Poster for "The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963" (Courtesy of Eastern Nazarene College Theatre Department)

Poster for “The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963” (Courtesy of Eastern Nazarene College Theatre Department)

Senior Communication Arts Major and Theater Minor Frankie Bruny is student-directing the play, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” opening this Thursday in the Cove Fine Arts Center. Bruny is the first student to direct a play since 2015, when Evan Detwiler directed “Doubt”.

“The Watsons Go to Birmingham” is based on a children’s story that follows the events that occur when a black family from Flint, Michigan, in the late 1960s decides to take a trip to Alabama to visit their grandmother. The family faces trials and tribulations which bring them closer in the end.

In an interview with Bruny, she stated that out of all the plays that she thought of directing here at ENC, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” stuck out for her. Her passion for this play began when she first read it in the sixth grade. It was a story that impacted her life, and aided her understanding of what it meant to be African American in the United States.

For Bruny, directing is as much of a learning experience as acting. “I’ve never deeply understood what goes into a show until now,” Bruny said. “This is a really cool opportunity to learn more about being a director. I have an interest in being a director, and this show has made me understand what being a director takes. It has challenged me in a creative way.”

Bruny’s biggest obstacle for this play was finding actors. The show consists of a number of male roles and finding African-American males interested in acting can be a challenge, according to Bruny. “Having a show that is a strictly African American cast is difficult,” she says. “African American males that act are a rare breed [at ENC].”

The show’s purpose is to generate conversation in the ENC community. “There’s a lot of really big concepts in this show” Bruny states. “It’s one of those shows that forces you to have conversations about the African American experience, stereotypes that may be associated with what it means to be African American, racial injustices, and how children process all of these things together. And ultimately what I want is for people to have these conversations with their kids.”

Although this play mainly pertains to people of color, Bruny feels that it is important for all students and families to be educated on these issues.  As a graduating senior this year, Bruny hopes to leave her mark here at Eastern Nazarene College before moving on to her next endeavor.