Main stage play strikes a chord with audience
By Ki-Jana King
Reggie was conflicted. He had to tell his coworkers that their stamping plant would be closing.
It was a tough message, but he had to deliver it. Unable to get his nerves up to inform the three other people who worked in the plant, he told Faye, whose 30 years made her the longest tenured among the crew.
Faye broke the news to the others who worked at the plant. By the time the entire story of the “Skelton Crew” was told, it took two hours on the stage.
For four nights last week at the Charles Winter Wood Theatre, audiences got a chance to witness a common real-life experience, although the story they told is a fiction penned by Dominique Morisseau.
Set in Detroit during the winter, the play titled “Skelton Crew” brought to life some of what industrial workers faced in the Motor City during the recession 10 years ago.
The play was presented by FAMU’s Essential Theatre, its first play of the year.
As the story unfolded, Faye’s role came across as the key character in the play. That was played by senior theatre performance student Taylor Jay.
Faye, a 50-something year-old, was the plant’s problem-solver. But she had her own issues with gambling. She faced an even deeper issue, too.
A cancer survivor, she lived in the plant’s break room for more than a month after losing her home to foreclosure.
It was a part that Jay enjoyed playing because she could empathize with Faye’s fate.
“I completely found it a challenge because of all the things she is dealing with,” Jay said. “Being homeless and having cancer really hits home for me; especially because I lost a couple of loved ones in the past year to cancer.”
Members of the cast said they found their roles challenging but they had to find ways to power through every tough scene.
Director Chris Berry said he couldn’t have been more proud of the cast for the way they depicted the lives of underrepresented people in the country during the recession.
“It’s amazing watching them give voice to people that, without this play would be voiceless,” said Berry, a FAMU professor. “They’re still students learning a craft and they were very mature in the learning process.”
The story was delivered in such a compelling fashion that it seemingly resonated with many in the audience. The crowd’s appreciation was clear by the thunderous applauds at the end.
“I actually got emotional when Faye revealed that she were homeless and sleeping at the job,” Kiara Whitehead, who took in the play from the middle section. “I did not see that coming.”