Naroshmi Theater Company

by Tonya Dixon | November 4th, 2010
Nathan Alston

Nathan Alston (Photo by Howard Gaither)

                         WWW.NAROSHMI.COM

Nathan Alston is a singer, actor, producer, director, promoter, playwright, dancer, choreographer and most recently an entrepreneur. He has shared the stage with everyone from Patti LaBelle to Luther Vandross. His performing arts career spans over 22 years. Alston’s craft has taken him around the globe from Europe to Australia and Fiji. He has toured with world renowned theater companies and his name has become synonymous with great performing art and quality entertainment. Nevertheless, despite all of Alston’s accolades and accomplishments his motivation comes from something much simpler yet deeply gratifying. “Knowing that I can brighten someone’s day or be a blessing to someone makes me love what I do that much more. That is what drives me,” says Alston. 

Born Roland D. Alston, Jr. Nathan is his stage name, and whether he’s called Nathan, Nate, Roland or Ro, all of which he humbly answers to; he’s still the cool guy next door that happens to be a fantastic performing artist. A local favorite, born and raised in Pleasant Garden, N.C., he has paid his dues and has spent many years in the trenches. While his professional career has spanned two decades, Alston has always been performing. Whether he was singing in the church choir or performing alongside Tony Award winning artists, his gift has always been revealed. 

“Many people ask, How does such a small guy produce such a big voice? Well it all started in church when I was maybe four or five years old,” says Alston. “For years I led songs in the junior choir at St. John Baptist in Climax, N.C. I would also sing every year at the Deep River Sunday School Convention. My grandmother Ceola Alston would always load up the car with grandchildren (and other people’s children) and we’d go to the convention…all day!” 

However, the joyous stage plays and authentic music that Alston graciously shares with the world may never have been conceived if it had not been for those early years of time well spent singing for the Lord. At a very young age Alston was diagnosed with a life threatening disease that kept him in and out of the hospital often months at a time. Nevertheless, as Alston grew he continued to sing and his family continued to pray for his healing. He recounts being at a church service with his grandmother where he was completely healed. At the amazement of the doctors, the disease could no longer be found. “The doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live past 15 years old,” says Alston. 

Since then Alston has been unstoppable. He credits his mother, Shirley Alston and high school teachers Cassandra Williams and Maggie Gallagher as well as Mabel Robinson, artistic director of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company and Donna Bradby, a North Carolina A& T State University theatre professor for his success. He titles them all as the leading ladies of his career. The veteran artist has a list of credits a mile long, but his most recent projects are what have the performing arts community buzzing. From Love Machine the Musical to Dreams of a King: The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Hello My Name is JOE (A Children’s Show), Alston is developing and building his own personal production and publishing empire. He has three shows that he has totally written, produced, directed and choreographed and two in which he starred. 

His productions are nothing short of amazing. The precisely choreographed dance moves of Love Machine the Musical are absolutely astounding. The record-breaking, top–selling tribute celebrating classic Motown and soul will have music and arts lovers quickly swaying to the ensemble’s astonishing, harmonic tunes of the time and laughing to tears with Sweet Daddy Love, the lead character who doses the audience with a bit of comedic banter and real life love advice. Spectators are admonished, “What goes on in Sweet’s house, stays in Sweet’s house.” Viewers are even cajoled to participate. The play simply draws the audience into a time when music had substance and was able to bridge any divide. Performed locally at the Barn Dinner Theatre, Love Machine became the top pre-selling show in the theater’s history and the demand for the play shows no sign of stopping. 

“When Ric Gutierrez, producer of the Barn Dinner Theatre, approached me in 2006 with the idea of [me] writing a classic Motown show, I jumped at it,” says Alston. While Love Machine continues to draw massive crowds, Alston’s Dreams of a King: The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. posed the challenge of presenting the life and story of such a great man without overwhelming viewers with historical facts. Alston took several months to prepare for the show. After much time spent researching he finally had the play ready or so he thought. “Lots and lots of studying took place. Many “first” drafts. Three months later I was finally finished! A great script, but still, something didn’t sit right with me. I had Dr. King as the lead and many great ensemble roles written, but something was missing,” says Alston. 

“It was three weeks before rehearsals were to begin. I prayed about it and God gave me the answer in a dream. I immediately rewrote the entire script, adding a new lead character, five additional songs for the show, including the title hit “Dreams of a King” and a few days later we started rehearsals. Instead of having Dr. King tell the story of his life, I introduced Shirley Jean Glover Mitchell Johnson, a lovable elderly woman who tells her story of her time well spent with a famed King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The show was a hit! We first presented the show at the Barn Dinner Theatre in 2009 and in 2010. After that, it made its appearance at the Broach Theatre in downtown Greensboro” says Alston.
What is most surprising about Alston’s production is that he is the mastermind behind the scenes. He even penned five original songs in Dreams of a King. Show or solo versions of the songs can be purchased. The projects are all composed and presented under the Naroshmi (pronounced Nah-roh-sh-mee) Theatre Company. 

“The Naroshmi Theatre Company is the new face of Nathan Alston Productions and offers nothing less than the best in professional talent,” says Alston with pride. “We introduce ourselves as a new kind of theatre company. We create and produce our own shows; we are the publisher and copyright holder of our own works [scripts and music] and we work with local studios in recording, mastering and producing our own music and commentary [for CDs], through the company’s own record label, Twyn Boi Records. We take much pride in our productions and performers, says Alston.” 

Alston understands the African American community has never been targeted as a culture that supports and patronizes the arts. Therefore, the Naroshmi Theatre Company has purposed to offer productions that have a special emphasis on the African American community. The theatre company supports and creates opportunities to introduce and teach diversity to a broader spectrum of people through the arts. 

Within the Naroshmi Theatre Company Alston has also launched The Naroshmi Project. As founder and overseer, he wanted to develop a sponsorship program designed to raise the necessary funding for future productions and the children’s theatre department as well as provide the means to produce other local and national aspiring playwrights and offer advanced career training. Providing funding for up and coming, aspiring performing artists is extremely near and dear to Alston’s heart. He believes the future of the arts is in the hands of our youth and all they need is someone to cultivate the gift that dwells inside; which is why he wrote Hello My Name is JOE. Four guys all named JOE act out awesome stories from their “Great Big Book of Stories.” The 40 minute show is packed with rhythm, audience participation and a lot of fun.

      “I love working with kids and I think that the arts should play a very important key role in their lives while growing up. Kids are like, for lack of a better word, balls of expression,” Alston excitedly says. “All tightly wound and ready to explode, full of energy and vigor, ready to take on any challenge. The arts are a perfect avenue for them to release all of their emotions and truly express who they really are. Whether it be through theatre, music, painting, dancing…whatever! The arts are very important in a young person’s life and they should be involved in it and exposed to it as much as possible.”

      For all those budding script writers who have awesome scripts but can’t get noticed, Naroshmi Theatre Company is the answer. The company understands your plight and will gladly review anyone’s script. If they feel it can be a hit, they will even produce and stage it.

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