While technology may make drastic advances every decade, Crossland High School students found that family dynamics remain the same and issues like parent/child clashes haven’t changed all that much in 60 years.
Approximately 70 student actors, stage hands, ticket-sellers and videographers at the Temple Hills school performed August Wilson’s 1983 play “Fences,” about an African American family in the 1950s struggling with father/son conflicts, career disappointments and racism, before an audience of nearly 300.
“This stuff happens in real life,” said senior Akeel Harvey, a 17-year-old from Fort Washington who plays the best friend to main character Troy Maxson. “You have to analyze your relationships very carefully and you have to appreciate your parents. It just applies to life.”
The four-month process of studying the play, memorizing lines, building sets, gathering costumes and advertising the production made the students intimately familiar with the work, said director Kisha Woods, an AP literature teacher at the school. Woods said she hopes the production could encourage other teachers or student groups to tackle similar projects.
“We’re opening doors and opening eyes for our students,” Woods said. “It’s going to be life-changing for our school and the culture of our school.”
Crossland High does not have an auditorium now, which hinders the school’s ability to put on plays and other performances, Woods said, but has been approved for one that is slated to open in December. “Fences,” the school’s first play since 2008, was held in the school’s multi-purpose room.
Najala Logan, a senior who plays Troy’s illegitimate daughter, Raynell, said the students’ performance could serve to make audience members aware that family issues such as infidelity or strife between children and their parents, present in “Fences” still occur today.
“Reading it in class is just a bunch of words and papers but seeing my peers … brings the emotion out,” said Najala, 17, of Fort Washington.
Stage director Dominica Beverley, a senior from Fort Washington, said the work of putting on the performance made her feel more connected to the play.
“You see it from a perspective that you didn’t see it from before,” said Dominica, 18.
The play also allowed Woods’ students to put another lesson on advocacy into practice, she said. The ticket sales — plus a dinner served at intermission by parents — brought in $1,500 to fund college scholarships, given away to seniors Jeffery Anderson of Temple Hills, Benise Manga of Fort Washington, and Alexis McCoy of District Heights on Saturday evening in memory of Woods’ high school boyfriend, Jeshawn Johnson, who was killed when he tried to break up a fight in 2003.
Senior Antonio Thomas, who played Troy’s son, Curtis, said the play taught them they must work to determine the course of their own lives. All of the actors said they want their classmates to learn from the play, too.
“I hope [audience members] change their perspective on life so they can see what their parents are saying and the reason behind it,” said Antonio, a 17-year-old from Suitland.