BLACK VOICES
01/17/2012 03:23 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2012

'Stick Fly' Stars Tracie Thoms, Ruben Santiago-Hudson Talk Broadway, Life Lessons

Since opening on Broadway on December 8, the new play "Stick Fly," written by Lydia R. Diamond, has played to enthusiastic audiences and garnered critical praise. Likely due to strong ticket sales, producers just announced that tickets to the production are now on sale for performances through April 8.

Directed by Kenny Leon, the play follows the LeVay family during a weekend getaway in Martha's Vineyard. Ruben Santiago-Hudson plays the family patriarch, Joe, while Dule Hill and Mekhi Phifer play his sons Kent and Flip. Kent brings his fiance Taylor (Tracie Thoms) and Flip brings his girlfriend Kimber (Rosie Benton) on vacation, a surprise that sets the play's events into motion. Sibling rivalries and class distinctions create friction and family secrets are revealed over the course of the play.

Santiago says that Joe, a self-made man who is struggling to deal with his past mistakes, was a complicated character to tackle. "I don't think it's a totally perfectly defined role, so I try to fill in a lot of the blanks that weren't written necessarily," he told The Huffington Post. "I try to fill it in with nuance. And that was a challenge for me. That was the thing that I enjoyed so much about coming into this role every day, bringing stuff in that's not necessarily on the page."

Tracie Thoms, best known for her roles in "Rent," "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Cold Case," plays a character who is the daughter of a deceased, famous intellectual. Due to Taylor's absent relationship with her father, her weekend away with the LeVays reminds her of the family she never had.

"This role was difficult because she has several things going on at the same time," Thoms said. "And it's always hard as an actor, because we're taught that you can only one thing at a time. So the challenge is to deal with everything that's going on but in a different moment. And basically, I had to layer it in. I'll do a rehearsal where I dealt with one issue that she was having, and do another rehearsal where I dealt with another issue that she was having, and pile them on top of each other."

"It's probably the hardest role that I've played because she's so complicated and misunderstood. And it can be difficult to play a character that's constantly misunderstood because it's starts to play on your own sensibility as a person and actor to be understood."

Thoms also talked about what it was like working with Grammy-Award winner Alicia Keys, a "Stick Fly" producer who also helped create the play's original score.

"Alicia would come to rehearsals and sit there and listen to us do the scenes," she revealed. "And as she's listening to us she would talk to Kenny [Leon] about what she was feeling and what she wanted to evoke with the music. And she would go from there and design this music to help tell the story, not take away from the story. She never done it before and it was a challenge for her and she did a wonderful job."

Though it is one of the first Broadway plays to examine the lives of upper-class African-Americans, "Stick Fly" carries with it an overall message that can resonate across various ethnic groups.

"I think it's very important that audiences come and embrace a black family on stage whose problems are about them. Not about what white America has done to us, but about what we are trying to make happen in our lives," Hudson said. "Our differences, our dysfunctions, our problems, and it doesn't have anything to do with white people. We comment about them on a few different things, but the problems and the conflicts that are in that house are not about white people. And so it's very important that audiences of all colors, shapes and sizes see us as just regular people with regular people's problems."

"I think a lot of people come and see this play and it hits them on that level of them having issues with their father, but I also think it's important that 'Kimber' [the white girl in our play] has father issues that she talks about," Thoms added. "So it's not necessarily a racial thing, it's just a human need to have a father around ... On one hand, it's playing on the perception that black men are often absent in their children's lives, but then you have a white character who says, 'No, I have dad issues too.'"

"Stick Fly" is currently playing at New York's Cort Theater. To purchase tickets click here.

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