N.C. Central University’s Department of Theatre opens its fall season with a play that’s sure to be a hit – “Ti-Jean and His Brothers,” a rich and colorful play written in 1975 by Derek Walcott.
Nobel Prize-winning author Walcott explores the power of good versus evil and poor versus wealthy as well as the definition of humanity. This West-Indian folk tale—told by the animals of the rainforest through dialogue, dance and song—tells of a poor widowed mother, her three sons and their bargain with the devil. The tale is based on Walcott’s memories of folktales from his childhood in St. Lucia, a Carribean island.
“Ti-Jean and His Brothers” tells how three brothers — Gros-Jean, Mi-Jean, and Ti-Jean — attempt to vex the devil.
When the three brothers go on a journey to discover their fortune, a demon challenges them to achieve the sympathy of the devil; if they show rage, however, they will be killed.
“This show shows the struggle of young adults leaving home,” said theatre major Sheldon Mba, dramaturg. “It teaches us that good and evil will always be with you no matter where you go.”
The play is co-directed by Irving Truitt and Asabi Howard, both assistant professors in the department of theatre.
“It is a play that will stretch the actors,” said Truitt. “With its many dimensions, it will give the actors experience for a well-rounded performance.”
“We are digging deep into each actor’s character development. Since this show is a West-Indian folktale, we not only want strong accents, but the character’s manners and gestures to be believable as well.”
According to Howard, each character should be able to tell his or her individual stories through movement and stage presence. “I wanted to create an atmosphere in which the animals communicated with each other in a natural way, but also in a way that the audience could relate as well and it be believable,” said Howard.
Theatre freshman Daniel Johnson, who plays Ti-Jean, is not a new face on the stage; he acted in several plays at Hillside High School, including “Dreamgirls,” “Shrek the Musical” and “Guys and Dolls.”
“It’s an honor to be playing the role of Ti-Jean knowing…I appreciate that Dr. Asabi and her colleagues have entrusted me with this responsibility,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to carrying that weight and doing my very best with this role.”
Johnson described Ti-Jean, the youngest of the brothers, as meek, humble and curious. “His humility is what keeps him from being as headstrong as his brothers and helps him to overcome the obstacles that he faces throughout the story,” Johnson said.
Other cast members include theatre juniors Malcom Green, Jonathan Able and Chase Rivers. Green and Able play Ti-Jean’s brothers Gros Jean and Mi-Jean. Rivers plays the characters of Old Man and The Planter, both of whom are manifestations of the devil.
Ti-Jean will show in NCCU’s University Theatre on Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 9-11. All shows are at 8 p.m. except the Sunday, Oct. 4 and 11 shows, which begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are available here or at the door. Student tickets are $11; general admission is $15.