by Melissa Griegel . . .

The stars were out last night, October 13th, to celebrate the opening of Thoughts of a Colored Man, the first play in Broadway history to be written by, directed by, lead-produced by, and starring Black artists. The John Golden Theatre was abuzz with a vibrant and excited red carpet walk that included the cast and creatives along with greats such as Kenny Leon, Joel Grey, Donna Murphy, Nick Cannon, Laura Benanti, Phylicia Rashad, Marilu Henner, Terrance Mann, Jelani Alladin, Brian Stokes Mitchell, George Takei, and many more. See the slideshow below for red carpet photos.

The story of seven Black men of assorted ages, incomes, experiences, and sexuality takes place over a single day in Brooklyn, where their lives intersect with each other. The men are given names that represent them: Love, Happiness, Lust, Passion, Depression, Anger, and Wisdom. Keenan Scott II wrote a timely new play that reflects the state of the country and the desires, frustrations, fears, and joys of how seven different Black men view their lives. Their stories are told in vignettes that show glimpses into these men’s lives and into their heads.

The play, which combines spoken word, slam poetry, and rhythm, starts and ends with a solo voice singing about the sun. A large screen behind the bare set moves us from the street, to the barbershop, to the subway. The ensemble cast are all adorned in varying combinations of red, black, white, and grey and features Dyllón Burnside (FX’s Pose), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton), Da’Vinchi (Starz’s upcoming Black Mafia Family), Grammy Award® nominee Luke James, Tony Award nominee Forrest McClendon (The Scottsboro Boys), Grammy Award nominee Tristan Mack Wilds (HBO’s The Wire), and Esau Pritchett (Prodigal Son). It is directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, along with Associate Director Debra Walton. who both came out on stage after the curtain call, with Broadnax hugging each cast member prior to speaking. Scott told the story of his childhood and dreams and his happiness at being able to fulfill them with the opening of Thoughts of a Colored Man.

As the characters in the show move through the day, they talk about their upbringings, their dashed dreams, their hopes for the future. The play is filled with a lot of humor which resonated with much of the audience, sometimes resulting in uproarious laughter and nods of agreement. There are dark moments too, such as discussing the realities of growing up poor or without a dad, being beaten by cops, not being able to go to college, and living amongst a world filled with random violence and street shootings. The play is not one of sadness though; it is one of reality, of hope for the future, and also of pride.

One of the most enjoyable scenes was a prolonged barbershop scene that really gave the flavor of the neighborhood and highlighted the different viewpoints of the Black experience. Happiness broke the fourth wall to react to the audience about what was going on in the shop. As an educated gay Black man from an upper middle class home, who recently moved to a gentrified section of Brooklyn, his upbringing was very different than the men in the barber shop. He poses the question “Am I less Black because I grew up with my dad?” and says that sometimes he feels “too Black” and sometimes he feels “not Black enough” depending on whom he is around. “Can I just be myself?” he asks. All of the characters have their own thoughts and questions about what their lives mean and where it will lead. There are some serious posits posed in the play, all done with connection and humor intertwined with sorrow.

  • Steven Broadnax III & Keenan Scott II

The show runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

The production was produced by Brian Moreland, Ron Simons, Diana DiMenna, Kandi Burruss, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Samira Wiley, the Shubert Organization and the Nederlander Organization.

On the Red Carpet and Opening Nite Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography