In a new local production, Vida Finley will portray the mother of a character loosely based on Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014.
Finley, a black single mother of two sons, knows the fear of her child not coming home safely, or even alive.
“When they step out that door, there’s a different way that they have to conduct themselves so they don’t offend somebody or scare someone who might not be the same skin color that they are,” she said. “I have to worry about, will they be targeted?”
She turned to Facebook to express her concerns about her sons’ safety.
“I am a black woman in America trying to raise black men, teaching them to respect all, knowing all do not respect them because their skin color is black,” she wrote in a 2016 post.
It was this post that inspired friend and local playwright Mic Rex to write “Somebody’s Baby,” which will be put on by Lakewood Theatre Company, located in Old Hickory, Sept. 1 through Sept. 17.
The play follows five women — mother, daughter, sister, grandmother and wife — affected by police violence against people of color. Rex said it is “pulled from the headlines” based on real victims of police-inflicted violence, such as Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and Charles Kinsey. When someone is killed, family members are victims as well, and the play touches on grief and how people help each other process it as well, Finley added.
Finley’s post and conversations with other men and women of color concerned about police violence inspired Rex, who usually sticks to romantic comedies. Rex, a white man, said he wanted to give opportunities for well-rounded roles for actors of color through the play as well.
“I wanted the audience to see these people as real people who have to then put up with this extra layer of stuff that I’m never going to have to deal with,” he says.
With a background in children’s plays, “Somebody’s Baby” is a step outside for director April Hardcastle-Miles’ comfort zone. She said she felt compelled to take on the project especially in thinking about the different experiences her 8-year-old white son and his black friend will have as they grow up.
“We were thinking about doing Princess Bride or adapting a children’s book, and I said ‘you know what, let’s do something that’s relevant and is going to make people think and maybe help people get through something — healing through art,’” Hardcastle-Miles said.
Rex said he hopes the play will get people to think and talk to each other about police violence against people of color.
“This play doesn’t have a neat resolution,” he said. Hardcastle-Miles’ hopes the play will show depth in each victim’s story in order to combat victim-blaming.
“They had these whole lives and affected so many people before they were a headline,” she said. ”I just hope that people can not be defensive. Some people want to speak before they listen and this is a moment where I hope everyone can … pay attention.”
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at 2211 Old Hickory Blvd. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, military and students and are available at the door or online at www.ticketsnashville.com.