Delaware State University's latest theater production, "Crumbs from the Table of Joy," opens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, and runs through Friday, March 26. Here, one of its stars and director Dr. Donald Brown talk about the show and its relevance.
A widower, his two daughters and his new wife find a way to make their own unique family in 1950s Brooklyn in “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” the latest stage production by Delaware State University. Three performances of the play run this week, starting with the show at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, and running through Friday.
In “Crumbs,” patriarch Godfrey “Goodness” Crump has recently lost his wife. Following her death, the highly spiritual Godfrey packs up his two teenage daughters, Ernestine and Ermina, and moves them from Florida to Brooklyn to be closer to religious and social leader Father Divine.
It is in New York that Godfrey’s amoral former sister-in-law Lily proves a tempting complication to his life. It’s also there that he suddenly marries a white, German woman, an unlikely move for the 1950s, and one that leads to growing pains for the family.
“The play tells a story that takes place just after the World War II and just prior to the initial push of the civil rights movement,” director Dr. Donald Brown said. “The plot deals with pointed issues in race relations.”
Brown said he liked the idea of the races getting together at a time when segregation was the norm.
The fact that the character of Godfrey brings a German refugee into his home as a stepmother to his two teenage daughters had to bring some problems to the surface, Brown said. Although the play is set in 1950, Brown said it raises questions about ideas still relevant today.
“Look at the attitudes of women of color who have a problem with seeing their men dealing with women of other races. It seems to me that there’s a bit of cogency there,” Brown said.
Jacqueline Smith, who plays Ernestine, also sees the parallels between the play and today’s struggles.
“It might be different by the way they dress and they way they talk, but the family situation is the same,” she said.
Smith’s character Ernestine figures heavily into the play as she is not only a family member but also the narrator. So the audience experiences the family’s struggles by watching them play out, and also by hearing the 17-year-old’s thoughts.
This is the first show at DSU for Smith, a Baltimore native. She’s performed in stage productions and short films before, although this is her first major lead. It’s one director Brown said she is definitely ready for.
Smith said her character is relatable, although different from herself in many ways. More than that, she sees how families today will relate to the Crumps.
For older audience members, they may remember segregation, or the trials of integration, she said. And they might recognize that teenagers of 1950s seemed to have more respect for their elders, Smith said.
What hasn’t changed, though, are the family dynamics and struggles. There may be different types of families now, and they all have their issues. That’s something everyone can relate to, Smith said.
Email Sarika Jagtiani at firstname.lastname@example.org