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Where Is Our Story?

The NY Times recently featured Choir Boy, by award winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, at the Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center in not one, but two different articles. What’s exceptional about this is not that the articles appeared in just days of each other, literally; but, that the show, as suggested to many by the title, employs a cast majority of young African American males. Hard to believe, only because Broadway would have us to think that African American male actors don’t exist; well at least no more than three at a time. Choir Boy is McCraney’s latest feat. The show centers on five boys; among them, Pharus, in a quest to lead the school choir, and deals with topics like sexuality and status.

Genuinely, I’m happy the show employs a cast of young black actors and gives them an opportunity to display the talent that they possess yet personally it raises several questions. Honestly, it’s as if these themes are the only ones resonant of African American men. The whole issue of hyper masculinity in our culture, of course it’s one that is pertinent and consistent, but there has to be more to talk about. Music, a catalyst is this production, is said to be key; not unlike many other shows that house African American actors.

In comparison, take a look at The Scottsboro Boys. The show managed to find life on and even beyond the scope of Broadway, recently closing in Los Angeles. Set to music and dance, it employed a group of African American men and tackled a grave subject of American History.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d gladly accept the opportunity to see both contemporary works but in regard to subject matter, on paper, the question becomes are our stories truly being told? Do contemporary lives of African American men, and women for that matter, even exist on a broader stage? Or one that goes beyond our religious and sexual identities?

All in all, there is no question of praise or greatness that so many have expressed in reaction to this show. I am certain that each element was delivered exceptionally and that the show will continue upward and soar to new heights. I’m just speaking to subject and topic. The media allots so much time to dissecting; exposing race, sex, creed, and orientation; it’s overwhelming. I just like to think there is room in the world of stage for musicals and plays to go beyond the realms of reality, past and present, and present stories that remain true to other aspects of our experience, successfully.

Written By

Drew Shade is a theatre artist and enthusiast who fosters artistic diversity and excellence for the love of Black theatre artists. He is the Founder/Creative Director of Broadway Black, Off-Book Podcast & The Antonyo Awards. “Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson


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