By Jerome Langston
When Thoughts of a Colored Man opened on Broadway at the Golden Theatre in October 2021, it made history as the first Broadway show written and directed by Black men, and starring a Black man in the lead role. NYC native Keenan Scott II wrote the play, and Steve H. Broadnax III directed the show for its Broadway run. The cast of seven Black actors included the likes of popular singer/actor Luke James, actor Bryan Terrell Clark of Hamilton fame, and actor/musician Tristan Mack Wilds. The show, which marked Scott’s Broadway debut, received a lot of early buzz as it was one of seven plays by Black playwrights scheduled to debut on Broadway that season, which was an astonishing number for the Great White Way.
Sadly, despite very positive word of mouth reviews and box-office success, the show closed in December 2021, about three months earlier than expected, due to the huge uptick in COVID cases that fall, going into winter. The virus hit the cast significantly—which left the show without adequate coverage. The playwright himself even jumped in unexpectedly as an actor, to save a performance or two. “It was heartbreaking,” says Keenan, whom I reached by phone earlier this week. “It was purely COVID for us. When we closed down, we were actually the number one, highest grossing new play on Broadway.”
“People showed up for us in an amazing way,” continues Keenan. He mentions meeting patrons from places like Texas and Florida, as they stood in line to see the show. “I’m very proud of what we did, in the time we did it,” he says. Currently, the playwright is super busy, with many projects in various stages of development—including a TV pilot for Universal, a feature film project, and several works for the stage that he’s written, including two musicals.
Next month he will be in Norfolk for the first post Broadway production of Thoughts of a Colored Man, which is being produced by NSU Theatre Company, the award-winning collegiate company that collaborates often with Virginia Stage Company. The play dates all the way back to 2009, when it was first presented, in a much earlier stage of development, as Keenan’s senior project at Frostburg State University in Maryland. “Thoughts is a piece that has lived with me now for 16 years,” he says. And it was always his goal that the “collegiate ranks” would do it. “I’m very excited that their program decided to do it,” he says.
The NSU theatre production is being directed by the award-winning Anthony Mark Stockard, the company’s producing Artistic Director. The play will feature collegiate actors including Adam Moskowitz, Justin Richardson, and Brandon Bradley, who plays Wisdom. Thoughts of a Colored Man combines elements of slam poetry, prose and song, as the thoughts and perspectives of seven different black men, with names like Lust, Anger and Passion are expressed within archetypal character frameworks that are challenged within the play.
Before its run in March, actor Brandon A. McCall, who currently stars as Simba on Broadway in The Lion King, will join Stockard for a talk on the 22nd, about his journey to Broadway stardom. Brandon is a former student of Stockard’s from Alabama State University, an HBCU where they both graduated from. “He’s one of the big reasons that I have a successful career right now,” says Brandon, during a phone chat earlier this week. Stockard helped the young actor prepare for graduate acting programs, and other necessary steps towards a professional acting career. Now that he’s made it on Broadway, he enjoys imparting his own wisdom upon young, acting students of color. “That’s what I like about these types of talks…and that’s to inspire.”
WANT TO GO?
Resisting Rejection: A Journey to Broadway
Brown Memorial Hall Main Stage Theater
Thoughts of a Colored Man
NSU Theatre Company
Brown Memorial Hall Mainstage Theater