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Brotherhood forged by blood and sand in ‘Boys to Baghdad’
Kicks off Brand New Sheriff Productions season
Published Thursday, August 22, 2019 10:38 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

“Boys to Baghdad,” which opens Brand New Sheriff Productions’ new season, has long been a project playwright and BNS founder Rory Sheriff wanted to tackle.

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Some stories just have to be told.

For Charlotte playwright and Brand New Sheriff Productions founder Rory Sheriff, such was the case with “Boys to Baghdad.” The award-winning play opens the troupe’s new season on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. with a pay what you can night. It runs through Sept. 21 at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square.

“The story was in my mind and in my heart for many years,” said Sheriff, who earned Best Director from Broadway World for the production. “I kept putting it off. Ironically, I finished ‘Be a Lion’ [the season’s second show is Dec. 5-14] before this piece, and this piece was just nagging and tugging at me. I had time, so I just started to write it.”

Sheriff could not get the characters out of his head, so he committed them to paper.

“A lot of writers like to say they hear the voices of these characters talking, over and over and over again,” he said. “They just got too loud, so I had to write.”
Sheriff, an Army veteran who was stationed in Iraq, is committed to telling the story of African Americans in the military.

“Being a combat veteran who served in Desert Storm, it acts as a bit of therapy for me to get a lot of this stuff out of my system, and to talk about,” he said. “Second, it’s to just get it out of my mind, so I can write about other stories. This story has to be told. The African American story in the military is far underrepresented, and as many African Americans are in the military—all branches—our story is really, really underrepresented. We have a lot of African American military heroes who we don’t learn about today because there are not a lot of African Americans telling the story. My job is to fill that void and tell our story and share our story, because we’ve got wonderful stories to share with the world that are relative to everyone, crossing race, because it is America’s story.”

Mack Staton will direct the coming-of-age story, which takes place during the Gulf War. Sheriff sets the stage in his home state of Pennsylvania: 1989 Philadelphia, to be exact. Huey Shareef (Dylan Ireland), the son of a deceased Black Panther, joins the Army. While his girlfriend Tiffany (Aleeya Dorries Davis) heads to college, he’s in Baghdad with a new band of brothers.

Ireland is one of four UNC Charlotte theater students performing in the production.

“I came across the play through my Black Kings group, which Aaron Allen, Dylan Ireland, Marcus Fitzpatrick and I formed at UNC Charlotte,” said Deandre Sanders, who plays Dez Laury. “Aaron graduated two semesters ago. Marcus is graduating this upcoming semester. Dylan is graduating next year. I graduated last semester. Aaron came across the auditions, and sent it to us in our group chat. He said, ‘this would be an awesome chance for us all to be in the same show.’”

The group had not performed together since the spring of 2018 in ‘The Wiz’ at UNC Charlotte. While Sanders and Fitzpatrick are performing together in Three Bone Theatre’s rendition of “Pipeline” this month, “Boys to Baghdad” is the first time the four of them will perform together professionally.
“We decided to take the opportunity,” Sanders said.

Their chemistry translates to their roles, with Allen playing Private Hernandez and Fitzpatrick as Terrence McClain.

“It was an awesome experience that we were all cast together,” Sanders said. “Coming up through my school with my brothers, because I consider them all brothers, and now we’re all in a professional production here. It’s an amazing opportunity for us, and it’s even more amazing that Marcus and I are going from ‘Pipeline’ straight to ‘Boys to Baghdad.’ We’re used to that, but at a professional level, this is something new for us.”


What dates. And will it be featured in the Greensboro area
Posted on August 22, 2019

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