“I originally pitched this show as The Cosby Show with a sex scandal.”
Bakari Lebby definitely adds his own quirky spin on Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly, the fourth show he has directed this season at Workshop Theatre. No rookie to the stage, Lebby has been involved a myriad of productions for the theatre, but this is his debut as a main season director.
“It has been cool. It feels like home,” the young director says. “I brought over a show that I directed at Carolina for a two-night run about two years ago and that was my first time working behind the scenes there. I did two [productions] last year with two directors that I really respect, Chad Henderson and David Britt, so that was cool, but yeah, Workshop is home.”
While his theatrical home has changed a bit, Lebby adapts to working and staging in 701 Whaley’s Market Space where each of the previous shows this season were produced.
“Theatre can be done anywhere. The only thing is the time constraints,” Lebby elaborates. “We've already pretty much built everything, and it all has to go up in about a day which is totally cool because we have a great set designer, Billy Love. It's a cool space. It's pretty intimate, so I'm excited for close contact with the stage.”
The play itself revolves around the LeVays, a wealthy African-American family who come together for a weekend vacation. The conversations focus on the issues the family faces with race, gender, and privilege.
“They're like any other family,” Lebby explains. “Loving, protective. There are secrets. But they are also extremely wealthy. Martha's Vineyard homeowners wealthy. Homes in Aspen and New York and Atlanta wealthy. On the surface, they could seem like the Huxtables [The Cosby Show] grown up.”
Lebby brings the audience into this world through his eccentric style in performance and design.
“Well, the play is set in Martha's Vineyard, so it will all be on the first floor of a beach house,” he says. “It will be like watching a Wes Anderson-type set (mostly thinking of in The Life Aquatic) where each room is very specifically different, but the actors very easily flit from one room to another while all still feeling like one all-encompassing space.”
“I wanted the set to be a bit sitcom-y. I've accelerated the dialogue a bit to match my style more. Actors are occasionally interrupting each other mid-conversation. That's also more my style. We've also taken the script and used it to make any character the protagonist or antagonist depending on the viewer's opinion or emotions.”
These opinions and emotions address very real controversy in what may be perceived as a surrealistic life.
“The play not only addresses race, but also class and gender roles. There are relationships where race is an issue more than class, race is an issue including class, class is an issue more than race, and so forth. Even within race, there are colorism issues which are still prevalent in current society,” Lebby points out. “It also brings up the whole point that racism is still alive, but no one wants to talk about it past pleasantries. Kimber [a character in Stick Fly] has a line that rings true, ‘They don't even want people to say that it still exists.’ It does, and I think this play brings up the point that the only way to make it better is to talk about it.”
Stick Fly opens March 27 and runs through April 4 and 701 Whaley’s Market Space. Call the box office at 803-799-6551, or order online at workshop.palmettoticketing.com for tickets.
“I wanted to take a play that could have been only entertainment and turn it into a piece that makes people think and consider their relationships with family, friends, lovers, and strangers,” Lebby eloquently adds. “Oh, and I want you to be able to laugh also. Gotta have some laughs. And there are definitely some laughs.”