By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Youngstown State University Theater’s production of “Broke-ology” will be special for several reasons.
Part of YSU’s celebration of Black History Month, “Broke-ology” is also the theater’s first main-stage production written by an African-American playwright and featuring an all African-American cast.
Anchoring that cast is Mike Traylor, a professional actor from Phoenix. Traylor, who plays the family patriarch in “Broke-ology,” is sharing his expertise with the student actors through a series of workshops and master classes.
Written by Nathan Louis Jackson and first produced in 2008, “Broke-ology” revolves around the King family, whose members have weathered life’s hardships while keeping their love for each other intact. William King (Traylor) lives alone in the house his two sons grew up in. When the brothers are called home to take care of him, they find themselves at odds.
Matthew Mazuroski, an assistant professor in the YSU theater department, is directing “Broke-ology.” He said bringing in a professional actor to play the role of William King was always part of the plan for the production. “We wanted our students to have the opportunity to work with a professional actor in rehearsal as well as in workshop environments,” said Mazuroski. “[Traylor] is a professional actor who I directed in several professional productions in Phoenix about 15 years ago. I knew that his talent and commitment to acting and teaching would really allow our students to grow artistically.”
Traylor has been with the Black Theatre Troupe in Phoenix for the past 30 years as an actor and director. He also has worked with Actors Theatre, Southwest Shakespeare Company and AZ Jewish Theatre, all in Phoenix.
In Atlanta, he worked with Atlanta Shakespeare and the Georgia Shakespeare Festival.
Mazuroski noted that he also has worked with Jackson, the playwright, before. It was in a production of “Driving Miss Daisy” when Jackson was a student at Kansas State University.
“Broke-ology” looks in on a family in a working-class neighborhood in Kansas City, Kan., whose struggles will be familiar to Americans of all races and in all cities.
“The King family represents any American family that has lived paycheck to paycheck, that struggles to make ends meet,” said Mazuroski. “It illuminates the struggles shared, choices faced and sacrifices made in order to keep the family together. It shows the family with all of its complexities.”
The title of the play itself refers to the science of making do with little money.
In addition to Traylor, the cast includes Nikita Jones of Youngstown; Breylon L. Stubbs of Youngstown; and Timothy Thomas of Farrell, Pa. Todd Dicken is the scenic designer.
Mazuroski said Mahoning Valley residents especially should feel a connection to “Broke-ology” because of its post-industrial setting.
“I know that Youngstown residents either live in, have driven through, or read about neighborhoods like this,” said Mazuroski. “Once-proud working-class neighborhoods that have lived through the devastation of economic blight, shrinking tax bases and crumbling infrastructure.”