As conversations about social justice and race relations are in the forefront of American culture, a Saginaw Valley State University theatre director hopes his latest production provides valuable perspectives for a constructive conversation.
SVSU will host a movie-style play, titled “No. 6,” available virtually to audiences at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 4-7; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8.
The $10 tickets must be purchased online. One hour before the play begins, attendees will be emailed a link where they can watch the pre-recorded production online.
Written by playwright TJ Young, “No. 6" centers on a fictional African-American family's experience during a real-life tragedy that struck the Cincinnati community in 2001. Following the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teen, protests and civil unrest shook the community for five days. “No. 6" takes place in the midst of that period, when one member of the family brings home an unconscious white man and the civil unrest creeps closer to the family's home.
The real-life unrest from 2001 in many ways mirrors elements of the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement, said Tommy Wedge, an SVSU assistant professor of theatre who is directing "No. 6."
“There are issues we wanted to explore,” Wedge said. “We want the audience to be thinking about what is happening today and how it relates to what happens in ‘No. 6.’”
Wedge is no stranger to shedding light on topics of race relations and spotlighting SVSU's strong community of African-American student-actors. He directed SVSU’s recent productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2016 and “Stick Fly” in 2018. “No. 6,” similarly, will feature a largely African-American cast.
“It's important to elevate actors of color with roles written by and for them,” Wedge said. “That has to continue as we work toward strengthening ties with the diverse community in Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region.”
Jahari Essex, an art major from Saginaw who is playing the role of Felix, is looking forward to engaging the audience in thought-provoking material.
“This play is an opportunity to tell a story that isn't as often told – or at least it's not told from a different perspective,” he said. “The ending starts a conversation, showing more hope than hurt.”
Jared Kaufman, a communication and theatre education major from Bay City, also was looking forward to providing audiences with engaging ideas. Kaufman plays the role of Kelly.
“Everyone has the opportunity to learn something from watching the show,” Kaufman said. “The audience can make a connection with any of the characters and the stories they have to tell.”
Wedge is experienced leading nontraditional plays. For SVSU, he directed a Zoom-based production of “Macbeth” in April. He also was the director of the 2019 production of “Mamma Mia,” which utilized the combined resources of three local community theaters in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
For “No. 6,” Wedge directed his student actors as if they were performing on a theater set, and then his team began recording them one scene at a time with a three-camera set-up. Filming began on Oct. 16, and video and audio will be edited together in the production's opening. This recorded production then can be accessed by patrons at the times of the performances via a livestream, similar to a streamed movie.
Wedge said the production at all times will observe practices that ensure the safety of all cast and crew members during the filming and production of “No. 6.” Along with practicing social distancing, actors will be wearing clear face masks.
To aid in their film movie production, five SVSU students were selected as video interns. Wedge said the unique nature of the production required extensive support from other SVSU faculty and staff. Among the chief contributors to that process were Peggy Mead-Finizio, SVSU assistant professor of theatre, as technical theatre supervisor; and Andy Sharrow, an event and theatre technology specialist with SVSU, as the video and editing supervisor of “No. 6.”
For more information about “No. 6" and to purchase tickets, go to the SVSU Department of Theatre website at svsu.edu/theatre/showschedule.