- Faith & Family
The final piece in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle examining the Black experience in the 20th century, “Radio Golf,” is the season opener for South Florida’s premier producer of Black plays, The M Ensemble Company, Inc. The play takes place in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson was born. And while the troupe has changed its location from North Miami to The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse [404 NW 26th Street, Miami], Executive Director and co-founder Shirley Richardson says their mission remains the same: “to promote African-American culture through the performing arts.”
“We are facing challenging times now but we remain committed to hiring seasoned actors and directors so that we can continue to offer quality productions,” Richardson said.
M Ensemble has collaborated this year with Miami Light Project and Arts for Learning — sharing the space and therefore reducing their costs.
“Now we have a larger space that will allow us to produce musicals in addition to our traditional theater productions,” she said. “As is our custom, we opened this season with one of Wilson’s works because no matter what their color, audiences love to see his work. As the season progresses we will do plays by lesser-known playwrights — works that deserve to gain larger audiences.”
“Radio Golf” features Don Seward, who is “young and very talented,” in the lead role of Harmon Wilks, a businessman who wants to become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor; Carey Hart, William Barnes, Andre L. Gainey and Keith Wade.
“The cast features our more seasoned actors — actors with whom we have worked before and whose strengths on stage are apparent,” Richardson added. “Keith has been part of M Ensemble since he was a little boy when his mother worked with us. He began in our children’s theater and has developed into an outstanding actor.”
Themes of the play include: gentrification, how today’s youth who are better off tend to dismiss the elderly and how the needs of the poor are often ignored for the sake of economic development. The cast does a credible job in transmitting Wilson’s concern about what it means to be Black and his hope that as we answer the question, it will lead future generations to always respect their history and cultural traditions, even while seeking an improved social-economic status. Wilson’s title pokes fun at the notion that some Blacks have adopted — picking up golf, a white man’s sport, like Tiger Woods successfully did, can help Black children find their way out of poverty and into a better world. Could it be that simple?
Kaila Heard contributed to this piece.
By D. Kevin McNeir