“Between Riverside and Crazy” premieres at the Black Box Theatre on Friday night with UF student actors performing alongside a professor who has stretched their acting capabilities.


“Between Riverside and Crazy” is a drama focused on Walter Pops Washington, a retired New York City policeman, and the complicated ties grounding him to his Riverside Drive apartment. Michael Pinkney, a professor at the School of Theatre and Dance (SoTD), plays Walter. In the rehearsal process, the cast works with Pinkney to explore themes related to race, politics and family.


Pinkney “is a legend in New York,” said Andy Prescott, an MFA acting student playing the role of Lieutenant Caro. “It’s nice to work with him outside the parameters of academia and watch him do his work.”


Pinkney has a rich theatrical background. He was the youngest black person to direct for the Broadway stage. He has been teaching at the SoTD for 24 years. On top of balancing his responsibilities as director and professor, Pinkney believes that acting alongside students offers an immersive opportunity to further their education.


“When I’m an actor, I have an opportunity to teach by example,” Pinkney said. “How I pay attention to the text, understand the logic and ask questions leaves an impression.”


“Between Riverside and Crazy,” which runs from Friday through Sept. 30, deals with realistic issues and raw characters, offering numerous questions for both the actor and audience to answer. Despite these apparent difficulties, rehearsals and script analysis help to unlock these hidden truths and initiate discussions for clarity, Pinkney said.


“We get into interesting conversations about the characters and their relationships during the rehearsal process,” he said. “We are able to fill in the gaps … and weave together possibilities about how the characters’ relationships affect one another.”


Although “Between Riverside and Crazy” handles serious topics and issues, the production is littered with comical moments delivered by Pinkney. He is always full of energy and continually switches up the delivery of his lines, Prescott said, which keeps the character dynamic and fresh.


“He’ll come at you, and it’s true and real, but it’s also very hilarious,” Prescott said. “It’s fun to have that thrown at you while trying to not break character during the scene.”


Pinkney is always raising the bar and inspiring his students to reach new heights, said Tim Altmeyer, an associate professor at the SoTD and director of “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Through the cast’s work, Altmeyer is discovering more about the play and about himself as a director.  


“Having Pinkney at the center of this production is like having Lebron James or Abby Wambach on the team,” Altmeyer said. “I am crazy lucky to have him.”

Play: “Between Riverside and Crazy”