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Detroit playwright looks to Internet to finance production

“Jr.” authors and directors Devin Laster (left) and Malcolm Harris           PHREDDY WISCHUSEN PHOTO

“Jr.” authors and directors Devin Laster (left) and Malcolm Harris
PHREDDY WISCHUSEN PHOTO

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

Each week in this paper, Grace Lee Boggs talks about “solutionaries,” people finding ways to provide what is needed in their communities. Malcolm Harris and Devin Laster are two such young men, whose play “Jr.” uses true stories to investigate the relationships between fathers and sons. Harris, 18,  believes the nuanced and intricate way the ensemble of young Black men examines those relationships can have an impact that goes far beyond the theater walls.

“In Detroit, in America, every time the TV comes on, there are images depicting young Black men as dangerous,” Harris told the Michigan Citizen. He hopes “Jr.,” both as a piece of art and as an activity showcasing the talents/work ethic of the actors, tells a different story.

Not only did Harris and Laster write the play, they also directed it, perform in it, costumed and produced it over three different runs. Now they are aiming at producing a longer, more professional-style run in Detroit and taking the show on the road to other cities.

So far, the show has been accepted to two theater festivals, one in Los Angeles, the other in Minnesota. But production and travel carry a big price tag, so Harris has turned to an Internet-based crowdfunding website, indiegogo.com, to raise the money to take the men and the play to the next level. Recently, Spike Lee funded the production of his latest movie entirely through a crowdfunding website.

Donors to the play’s fundraising campaign earn rewards including “Jr.” T-shirts and tickets to upcoming performances, scheduled to run May-July 2014. The site can accept donations as small as $1 and every amount greater.

Harris believes that all men will benefit from taking a closer look at their relationship with their father, and women can gain valuable insight about the men in their lives from this play. “People don’t do better, because they don’t know better,” he says.

The play’s journey has helped Harris to process his own feelings about the relationship with his father and become a stronger person, he says.

Regardless of how they participate — be it donating to the Indeigogo, watching the play, or working in their communities — “Everyone,” Harris says, “should be hands on in empowering young men.”

To donate or learn more about “Jr.,” visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/junior-a-stage-play–2/x/6054703.

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