A production by the University’s Theatre Department surrounding the complexity of race in the 1950s
Two weeks ago, here at the University, the theatre department brought to life the story of the fictional Crumb family in the play “Crumbs From the Table of Joy” written by Lynn Nottage and directed on campus by Dr. Jaye Austin. Although the play first premiered in 1995, it takes place back in the 1950s following the Crump family of Godfrey Crump and his two daughters Ernestine and Ermina. At the beginning of the play, the family is starting a new chapter of their life in Brooklyn, N.Y. after the passing of Godfrey’s wife. Ernestine, a seventeen year old, takes the role of the protagonist, as the story is told through her perspective. “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” explores Ernestine’s new experiences and struggles in life as she pursues a career as a writer. It also follows along with the bond she forms with her mother’s sister, Lily Ann Green. The play embodies New York life in the 1950s as well as focuses on the reality of the struggles faced by a family of color in this era. The family also experiences further change when Godfrey Crump leaves temporarily, returning with a new wife Gerte Schulte, a white German immigrant. The cast consisted of Bryanni Williams ’23 who played the role of Lily Ann Green, Isaiah Mays ’23 playing the role of Godfrey Crump, Azhani Duncan-Reese ’23 playing the role of Ermina Crump, Jeniah Martin ’22 playing the role of Ernestine Crump and lastly Miki Du Bois ’22 playing the role of Gerte Schulte.
The play attracted the attention of many University students and members of the community alike, selling out most nights. Endia Scales ’24, a student who is involved with the University’s theatre program, took time to watch the play and was happy to share her opinion of the show. “The cast members all embodied their characters really well, and that made the play come to life even more for the audience,” Scales said. Another fellow student, Caleb Wooten ’23 also had the opportunity to attend a showing. “Dr. Jaye Austin Williams and the actors did a great job of articulating the anti-blackness in American society and how it manifests itself through everyday life. Even though the play is set in the 1950s, the lessons that the play teaches apply to the current time period and are extremely valuable,” Wooten said. As shared by Wooten, the lessons that were portrayed and relayed in the play are pertinent and can be applied to our lives today, regardless of the time period. Furthermore, the play discusses the complexity of race within society, a topic still at large in our world today. Due to the importance of these issues and the lessons taught in “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” it is encouraged for all University students to attend these plays and other events on campus that shed light on these prevalent problems.
“Crumbs From the Table of Joy” takes on the task of portraying many issues of the harsh reality that people of color struggled with in the 1950s. Many of these issues are issues that people of color still face to this day. The early 1950s were just the beginnings of what would be a revolutionary period in history — the Civil Rights Movement. After first writing and premiering the play in 1995, Lynn Nottage — an American playwright shared in an interview that, “The 1950s was such a moment in American history in which I felt so much change…everything I had seen was in black and white. And I wanted to make it colorful. So I started writing “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” to try to understand that era.” The University theatre received astounding reviews for their production of this compelling show and the University community is encouraged to attend future performances.
Throughout the semester the University Theatre company offers a variety of shows such as the Fall Dance Showcase, “The Taming of the Shrews,” Fall Dance Concert and One Act Plays. More information surrounding these future showings can be found in the theatre and dance department brochure.