in 1936, serves as the oldest national educational theatre organization in the United States. The conference was hosted by Coppin State University, April 5-9, in Baltimore.

In the student competition, four JSU students received superior, excellent, and good marks; while also securing superior and excellent marks in three of the group performance categories.

Prior to the creation of NASDA, African Americans students seeking opportunities to expand their performing arts ability were often denied access to other mainstream theatre organizations.

 “This is important because our students were not accepted or even allowed to attend/compete in other theatre organizations,” says Mark Henderson, Ph.D., associate professor of Speech Communication at JSU.

Eleven JSU theatre and MADDRAMA students were among more than 200+ students in attendance from over 30 HBCUs. The conference provided a three-fold developmental program that allowed students to expand their craft via on-stage performances, interactive workshops, and student competitions.

JSU performing arts student, Christian Johnson (on the right) delivering awarding winning performance at 2022 NASDA conference.

Theatre major Christian Johnson, a junior, had a life-changing experience securing multiple awards for on-stage performances as well as snagging the unexpected opportunity to serve as national student body president for the organization.

“I came in with the mindset of competition. I came in to win, not necessarily network. But after connecting with other students, I relaxed and just wanted to have fun during this experience,” shares Johnson, who picked up two first-place awards in both the one-act playgroup competition and reader’s theatre competition.

In the years of JSU attending the conference, Henderson touches on how the institution has established a sturdy reputation as a competitive body of theatre practitioners who show up and masterfully show out. This perspective is affirmed by the majority of national student office positions held by JSU performing arts students.

“Our students stood out as they always do because we have been known to take a larger group than other schools, and we are seen as the school to ‘compete’ against…the other schools know that we are always coming with our A-game,” says Henderson.

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