“The Watsons go to Birmingham: 1963,” directed by senior Frankie Bruny, chronicles the lives of an African American family, the Watsons, in 1963. Through its entirety, this production calls for audience members to pay attention to the problems that the African American community faces. With the rise of movements like Black Lives Matter and the presence of racism in America, the play could not have come to ENC’s campus at a better time.
“The Watsons” takes the audience on a historical journey, which Bruny brilliantly relates to the present-day events that people of color are facing today. Bruny decided to direct a play that takes place decades in the past, yet still is linked to the problems that African Americans face today. The play is set in Flint, Michigan, a predominately African American city, and while the Watsons are in Flint, we see topics, such as welfare and racism brought into discussion.
Bruny used many video clips throughout the play, from videos highlighting the recent Flint water crisis to a 1994 clip of Tupac discussing issues of food in African American communities. Through short videos like these, Bruny pushed the audience to think about minority lives in America today, and examine how little has changed from the 60s.
Staying true to the original novel written by Christopher Paul Curtis, the play introduces the audience members to the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church bombing, showing the effects the bombing had on the characters who witnessed it during that time. The Watson family members work to navigate the truth of who they are and how the world around them views who they are, which is seen through their relationships with one another. The navigation of truth seen in “The Watsons” demonstrates the presence of a similar struggle common in the African American community today.
In an earlier interview with the Veritas, Bruny stated that the play “forces you to have conversations about the African American experience.” When the concepts of this play are examined, one sees that this statement could not be truer.