|Posted on December 16, 2009 at 2:04 PM|
Diuguid's column: A black writer's thought-provoking play
By Lewis Diuguid, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist
Heads of passers-by turned as T. J. Strong led the actors through warm-up voice, diction and projection exercises at the Bethany Community Center in Kansas City, Kan. That’s where the troupe for months has rehearsed for the July 26 debut of the play, “Just in Love II: Addicted 2 Love.” “Bay, Bee, Bah, Bo, Boo…. Gay, Gee, Gah, Go, Goo….”
These were lessons Strong picked up as a theater major at Kansas State University. I got to know Strong when I studied with the Class of 1999 at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan. — from the students’ freshman year until they graduated — to learn what it was like to be a teen and teacher.
Tim was the high-energy class vice president who liked to write and act and went on to study theater in college. But life got in the way with its own tragedies and drama, including love gone wrong, a son Strong adores, trouble with the law and now redemption.
I’ve kept long letters and e-mails from Strong. I’ve watched him grow from a teen to a man who fully accepts responsibility for his actions and who has lifted himself up, with the help of family, friends and faith, to the person he has always wanted to be. Over the years he has shared scripts with me that he has written. He wrote “Just in Love II: Addicted 2 Love.”
I’ve always advised him to write what he knows, what he has witnessed and lived. We talked about that over lunch at the Q Brew coffee shop on Quindaro Boulevard, near where Strong grew up. The cast, starting in May at the coffee shop, has performed sneak previews of the play for eager audiences. The troupe rehearses Fridays and Saturdays at the Bethany Community Center for the play Strong directs and acts in.
I have watched many of the early performances and enjoyed seeing Strong make his dream come true. The play is about the everyday struggles of black men and women, their relationships, love for God, each other and the unity of the black family.
Patricia "Rated R" George, a stand-up comic who plays the mother, Sissy, said the play is funny, serious and controversial. “I think the audience is going to get a real strong anti-drug message,” George said. She said she has enjoyed working with Strong, whom she called a young man with “some serious experience.”
Carl “Big C” Hunter, who plays Mac, the father of many flaws, said Strong’s play is poignant in showing the black family’s enduring strength. “No matter what fathers go through, they still hang in there with their families,” he said.
Strong said he wrote the play to appeal to everyday people, but to particularly bring out the value of the black experience in America. The play is to help bridge our many divides with humor, seriousness and drama, which is how Strong has lived.
“This script, it’s real life,” said JacyNicole, who plays Jazzmyn. It’s about everyday people and everyday struggles. People who have seen the previews said they liked the passion and emotion in the play. I think it’s riveting, too.
"It’s got the black church in it, and some parts are sad, others will make audiences gasp and laugh out loud," said Yohannah Angelette Laws, who plays MaShell. “It makes you think a lot,” she said.
Thinking is what more people must do to create a better world for themselves, their families and our community.I am glad Strong has become a playwright and a catalyst for that positive push these many years after class at Washington High School.
Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star’s Editorial Board. To reach him, call (816) 234-4723 (816) 234-4723 or send e-mail to [email protected] Submitted by Lewis W Diuguid on July 1, 2008 - 2:58pm. login or register to post comments | 184 reads
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