In My Father’s House

By Takia Greene

In My Father’s House, which ran November 1-3 at the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, showed the struggle of five African American brothers as they enter manhood. The audience journeys with each through their battles for freedom, acceptance, respect, and love.

One weekend changes everything.

The play starts off with the oldest brother Frank returning to the family’s house after receiving the news that the father is on his death bed and isn’t going to live long. He receives a call from his wife while sitting in the kitchen of his childhood house reminiscing about his childhood with his brothers.

Eventually, all the brothers arrive at the family house and catch up on life. Tension begins to build up when the brothers are questioning Frank about why he wanted them to come. Frank looks at Lewis to break the news to the brothers, as they begin to bicker back and forth. Frank yells at them to shut up and listen, while he explains that he and Lewis made the decision to take their father off life support. The youngest brother Kyle gets furious because nobody involved him in the decision making. He always feels left out by his brothers, especially now with the decision to pull the plug on their father.

Frank, the oldest,  is married and has a kid. He had to take on the responsibility of being the protector for his brothers. Will is in college getting degrees, but dealing with the problems of alcoholism and hiding his sexual identity. Lewis, on the other hand, struggles with infidelity. Kyle, the youngest brother, spends most of his time in the Army.

As the play evolves, Will reveals how he has been hiding his identity of being a queer man. Will sneaks his partner Duane into the house in one scene and he caresses him in the living room. Duane stops him. “I’m tired of you hiding me and having to sneak around to be together,” he says. Will fears his brothers will see him differently so he hides his pain by constantly drinking.

Kyle deals with the trauma of feeling abandoned by his parents. He blames himself for killing their mom during birth and for his father not giving him much attention like his brothers. He also has PTSD from being in the war.

Frank hides his pain from his brothers because he has been taught to be the man of the house for his brothers, while their father was working to provide for his sons. Frank tells his brothers he was held responsible for their wrongdoings. He also witnessed the abuse of their mother.

Lewis reveals that their mother, who their father said died giving birth to Kyle, in fact had fled their abusive dad. She left letters to her sons, and one special letter for Kyle explaining her reason for leaving them. Kyle is furious and runs off. He decides to do something that he will regret.

The scene ends with Kyle sitting in the kitchen in a daze. Lewis walks in and he tries to snap him out of it and calls for the other brothers. Kyle confesses that he did what the brothers wanted to do to their father, he killed him. Will run upstairs to check on the father, and realized what Kyle has done. The audience is silent and wondering what is going to happen to Kyle, and his brothers.

Duane, Will’s boyfriend, is played by Tony Barr, who is a queer man in real life. “Playing the character of Duane was a challenge for me because the character was true to himself, confident and very proud of his sexuality,” he says. “I, on the other hand, am an introvert and not outspoken.

Barr says the character brought out the best in him. “It made me feel great on the inside, and free to do whatever felt right at that time.” Barr says he wanted the audience to view him for his performance and energy, not his sexuality or color. “I wanted to show that fighting for what you believe in, it’s worth it and no matter what the situation is, you can achieve it.”

New to acting, Barr has faced challenges on his path. One of the biggest issues, he says, is his sexual identity. Being an African American queer man is tough, especially in the industry, he says, because a queer man may face backlash or fear that they will be judged. Besides his sexuality, Barr says not having a deep voice is another issue. “I have a soft voice and it tends to sound weak at times,” he says. He feels people won’t understand him and won’t take him seriously. “The voice is your instrument, you can do so much with it, and it gets you places you’ve never thought you’ll be.” As a result, he practices while  working as a cashier lead at the Banana Republic Factory store. When ringing up customers, he projects his voice and enunciates words in a stern voice.

Barr feels a lot of pressure to maintain a certain physical appearance. “Some roles I’m not going to get because of my weight or that I wear glasses or my height,” he says. “There are roles for my type but who wants to do roles that you know you can do? It’s more about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying a role people will be surprised you’ve done.”

Barr was shy growing up. “Well even though we shy out from other people, we still have dreams of becoming something extraordinary or something outside our comfort zone,” he says.

Barr graduated from The New York Conservatory for Arts and acting was a big dream. What inspired him to be an actor was seeing different people act in a way you wouldn’t see them act in the street or regularly. Tyler Perry was someone he watched in his films and plays. Tyler Perry played a woman when he is a man, seeing him act in his plays amazed Barr.

The author of In My Father House contacted Barr on Instagram and asked if he was interested in reading the play. “I couldn’t resist,” says Barr. “I read it and it was the most life-changing thing I ever read. As soon as I read the play, I instantly knew what two characters I would possibly play, either Will or Duane.”

Barr opted for Duane, even though he says they are two different people. “I know I can play him well because he’s the person inside of me,” says Barr. “After the play was over, he became my alter ego and he would stay inside of me as long as he needs to.”

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