Belmont premiered their production of “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” to an intimate and sold-out Black Box Theatre Friday night.
Written by Lynn Nottage, produced by Paul Gatrell and directed by Jeff Obafemi Carr, the play is the first Belmont production with a predominantly African American cast.
“Perhaps the greatest power in this unique story is its universal appeal to our youth dreams, idealism and quest for identity and meaning,” said Carr in his director’s note for the production.
It’s not only a milestone for the university, but also for the stellar cast members and production crew behind the performance.
The play centers around an African-American family that recently relocated to New York in search of newfound purpose and religion. The entirety of the production takes place in their apartment of faded polka dot walls, country furniture and a radio that remains silent on Sundays.
The play follows sisters Ernestine Crump, played by Phaedra McDowell, and Ermine, played by Tea Sherrill, as they navigate through adolescence and what it means to be a minority chasing the American dream in the 1950s. The dynamic between the two on stage was unforgettable and offered some of the play’s strongest scenes, like when Ermine tries to explain what “cool” discourse is in the city, and how her and her sister must change to be accepted by their peers.
To complicate matters more, the sisters have a strict, devout father, played by Ryan Browning, an eccentric aunt deemed a communist by the family’s neighbors, played by Althea Baldwin, and a German stepmother, played by Janey Elliott.
For Ryan Browning, he hopes this play inspires awareness towards racial injustice and prejudice.
“The subject matter is relevant to right now … and it’s a good story from another perspective that people usually don’t listen to,” said Browning.
For others, the production was their Senior Capstone, and a culmination of what they have learned throughout their studies in theatre, acting and history. One of these seniors was Althea Baldwin.
“I’m so glad I get the opportunity to present this story. The main message is that everyone has their own perspective and the main conflict is that no one is acknowledging each other’s perspective,” said Baldwin.
As the characters traversed around their intimate apartment arguing with one another, looking to God for answers and dancing when they got the chance, they offered both comedic and deeply insightful perspectives that inspired the audience to contemplate diversity and privilege long after the actors took their final bows.
The play will have showings throughout next week to celebrate Diversity Week.
This article written by Henry Gregson.