Dig Baton Rouge

Play: Haves and have nots

The LeVay family is well-to-do – their sons’ girlfriends, not so much. “Stick Fly” is the story of how this wealthy African-American family handles a weekend at their Martha’s Vineyard summer home with lower-middle-class houseguests who are unaccustomed to privilege.

More specifically, “Stick Fly” is about a family with secrets and rules about living that bang head-on into one another, upsetting the pretty outside and revealing the sometimes tremendously ugly inside.

Written by Lydia R. Diamond, “Stick Fly” debuted on Broadway in 2011. The run at LSU’s Shaver Theatre starts Feb. 12, as a pay-what-you-can presentation. A preview performance will be held on Feb. 13. The show, which is being directed by Joy Vandervort Cobb, will officially begin its run on Feb. 14, playing through Feb. 23.

Vandervort Cobb said as an African-American woman she believes that “Stick Fly” is a necessary play from which she hopes the audience will gain a broader prospective of black wealth.

“I think it’s an important piece, as it introduces and illustrates an African American population rarely seen in the theatre – wealthy African Americans – and demonstrates how – although income and economics may separate us in vast ways – we’re a lot more similar than we are different,” Vandervort Cobb said. “I think the audience will walk away with a couple of things. They’ll see a population of people most don’t know exist outside of athletics or music and film – real people – that might make them think. I hope they hear each character in specific moments and find reflections of themselves and their own experiences.”

Vandervort Cobb is credited with stage and film work beginning in 1995, including several spots on the Lifetime show “Army Wives”. She has stage-managed and company-managed and directed several productions. “Stick Fly” is her fourth visit to LSU as a guest director, but is her first production with undergraduates.

This version of “Stick Fly” features five senior students and one freshman. The upperclassmen are all theatre majors, with the men in the company having worked a number of times on stage. Vandervort Cobb remarked that the entire cast is comprised of talented actors who are generous with their time.

“Their spirits have each brought things to the roles I wasn’t necessarily expecting,” Vandervort Cobb said. “Certainly Shea Stephens changed my entire idea about the play, with Dr. LeVay playing a much larger and impactful role than I’d anticipated, with his approach to the character. It’s been very exciting to explore with these actors.”

While Vandervort Cobb hasn’t had much experience with collegiate performers, she said her most difficult task – of getting the actors on the same page as the characters – was ironically also the easiest. Her main issue with the translation from script to stage came from regionalism – where the play is set. She remarked that her cast being mainly from the South made it a feat for them to portray wealthy, privileged East Coast African-Americans. But with that, the universal appeal of the storyline took the actors over, and leads the way for audience take-a-ways.

“Unique but universal is what the theatre is and, in that, the reflection of self they see from the stage – regardless of color or circumstance – will also dictate the point they walk away with,” Vandervort Cobb said. “There are some monologues in the play that speak a universal pain – that of not being enough – good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough – that I believe each of us suffers in various aspects of our lives. I also strongly believe you take away that which speaks loudest to you.”

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