Broke-ology focuses on African-American family relationships


Shane Flanigan

Sophomore pan-African studies major Bryan Miller-Foster (left) and Stark State College sophomore Devin Bates (right) rehearse their lines backstage during a practice run of “Broke-ology” Wednesday, Oct. 31. The Kent State University’s African Community Theatre production will run from Nov. 8-11 and Nov. 15-18 inside Oscar Ritchie Hall. Photo by SHANE FLANIGAN.

Madeleine Winer

Malcolm and Ennis King, two African-American men in their 20s, are left to take care of their ailing father, William, as his body weakens from multiple sclerosis.

However, Malcolm just earned his Master’s degree and wants to relocate for better job opportunities, while Ennis prepares for the birth of his girlfriend’s baby.

Neither brother has the time nor the means to be their father’s caretaker.

If you go:

What: “Broke-ology”

When: Thursday-Sunday and Nov. 15-Nov. 18. Thursday-Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m., and the Sunday matinee begins at 3 p.m.

Where: African Community Theatre on the 2nd floor of Oscar Ritchie Hall

How much: $7 for students and senior citizens and $10 for general admission.

“What do you do?” asked Francis Dorsey, associate professor of Pan-African Studies and director of “Broke-ology,” the African Community Theatre’s latest play that premieres Nov. 9.

Dorsey said the play, written by African-American playwright Nathan Lewis Jackson, focuses on the African-American experience of two sons’ relationship with their ailing father and with each other. Dorsey said his cast of four, a mix of Kent State students and community members, are in tune with the issues the play investigates.

“We’ve really had some heavy conversations,” said Dorsey, who has been directing plays in the African Community Theatre since 1978. “I was really surprised with the reaction of the young people in the show because they’re very concerned.”

Bryan Miller-Foster, sophomore Pan-African Studies major, said the message of the play would resonate with college students because it shows the conflict of how people actually treat their elders and how they should treat them in times of sickness.

Miller-Foster, who has performed in the last two African Community Theatre productions, stars in the play as Ennis, a “charismatic character” who sheds a comedic light on the serious situation.

“Even though we have a play with matter to it, there are comedic moments,” he said. “That’s another thing Dr. Dorsey likes to do. I think it’s a very demanding play, but it’s a fun show. You can play around with your character, and play off one another easier because it’s such a small cast.”

Lewis Finney, a retired RTA radio patrol supervisor from Cleveland, said he performed in the African Community Theatre’s production of “Stagolee” last year and has had other community theatre experience. He plays the ailing father, William, who’s wrought with mental and physical ailments.

Finney experienced a similar situation with his mother’s illness and said it’s “a commonplace thing” for people not to accept the reality of their loved one’s illness. He drew from personal experience with his mother’s illness to play his role.

“When it’s going on with your family member, you don’t see it because you don’t want to accept it,” Finney said. “We want to try to bridge that gap. I would like to get that out there so that maybe I could help somebody else.”

Brittany Stephenson, junior electronic media management major, plays William’s wife, Sonya. Stephenson is portraying Sonya for her class, the practicum for African-American performing arts. She said her character talks about the meaning of love and family from the eyes of someone who has to “keep it together” at all times.

Devin Bates, a sophomore public communication and journalism major from Stark State Community College, plays Malcolm, whom he describes as “very educated and down to earth.” Bates said he was attracted to the play for its rich African tradition.

“It’s a beautiful expression of what a true father-and-son relationship is,” Bates said. “What really got me was this was my first time working with an all-black cast. Dr. Dorsey is so strong when it comes to the African Theatre, and it’s an honor to work with him.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].