Stick Fly: Director's Notes

“Stick Fly”

Written by Lydia Diamond

Directed by Avery Glymph


Welcome to the LeVay family summer gathering on Martha’s Vineyard, set in the luxurious mansion they have owned for generations. There is a long history of Black elites making the Vineyard their destination for vacation and residence, and the status and surroundings of our characters immediately introduce us to a condition of African American life that we do not often see portrayed on stage.

For years our brilliant Black writers have given us incredible stories of tragedy, and have moved us with witty humor, utilizing each and every nuance to reflect themselves in their works. With “Stick Fly,” we cherish the opportunity to address these same universal dramatic themes in different socio-economic spaces; not that this status among Black elites is abnormal or unusual, but underserved in attention. After all, this family, along with the individuals who love them, have their senses of humor, their triumphs, and the insecurities of humanity as much as anyone else.

Well before its Broadway run, I had the pleasure of performing in “Stick Fly” as an actor at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in 2008. We had the fortune of working with the playwright, Lydia Diamond, present for our process. Ours was not the premiere production, but an early one, and it is always a valuable treat to collaborate with the writer in rehearsal and contribute to the evolution of the play. Neither I, nor anyone else, could have known then what would become of our country in the post-Obama years.

When I was first asked to direct the play at UNCSA, almost reflexively I thought back to this period of time. The play was originally set in 2005, right in the middle of the Bush years; I have set our play in 2008, during the summer before the fall of Lehman Brothers and the election of Obama: a time when the conversations about race and class would be dynamically different from those that were had at any previous time. With “Hope and Change” in the air, and Obama’s historic election on the horizon, the discussion shifts from one that would spin our soul cycles in a status quo exercise that runs the risk of falling flat in our playing space (and becoming a “woe is me” story of the Black experience), to one in which the fruits of discourse have actual tangibles in which people will see perceptions shift and progress made.

Before much of the current national division, there was a brief period when this euphoric potential floated in the zeitgeist. That sweet spot is where we exist in the world of this play, notwithstanding the crises, insecurities, and uncomfortable truths revealed in the lives of these people in which we can see ourselves reflected. Therefore, because of the timing of 2008, and the possibility of what was to come in this country, the outcome is maybe less open-ended and stuck in the doldrums. Perhaps there is more promise for positive resolution, however brief, down the road. Yet, there are no guarantees.

Ultimately, “Stick Fly” is a play about love and family that explores themes of race and privilege through the lens of class and status. We learn the idea that just because you are privileged doesn’t necessarily mean you are fortunate. And you may come from or have a fortune, but you may not always be privileged.

Originally developed as part of The August Wilson New Play Initiative at Congo Square Theatre in Chicago, “Stick Fly” was premiered there in 2006, and its performance in 2011 marked Diamond’s Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre.

January 30, 2020