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FATHERS, SONS AND THE STAGE

cast of “Jr.”

Brandon Haugabook, Antonio Jeffries, Malcolm Harris, Devin Laster and Matthew Webb (L-R) make up the cast of “Jr.,” debuting in the downtown YMCA’s Marlene Boll Theater on Nov. 2. Laster and Harris co-wrote and directed the play. The young ages of the creators and ensemble members (16-24) belie the complexity and maturity of the work. PHREDDY WISCHUSEN PHOTO

‘Jr.’ explores the nuances of being a son

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

The play “Jr.,” will debut at the downtown YMCAMarlene Boll Theater Nov. 2. The series of monologues and scenes based on real life stories about sons and their fathers was written and directed by recent Cass Tech graduate Malcolm Harris and CT alum Devin Laster, who will both act in the piece as well.

Four other young men — Brandon Fox, Antonio Jeffries, Matthew Webb and Brandon Haugabook — round out the cast.

Harris says he thought it strange when talking with friends about the relationships they have with their fathers that the majority lived in homes without their dads.

“Out of all my friends only two of them live with their fathers — have day-to-day relationships with them,” Harris told the Michigan Citizen.  “And I thought that was really sad.”

Harris says there aren’t a lot of stories being told about male relationships.

“As men we’re taught not to show any emotions. ‘Real men don’t cry,’ so we keep all of that bottled up inside, but these stories are real and I feel they need to be told somehow.”

Early in the development of “Jr.,” Harris says he kept finding himself becoming stumped.

“I work better with a partner; I need the other person’s energy to feed off to make better projects,” says Harris who worked with Laster before.  In September, the duo performed together at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. When Harris discovered Laster was working on a monologue about his own father; it was serendipity.

Laster and Harris opted to keep the set minimal to focus on the universal emotional enormity of the work. “Let it be known at the top of the show,” Laster says. “This is some real stuff.”

Antonio Jeffries plays Marcus Bedford Jr.  The character has to make a speech in class about his hero, and it’s obvious from the beginning he wants to blow it off.  Ever the class clown, Bedford picks his dad at the last minute for no other reason than knowing he can “wing it.”  But as he begins describing his father, Bedford realizes he’s never really thought of his dad as an individual before. “Doing that piece, I kind of connected,” Jeffries says,  “My dad is somewhat of my hero, because even though I’m not around him a lot, he’s still there for me, in a way.”

Harris hopes other young men will connect with the mixture of painful and inspirational stories.  The creative process itself has been revealing for Harris. “It makes me appreciate my father more,” he concludes. “I don’t see him often; we don’t really talk, but even just writing about someone else and their traumatic experiences, it makes me appreciate while its not all good, it’s not all bad. It makes me appreciate the little relationship that I do have with my dad.”

“Jr.” will be performed at the Marlene Boll Theater in Detroit’s Boll Family YMCA (1401 Broadway) on Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.

 

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