Wiggins, founder of WCU Black Theatre Ensemble, wins Governor’s Award

CULLOWHEE – Alfred W. Wiggins, founder of Western Carolina University’s Black Theatre Ensemble, has been selected as a 2001 recipient of the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Excellence.

Wiggins, associate professor of communication and theatre arts at WCU until his retirement this past summer, is among 12 state employees selected to receive awards Monday, Oct. 22, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Wiggins, who received WCU’s Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for faculty in May, was nominated for the state award in the “human relations” category.

Robert Vartabedian, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, nominated Wiggins for his creation of an ensemble dedicated to sharing the nation’s rich cultural heritage and celebrating the African-American experience through performance. “In his role with the Black Theatre Ensemble, Al selflessly contributes hundreds of hours of advising, directing, acting and mentorship. Clearly, he is a wonderful role model for all students,” Vartabedian said.

Vartabedian quotes from Wiggins himself about why he established the ensemble: “Many of Western’s black students had never heard of many famous black people and knew little of the black heritage. I wanted to at least put them in touch with their history and culture, and provide them an opportunity to perform before audiences that share with them an appreciation of that history and culture.”

Over the years, the ensemble has performed on campus, across Western North Carolina, and in several Southeastern and Midwestern states. The group has presented several of Wiggins’ original works, including “Chickasaw Park,” a nostalgic play set during a time when most parks and other public facilities in Wiggins’ hometown of Louisville, Ky., — and elsewhere in the South — were segregated. Wiggins joined the WCU faculty in 1986, teaching in the areas of television writing and production, directing for the camera, and comparative film studies. He also is well known as a professional actor, with numerous television and movie roles to his credit.