BDO: Your first play, The Broken Window Theory, focused on a visual artist coming to terms with Huntington’s Disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder, and the turbulence it causes in her relationship with her only son. As a writer and director, what role do you feel the arts plays in the conversation around mental health?
MS: In the play, during the graffiti movement of the late 1970s, a black graffiti artist son struggles to help his single mother, who is a classically trained artist, suffering from Huntington’s disease. The two must find new ways to communicate and mend their strained relationship as the mother progressively loses her ability to speak and to paint. To understand more about Huntington’s, I reached out to several organizations that deal specifically with this disease. The Baltimore Huntington’s Disease Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital was an excellent resource. A specialist gave me an inside perspective on how mental illness impacts family dynamics on a daily basis and how increased awareness about mental illness empowers the larger community. The more that the conversation on mental and emotional health finds its way into our communities, the easier it becomes for families and patients to seek the help they need without a sense of shame or fear of being judged. Art can be an excellent tool in the combat against stigma.
BDO: In your latest play, The Fall of The Kings, what compelled you to explore mental health and feminine identity from a 1940s perspective?
MS: I wanted to explore the implications of pressure to suppress one’s identity and pain at an earlier time in American history. Black women have not always been included in the conversations on mental health in our nation. The arts helps to shine a necessary spotlight on the subject of mental illness in the lives of people that may be overlooked.
BDO: What will audience members experience when they come to see The Fall of the Kings? What do think this play will teach us?
MS: As an immersive theater production, audience members will have the unique opportunity to physically enter the home and lives of the Kings. Our play is being staged at the New York City historic landmark and New York Times-celebrated arts venue The Andrew Freedman Home. Audiences will be immersed into the grand and sprawling set. They will interact with the cast and they will be moved by the symbiosis of dance, music and sprit.
Check out the official trailer below and visit http://thefallofthekings.com/ for tickets and information.