Role of a lifetime

To find himself, Donté Green first had to transform into someone else. In January 2017, he was one of 16 college actors who advanced to the finals of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition at the Region III Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Indianapolis.

While the Detroit native did not win the scholarship, he found victory in establishing himself among the competition’s 250 contestants, which included the top student-actors from universities across the Midwest.

“I couldn’t be more excited about where I ended up,” Green said. “I used to think this was something only people from New York or Los Angeles could succeed at. But this is something I can do … and excel at.”

Green came to that conclusion gradually. He arrived at SVSU in 2012 with hopes of becoming an actor. His family, though, urged him to pursue a career that offered job security and reliable wages.

“That wasn’t me,” he said. “I wanted to be an actor.”

Set to earn a bachelor’s degree in theatre in December 2017, Green auditioned for roles in SVSU productions. One of the first times he realized he made the right choice came after he landed the role of Cassio in the 2015 production of “Othello.”

“This was Shakespeare, and I thought, ‘This is amazing,’” Green said. “That made me take this seriously.”

His confidence rose to another level in November 2016 when he landed the lead role of Walter Lee in SVSU’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

The role — made famous by Sidney Poitier in the 1961 film — involved playing the patriarch of a struggling black family in 1950s Chicago.

“It was a challenge to dig deep into me to find Walter Lee,” Green said.

“My family isn’t like his family; we aren’t poor. At the same time, I could relate to him because we are both black, and whether you are the richest or poorest black man, there is still a struggle.”

Green’s interpretation of the character earned rave reviews from local arts critics. The performance, as it turned out, played well with others, too. About 60 members of his family attended the final performance.

“They support me now,” Green said. “Now they’ve seen what I can do. That support means a lot to me. It shows me I made the right choice.”

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