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Arts and Entertainment

Stage production ties civil rights struggle to manhood
‘The Legend of Buster Neal’ at Gantt Center
Published Friday, September 22, 2017 11:01 am
by Ashley Mahoney

"The Legend of Buster Neal" explores the definition of manhood with the Civil Rights Movement as a backdrop.

Bravery is born out of necessity.

Jackie Alexander’s play “The Legend of Buster Neal” explores that theme, as well as what defines manhood. The Harvey B. Gantt Center will bring the North Carolina Black Repertory Company’s production to Charlotte on Oct. 13-14 at 8 p.m. at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Booth Playhouse.  

“The play kind of questions what is the true definition of manhood,” said Alexander, the NC Black Rep’s artistic director. “It tells the story of a civil rights activist who reappears 60 years after his supposed death, and he encounters his great-great grandson and the challenges that teenagers are facing today.”
Alexander drew inspiration for the play from a family gathering.

“The story kind of came out of a conversation I witnessed at home with some older uncles listening to some younger cousins complain about the issues they were facing,” he said. “My uncles kind of laughed, and were like ‘you guys don’t really know—those aren’t problems.’ These are men who grew up in the 1960s-’70s, and faced a whole different set of challenges. I thought it would be interesting to see all these generations of men kind of put in the issues they face, and really what defined being a man, and how it was defined then, and how some kids tend to define it today. Sometimes it’s defined in all the wrong ways.”

A defining component of the production centers on how it captures the essence of manhood.

“What these men stood for, what they faced and the types of bravery they possessed—putting family first is a form of bravery,” Alexander said.  “The show also deals with the family unit. It addresses fatherhood, and the responsibility of fathers to be there for their sons—to provide that role model and figure in the house. It’s all men on stage—so it’s not just the kid who it addresses. It also addresses fatherhood, and the responsibility that comes along with that.”

Alexander noted the numerous avenues that could lead kids “down the wrong path;” such as gangs and drugs.

“Just having them take a look at what’s going on—hopefully they will see themselves on stage, and be able to see the pitfalls that are out there, and understand that ‘doing this doesn’t make me a man,’” he said. “When you look at what selling drugs and what being a part of a gang means, and then you look at what your ancestors did, it’s very easy to look at them and say ‘oh wow. Okay, this is what being a man means.’ I hope they’re able to redefine manhood, and when they walk away they have a clearer definition of what that is.”

Note: Permissible for ages 11 and up.
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