Drayton Entertainment’s latest offering is American Son, a play about a mother desperately trying to find her son after he was arrested at a traffic stop gone wrong.
The story features Kendra Ellis-Connor, a professor, who arrives at a Miami police station at 4 in the morning looking for her missing son. Ellis-Connor is played by Oyin Oladejo in her Drayton Entertainment debut.
The play looks at the human experience – including maternal, marital and societal pressures familiar to many – through the prism of racism.
Oladejo is joined by Mike Shara, who plays Ellis-Connor’s ex-husband and current FBI agent Scott Connor.
The play is directed by Jordan Laffrenier who has also worked on high profile musicals Amélie and Paradise Square on Broadway and Sousatska in Toronto. Laffrenier is also the associate artistic director at Canadian Stage.
Laffrenier said that Alex Mustakas, the artistic director for Drayton Entertainment, saw a production of American Son and thought it was important and that the conversation around the piece would resonate in Waterloo Region.
“Alex reached out to me and we had a conversation about the show. I agreed with him, I thought that the show had a layer of complexity, especially around the conversation that’s happening around the piece. And I briefly went to school in Waterloo and so I have a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to be there. And I also thought it’d be great to share with that community,” he said.
Drayton Entertainment staff have created a study guide available for groups attending the play. “The study guide includes relevant post-show analysis and discussions with themes of systematic racism, intersectional sexism and racism, generational trauma, and racism in policing,” said Samareh Jones, a spokesperson for Drayton Entertainment.
“I don’t know a single Black parent who hasn’t worried when their child has left the house, for very real reasons. And I think this play validates their feelings. I think that for other audience members, this play offers a real understanding of what it’s like to be a Back parent,” said Laffrenier.
“The show is called American Son. I think the writer is pointing to something really specific, which is that this is all of our sons. I think for a long time, we’ve tried to point and say, this is a problem that’s happening somewhere else, this is a problem that’s happening in America, this is a problem that’s not happening in my neighbourhood. But, actually, it affects the people in your neighbourhood,” said Laffrenier.
“We really all need to participate in the conversation, which is that racism does exist. And there are really big racial biases that impact people’s lives and sometimes take people’s lives away.
“I think how we love each other, how we take responsibility for ourselves and take responsibility for the children around us and how we help them grow and not make them feel like they need to be the face of the race, as Jamal (a character in the play)says, or feel like they’re threatened or feel like they can’t hang out with other Black kids or feel like they can’t dress a certain way. I think, you know, we all have to participate in changing that.”
The Drayton Entertainment production of American Son runs April 5-23 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. For information about tickets, contact the Drayton Entertainment box office at 519-747-7788 or online at www.draytonentertainment.com.