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How one man is transforming lives on stage and in the classroom

flippling-the-script-fmu-keFlipping the script

How one man is transforming lives on stage and in the classroom

Story and photos by Arri Henry

IG: @heavensent928

“Hey Mr. Wade.”

“What’s up Mr. Wade!”

Whether it is popularity or simply being well-respected, Professor Keith Wade can barely take ten steps on campus without being greeted by the students of Florida Memorial University.

Rocking a fitted navy colored blazer, a crisp coral collared shirt, jeans and a pair of hi-tops, he’s calm and cool as he enters the classroom where his Ensemble Acting workshop students seem to eagerly await his appearance. Almost without being instructed, the students stand and repeat tongue twisting phrases like “Unique New York, Beyond Successful Dissle Siffer” as an enunciation exercise which adequately pre-pares them for today’s discussion on Acting Stereotypes of the Black Male.

Prof. Wade boldly breaks down the stereotypes of the “Mandingo”, “Coon” and the “Thug”; revealing an ugly, overly oppressed past that forces Black men into these categories in reality and on screen. The students are engaged, appalled and inquisitive throughout the mind-blowing discussion. Many shouted out their opinions. It’s an open floor.

The discussion heats up quickly, a student brings up Tyler Perry during the Coon/Sambo explanation, which questioned if a man who is obnoxiously very happy, laughing, lazy, irresponsible or dressed in heels is worth the laugh. Many of his students now think differently of the popular Madea character. It’s lectures such as these that challenge and transform his students every time they attend Wade’s class. Many admitting that he has shifted their perspectives for the better.

“It’s hard not to come to class, the insight that he delivers is phenomenal,” explained one FloMo freshman.

More students confess that being apart of Wade’s class has forced them out of their comfort zones and prepared them for public speaking and acting be-cause of his enthusiastic teaching style. He’s serious about his craft, intentional in his words yet hilarious to be around most of the time. Some of Wade’s pupils are already transitioning into the professional acting industry. Barry Jenkins took five students directly from the professor’s class to star in his critically acclaimed film, MOONLIGHT.

But before Keith Wade be-came a real life black Clark Kent, professor by day, actor by night, he openly describes his nights of homelessness as a child.

“My mother and I would sleep in her car, bathe in the restroom at the M Ensemble Theatre Company where she worked and over the course of time, the staff invited to me to work backstage which ultimately propelled me into my love for acting and directing.”

Inspired by legends such as Sidney Portier and the late Ossie Davis, he imparts that self-respect is a minimum when choosing a role. When he’s not teaching or performing, Wade is writing, editing, directing or indulging in a comic book. He’s a kid at heart who is discovering that his most important audience of his career may be the students at Florida Memorial University in Miami, FL.

Observe Keith Wade’s talent in the world premiere screening of “The Order” a web series on Dec. 1, 2016 at 8 p.m. in the FIU/FUN auditorium, 15800 N.W. 42 Ave., Miami, Fla. Entrance is $3 in advance or $5 at the door.


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