(UNION, NJ) -- Premiere Stages at Kean University presents a new play, Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family, by TyLie Shider. Mr. Shider is the recipient of the 2021/22 Liberty Live Commission. The Commission is awarded biennially, in partnership with Kean University’s Liberty Hall. It seeks to develop and produce new plays that celebrate New Jersey’s rich and diverse history.
Directed by Othell J. Miller, Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family focuses on a family living in Plainfield, New Jersey. They are long time residents who moved to Plainfield in search of a better life than they were living in the south. In some ways, their dreams were realized but in other ways, they have not been met. Their conflicts rise to the surface during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967” when riots broke out in neighboring Newark and eventually to Plainfield.
The play skillfully examines the days before the violence breaks out and as it begins. We never see any of rioting or burning. Instead, the set which is the back porch of the family home, remains on stage during the entire show. However, we feel the tension through the dialog and reactions of this family who proudly own their home in Plainfield.
In a recent interview with BroadwayWorld.com, playwright TyLie Shider discusses his background. This background is reflected in different formats in the play.
Mr. Shider was born and raised in Plainfield and is part of a family with a long history in the city. His maternal grandparents migrated there in the 60s and his paternal grandparents have roots there as far back as the early 20th century. His parents met and grew up together because their fathers sang together in a gospel band.
The interview discloses an important aspect of this play: Mr. Shider says, “there was very little coverage of what happened in Plainfield, because the focus was on Newark, because it’s the larger city.” After the riots ravaged Newark, there was concern for Plainfield because of its close physical proximity. There are mentions of this concern throughout the play which adds to the tension level.
Generational Differences and Family Matters
Four characters make up the cast for Certain Conflicts in the Negro Family. Clif (Eddie Blackman Gouveia) and Peach (Diane L. Parker) were previously married and but now are living in separate homes. They are parents to Junior (Kena Anae) who lives in the house with his mother. Ruth (Nicole Prothro) is a close friend of the family. Her father is a clergyman and she is involved in a relationship with Junior.
The play opens with Peach sitting inside the house at the window to the back porch. This is her spot for most of the play until the last scene. Early dialog gives potential indications of memory loss but that does not hold up at the end of the play either. Clif stops by frequently to look in on her. They appear to have a civil relationship despite the fact that Clif had another wife and son which is a source of discontent for Junior. Junior has a music studio in the house and he hopes to produce music that will sell well.
Kena Anae as Junior and Eddie Gouveia Blackman as Clif in Premiere Stages’ Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family. Photo by Mike Peters.
The Clif/Junior relationship is one of the earliest signs of generational conflict. Father continually criticizes Junior and his music. The fact that Junior quit a job at a record store because they would not put his record on their shelves is a major source of conflict between the two and a major issue for Clif.
Discussions about what happened in Newark bring different arguments out. Clif says nothing is accomplished by burning down stating “We have to live here.” However, when he goes to town to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich, he is met head on with the reality facing Plainfield when he gets frisked by the police.
Another generational difference is seen when Peach and Rose discuss the Afro hairdo that Rose wears. Peach says she doesn’t think she would ever wear one. But watch to see what happens in the play to that declaration. Rose writes a song and Junior does the music for it. He thinks they have a hit. Rose is as dedicated to her dream as Junior is.
A Turning Point
As we learn that downtown is on fire, Junior sees the need to put that fire into a record. But it is too much for Clif as decides to leave Plainfield and return to Stateboro. He wants Peach to come with him. After all that went on between them, she decides “It’s too late.”
At this point, the play moves to its conclusion. There are some surprises and signs of hope as well. Watch to see the strength that has come to Peach and see how Rose sets out on an amazing life path.
Congratulations to TyLie Shider for providing a play which gives us a look at a piece of history that has not had much attention. I grew up several towns away from Plainfield and it was one of the go to places for my family. We never really understood all that happened there. But this play gives some good insight into some of the factors at work.
A visit to the theater can create a memorable moment. These memorable moments can be ones that provide insight and learning especially when it comes to historic events. Certain Conflicts in the Negro Family is one of those memorable moments. It is well worth seeing.
The play is presented in the Tent on the grounds of the Liberty Hall Museum. It is well designed and the seating is comfortable. The outstanding Premiere Stages group has worked out heating arrangements so you should be comfortable as well.
Go and learn more about the rich history of New Jersey by seeing this play.
To Attend Certain Conflicts in the Negro Family
Certain Aspects of Conflict in the Negro Family runs October 13-October 23 under the Tent at Kean University’s Liberty Hall Museum. Performances take place Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm.
To obtain tickets, visit Premiere Stages website.