What does it mean to be a strong ethical Black man with morals? What do you have to sacrifice from within to value your faith to become a respectable and respected man in America? What does it mean when your self-worth and honorable ways are challenged because of the lifestyle you chose to live? Can you measure a man by his identity and sexuality? In this day and age does it even matter anymore? Of course, it does; but to whom? Who can rightfully measure the worth of another without considering the power that life places on the existence of us all?
These questions and more are explored in “Choir Boy,” a coming of age play that is set at The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, which is committed to the development of impressive, honorable Black men. The play follows a group of teens who struggles with the meaning of sexuality and how the men at Drew should act.
One student in particular, Pharus Jonathan Young (Christopher W. Jones), the vivid central character who is a bright-eyed, smart and enthusiastic Drew student, wants nothing more than to be the leader of the legendary school’s choir; unfortunately, he soon finds out that this position comes with a price.
Pharus’ pride in singing the school anthem at the graduation ceremony is ruined by the gay slurs hissed at him from fellow classmate Bobby Marrow (Patrick Agada) in the audience. Although, Pharus doesn’t speak of his sexuality, he’s not trying to hide it either.
While trying to covet the awe-inspiring title, he realizes that it comes with all kinds of complications of being a “Drew Man.” He also realizes that everything has an equal balance, how we pass down our Christian morals and what it means to be Black, male, noble and respectable in America.
Even under the threat of expulsion, Pharus insists on behaving “as a Drew man should,” because he knows that he can exact his own private revenge against the very strict Headmaster Marrow’s (Robert D. Hardaway) nephew. He has the power to do this because he is the leader of the choir and can decide who can and cannot sing.
“Choir Boy” is driven by gospel music, which is Drew’s tradition. They lived by faith but its traditional way of life is being challenged and the headmaster has no idea that the question of sexuality regarding Drew men is nothing new to the school.
Darren Patin (David Heard) is another character in the play who is struggling with his identity and sexuality; he believes that he has been called to be a pastor, but he finds himself in an uncompromising situation with one of his classmates. Tamarus Harvell (Anthony Justin “AJ” James), the straight guy that rooms with Pharus, brings a nice calming, non-judgemental friendship to him. Julian Terrell Otis (Junior Davis) is the devoted best friend to Bobby Marrow. Mr. Pendleton (Don Tieri) offers a refuge for the boys to speak freely in the classroom only if they can respect each other long enough to speak their truth.
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney shares a story about human differences and bullying of people that live a lifestyle different from others by using a wide-range of characters who are willing to stand up for what they believe–indirectly and directly as they make a point by singing harmoniously together.
Director Michael Menendian takes us to a world where music is the glue that bonds us together through old Negro spirituals and gospel music as we watch how five young men’s lives are intertwined together through song.
We recommend that you see this musically infused play at Raven Theatre.
By Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Artistic Director Michael Menendian
September 27 – November 12, 2017
The cast includes:
Patrick Agada (Bobby Marrow)
Robert D. Hardaway (Headmaster Marrow)
Tamarus Harvell (Anthony Justin “AJ” James)
Christopher W. Jones (Pharus Jonathan Young)
Julian Terrell Otis ( Junior Davis)
Darren Patin (David Heard)
Don Tieri (Mr. Pendleton)