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Applause is a weekly show highlighting Northeast Ohio’s vibrant arts and culture scene. From interviews with artists to special musical performances, the show spotlights creative people in our community and beyond. Watch new episodes here or on WVIZ Ideastream Public Media Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Social: Facebook | Twitter

Akron Firestone Grad Dominic Moore-Dunson Stages 'The Black Card Project'

Dominic Moore-Dunson in Inlet Dance Theatre's "The Black Card Project" [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Dominic Moore-Dunson was conflicted about his African-American identity as a boy growing up in Akron. 

Sitting around the lunch table one day at Miller South middle school, his friends were talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. One boy said he wanted to be the next Lebron James in the NBA while another wanted to be like Michael Vick in the NFL.

Dominic Moore-Dunson (center, right) with his sixth-grade dance class at Miller South [Dominic Moore-Dunson]

"When it was my turn to say something. I said, 'Well, I want to dance in Paris or play professional soccer in England.' There's a deafening silence that went over the table and one of my friends looked at me and says, 'Bruh, that ain't black.' And all the kids started laughing," Moore-Dunson said.

Dominic Moore-Dunson playing soccer in high school [Dominic Moore-Dunson]

Now, more than a decade later, Moore-Dunson, a company member of Inlet Dance Theatre, has created a 90-minute dance play exploring African-American identity, "The Black Card Project."

"The Black Card Project" poster [Inlet Dance Theatre]

"Sometimes I feel like I was supposed to learn how to be black somewhere, but... there's no program to learn how to be black. And I kind of sat for a while, and I was like, 'What if there was a school? What if there was a school where you... learned how to be black?'" Moore-Dunson said.

Working with fellow Inlet Dance company member Kevin Parker, Moore-Dunson began creating a show about a black student whose mother sends him to the fictitious Booker T. Malcolm Luther Parks Academy of Absolute Blackness.

Kevin Parker and Dominic Moore-Dunson in "The Black Card Project" [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

"It kind of felt like a really weird version of 'The Wizard of Oz,' because you have a single character who runs into all these different characters and learns all this stuff," Moore-Dunson said.

The main character, Artie, attends his first day of school where he runs into a teacher, bully, basketball coach and God-fearing church lady.

Kevin Parker and Dominic Moore-Dunson in "The Black Card Project" [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

"We have these characters who are these stereotypes. But what if we broke the stereotype and made you learn something about them that changed you a little bit?" he said.

Moore-Dunson uses humor in the two-man show to warm up the audience.

Dominic Moore-Dunson and Kevin Parker in "The Black Card Project" [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

"You want to pull people into the show before you hit them with the really hard topics," he said. "You invite people in by making things funny, by making them fun, playing their favorite music. Now, all of a sudden, they're willing to go on the journey with you no matter where you take them."

Kevin Parker and Dominic Moore-Dunson in "The Black Card Project" [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Moore-Dunson recently staged "The Black Card Project" at his alma mater, Akron Firestone High School, now known as the Harvey S. Firestone Community Learning Center.

Dominic Moore-Dunson walks into his alma mater Akron Firestone High School (today known as Harvey S. Firestone Community Learning Center) [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

"At 14 years old, I was learning the foundations of what it meant to be a creator. At the same time, I was dealing with all these internal struggles of, well, 'can I dance? Should I be dancing? Can I play soccer? Should I be playing soccer?' But coming into this place, it was a very safe space for me to explore who I really knew I was as an artist," he said.

Dominic Moore-Dunson working with dance students at Harvey S. Firestone Community Learning Center [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

Sixteen years later, Moore-Dunson is proud "The Black Card Project" resonated with students in the audience.

"It felt like 80 to 90 percent of the audience was the exact target audience this show is for, and it gave me a sense of like, this is why we did this," he said.

While there are no upcoming performances of " The Black Card Project" scheduled, Dominic Moore-Dunson and Kevin Parker are onstage with Inlet Dance Theatre in "What Do You Do With an Idea?" at Playhouse Square March 4-8.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.