Park Square Theatre presents American Family, a world premiere commission, produced in association with Carlyle Brown & Company, now through April 7.
Set in Alabama, in 1964, the play opens on the playground where Mary Ellen Collins last saw her mother. At just nine years old, Mary Ellen had been taken away by her long-absent father after her mother was deemed unfit for marrying a Black man. Now a young adult, Mary Ellen has finally read the letters her mother sent to her over the years since that terrible separation. From those letters, she learns about her half-brother, born after she was taken away, and reaches out to meet him for the first time. Sharing their stories, brother and sister begin to heal from the past, with the hope that the family comes back together.
The idea for this commission bubbled up after Park Square’s production of Othello in 2009. James A. Williams, who was Othello and is featured as the grandfather in American Family, was working with Carlyle Brown in preparation for his role, directed by Richard Cook.
“Richard Cook has been extraordinary,” says Brown. “He has given me great artistic freedom. It has truly been a collaborative venture, allowing me to bring into the process a constellation of artists that comprise Carlyle Brown & Company, to play roles written with them in mind.”