Faculty Summer Activities: Melvin Huffnagle, Actor


Assistant Professor Melvin Huffnagle starred in M Ensemble’s production of Two Trains Running by August Wilson in May.

Set in the turbulent 1960s, the play unfolds in a diner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood, where a diverse group of characters gathers amidst the backdrop of social change and urban development. The story tells of their struggles, dreams, and aspirations, providing a powerful exploration of race, community, and the search for justice in a rapidly evolving world.

It was part of Wilson’s renowned Century Cycle of plays all set in the same neighborhood covering each decade of the 20th century.

Huffnagle as Memphis Lee. Photo by Christa Ingraham.

Huffnagle played Memphis Lee, the owner of the restaurant where the play takes place.

“Huffnagle gets several lengthy Wilson soliloquies (or arias, perhaps?) and tears into them with a magnetic commitment,” wrote Christine Dolen in her review of the play for Artburst Miami. “He relates a horrifying story about how Memphis was cheated out of his farmland back in Jackson, and he makes the telling of it so vivid that you want to weep.”

“I always feel a sense of growth and satisfaction whenever I perform in one of August Wilson’s plays,” says Huffnagle. “The Playwright really challenges the actor to dig deep below the surface of the words. He demands the actor to mine through the scripts and bring these characters to life on stage. I live for that!”

The production was directed by Andre Gainey. FIU Theatre colleagues Geordan Gottlieb (technical director) and Jennifer Ivey (scenic painter) also worked on the production.

M Ensemble is the longest running black professional theatre company in the state of Florida. Founded in 1971, its mission is to promote the African American culture and experiences through the performing arts.

“A big shout out to artistic directors and co-founders of the company, Shirley Richardson and Patricia Williams, for the legacy that they uphold in this historic theatre in South Florida,” says Huffnagle.

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