Wednesday, August 21, at 6:30 p.m. Akron Summit County Public Library’s main auditorium was filled to capacity. As the audience experienced its first free to the public stage play by writer and director, Tyron Hoisten. “Project Rise is a collaborative effort by Akron Public Schools, local shelters and the community to provide supplemental educational services to children and youth who are experiencing homelessness.” Designed to empower students and their families, education is known to be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
The play opened to married couple, Renata (Ledejeuner Winters) and Thomas (Luddie Carmichael), a writer who is experiencing writer’s block. Renata, the ever supporting wife prepares supper and waits for her father Mr. Bob (Walter Ennis) to visit and beat Thomas in a game of chess. But an unexpected visitor arrives, Judith (Elisabeth Kemppel) an old college classmate of Thomas who later brings a guest to dinner.
Understanding Thomas’ dilemma, Judith who is a screenwriter tells Thomas a funny story of how she tried three times to commit suicide. Thomas is troubled by Judith’s humor in her attempt to take her own life. Judith simply says, “I’m here and sometimes in life you have to laugh at your own mistakes.” She tells Thomas how much we all need to take time in life to laugh, at least 10 times a day.
When Judith returns for dinner she brings Louis (Devontae´ Ferguson). After introducing Louis to the family, she pulls Thomas to the side promising him Louis’ story is the cure to his writer’s block. Louis tells the story of an unhappy childhood with not one good day to remember. He told how his parents Amelia (Michelle R. Dilauro) and Max (Randy Clark) were addicted to drugs and alcohol. He shares being out of control in school and being bounced around from one relative to another due to parents who were non-supporting, violent, and never having a kind word to say to each other or to him. Louis’ behavior eventually lands him into prison for four years.
After his release, Louis moves in with his Aunt Matilda (Myrna Johnson). She gives him wise words concerning his parents and how holding onto anger will do him no good. Louis decides to go back to high school but becomes discouraged knowing he is 18, and in the ninth grade. But, Dr. Whittington (Myron J. Lewis) encourages him. By telling Louis how much of a disservice he would be doing to himself, if he let pride stop him from getting an education. He listens.
At the end of his story, Thomas tells Louis that he is “A Boy like David.” He tells the story of “David and Goliath” and then, prefaces it with Louis’ slain giant. The dismal circumstances he saw and lived yet, he slew his giant through determination and encouragement to receive an education. This play was most definitely worth seeing. For more information about “Project Rise” call 330.761.2969.