Broke-ology a challenge for debut director Stephens

Ennis King explains “broke-ology” as a science that examines two things: being broke and staying alive despite your brokeness.

This science serves as the foundation of so many other components in the King family’s world, where family responsibility trumps individual freedom.

It’s a world as complex as the science, one balanced by heartache and laughter. And at its center are Ennis and his brother Malcolm.

“It’s about the human condition,” Shea Stephens says.

  • Stephens is director of New Venture Theatre’s production of Nathan Louis Jackson’s 2009 drama Broke-ology, which opens Friday in Independence Park Theatre. The show runs for two performances and marks Stephens’ directorial debut.

“I’m a senior theater major at LSU,” Stephens says. “I’ve been in productions at LSU, and I’ve worked in productions at New Venture. I talked to Greg a year ago about directing a show. It’s summer, and the time is right.”

Meaning Stephens was able to stage Jackson’s play before LSU’s fall semester opens at the end of August. And there was plenty of time to discuss the characters and story with cast members.

“As a director, I respect the playwright’s words, but I also have to think about my interpretation for the stage,” Stephens says. “This story is so powerful, and the characters are so real. This is big for a first-time director.”

  • Again, Broke-ology examines the lives of the King family, which seems always short of money. But things become tougher after Sonia King dies of cancer.

She’s the family matriarch, and her husband, William, suffers from multiple sclerosis, which is getting worse.

Older son Ennis works a variety of jobs to support his wife and newborn, and younger son Malcolm has returned from college for the summer, and the pressure is building.

The King brothers acknowledge their dad needs extended care, but who will be the caretaker?

Ennis is supporting a family; Malcolm hopes to go to graduate school. So, decisions need to be made.

But to learn who decides what, you have to make a trip to Independence Park Theatre, where audiences not only will meet the King family but become well-versed in Ennis’ scientific theory.

“This is a great story and a great cast,” Stephens says. “And I consider this a team effort. If one of the actors has an idea they want to express, they can bring it to the table. I stay open-minded.”

  • In the meantime, Stephens plans for graduation in May 2014 and applying to graduate schools. He’s interested in both stage and film work, but Broke-ology is his top priority for the summer.

Broke-ology, the science of being broke and staying alive.

And the King family strives to survive both.

  • CAST: Caiden Alexander, William King; Bianca Siplin, Sonia King; Byron Wade, Malcolm King; Jesse Wallace Jr., Ennis King.
  • ARTISTIC ATAFF: Shea Stephens, director; Greg Williams Jr., set designer; Angela Perry, costumer.