Actors wanted to bring “Heavy” to the stage

Denzel Smith
Denzel Smith

Have you ever wondered how playwrights come up with names for their productions?

Writer and director Denzel Smith says the name for his play "Heavy" just popped in his head.

"When I was writing it, I began to think is this too heavy?" Smith says about the play that highlights a dysfunctional family trying to get to the root of their problems by shedding light on many issues in black families such as abuse, sexual assault, absent fathers, and much more.

Smith, a senior here at Bethune-College University, staged the first act of the play, which he wrote in 2016, in the Black Box stage in the spring and is ready to produce the full show this semester. He and co-director Nia McConnico are holding auditions at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Black Box Theatre not far from the main campus on Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.

He says he and McConnico are looking for cast members that can tell their truth from the experiences they've gone through. He says he also is looking for someone that is teachable and willing to bring something to the table.

"Our job as artists is to show them your world," the theatre major says, adding he prides himself on being a director that knows his cast and strategically plays on their strengths and weaknesses to make them all one.

He says working with McConnico is the perfect mix because she is more hands on while he takes a hands-off approach and focuses more on the ambience of rehearsal, smith says when describing the individuals who are fit for their assigned roles and able to share their truth.

Smith, 25, says he was inspired by the legendary dancer Alvin Ailey as well as Charles-Randolph Wright, director of the hit television show "Greenleaf."

He, in fact, met Wright when he visited Bethune-Cookman in February. It was a meeting that changed his life, according to Smith.

"He told me 'You are a director,'" Smith recalled, adding those kind words and affirmation let him know he was on the right path with his way of storytelling.

Smith says Wright also shared many ideas that he could use during the writing process. One, he says, is to "empty yourself on the page and let emotions and characters drive the stories."

Smith says he "thinks he got it."

He described the play as being very organic and relatable, noting that the characters and storylines stem from his childhood and the things he has observed in his life.

Watch for "Heavy" this semester.