‘Step Off’ at the Manship

The battle line has been drawn, and the Mus will face off the Thetas for the coveted Pearl.

But the once dominant Alpha Mu sorority hasn’t beaten Kappa Theta in this dance competition in the past five years.

Maxine has to remedy that.

She’s adviser to Alpha Mu, the sorority over which she presided while in college, and has decided to hire a choreographer with Debbie Allen skills.

Maxine also has pledged to step down as adviser if Alpha Mu doesn’t win the trophy.

It’s a formula for chaos in Greg Williams Jr.’s comedy, “Step Off.”

New Venture Theatre, of which Williams is founder and producing artistic director, will open the play on Thursday, in the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre at the Manship Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts.

New Venture first performed Williams’ play in 2007.

“I ran across it while putting together plays for this season,” Williams says. “I took it off the shelf, started reading it and thought, ‘You know, I would like to revisit this.’ ”

Williams has rewritten parts of the script and further developed the characters.

“I wanted this to be a play that’s like a musical,” Williams says. “The cast just doesn’t sing songs. But it does feel like a musical, and there are no villains in this story. Everyone has their dark side.”

Williams first wrote the play as a tribute to his family members’ involvement in sororities at historically black colleges. Competition was fierce among the organizations.

Williams loved hearing the stories growing up, and knew he could capture the over-the-top drama and comedy in a play.

“I became a theater major in college,” Williams says. “And I feel like this is my part in my family’s experience.”

Williams talked with family sorority members while writing the play, making sure his story stayed true to the real-life organizations that inspired his story. The result is a fun-filled battle where not everything is as it seems.

Williams brought in Dwight Bell to choreograph the dance scenes, and he added muses to narrate the story.

Carissa Cropper plays one of the muses.“I test the material on my two kids,” she says. “I have a daughter who’s 11 and a 10-year-old son.”

Her daughter helps with the dance steps, Cropper says, “and my son watches my facial expressions and gives me tips.”

She co-narrates “Step Off,” and morphs into two other characters along the way. In the end, everyone becomes a character in this story.

“I’m all about knocking down that fourth wall,” Williams says. “The audience becomes both spectator and participant in this contest, which falls apart before their eyes in the second act. And the winner is a surprise. Just when you think you know who’s going to win, that might not be the case.”

CAST: Bianca Siplin, Maxine; Amber Smith, Dreama; Jessica Carter, Oops; Denice King, Zaydra; Nikisha Kelly, Chyene; Nina Eaglin, Norma; Krystal Blaicher, Bliss; Christin Rankins, Muse 1; Carissa Cropper, Muse 2; Aron Ardoin, Adorn; Brendon Guerin, Titus; Karl Jackson, Marcus; Muse Dancers -- Rain Allen, Mariah Mendez, Jyla Ford, Shira Blanchard, Kelsea Barnes, R’Myni Watson and Jasmine Ceazer.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Greg Williams Jr., director; Kelly Latchie, set designer; Alvin Temple, costumer; Dwight Bell, choreographer; Christopher D. Daniel, stage manager; Caiden Crockett, assistant director.