Coming of age story to illustrate resilience


Photo by Jordan Auker

Ernestine Crump (freshman Jesmelia Williams) and Ermina Crump (freshman Jada Alexia Hampton) are hesitant to shake Gerte Schulte’s (junior Hannah Michelle) hand.

As the production nears, The Shield spoke with guest director Ron Himes about working on USI Theatre’s “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” and the meaning of the play in today’s America. Himes is the founder and producing director of The Black Rep, a theatre company in St. Louis, as well as a member of the performing arts faculty at Washington University.

The Shield: What is the play about?

Ron Himes: It’s a coming of age story. It’s about a young African-American girl, who narrates the story. It’s set in the late 40s- early 50s. There is a tremendous amount of historical and socio-economic themes that run through the play. The play looks at the migration of African Americans from south to north, and features the shadow of communism during that period. It looks at religion and faith. The themes of the play are wide and speak to a lot of the issues that are still very relevant in today’s contemporary society.

The Shield: What brings you to Indiana to direct?

Ron Himes: I’ve acted for a few summers at New Harmony and the chair of the theatre department [Elliot Wasserman] is also the director of New Harmony Theatre during the summer. We talked about me coming here and working with the students on this play. This time and my schedule sort of meshed, so I got here to do this.

The ShielD: What approach are you taking as a director?

Ron Himes: With the students, I’m trying to give them as close to a professional experience as possible. I was fortunate enough to get a really talented group to work with. I think that they are doing an outstanding job with the material.

I think they have an eagerness to learn. They’re talented, they have been daring and they’re willing to try new things. They’re very, very focused.

The ShielD: How do you connect with the play?

Ron Himes: I’ve directed several other plays by same playwright. I love Lynn Nottage and her work in writing. I was excited to work on one of her plays I hadn’t directed before.

I connect with the commitment of the father to try to give his daughters a better life and the sacrifices that he makes to do that. The racial things are what I certainly can identify with—the racism in the play and how society deals with it.

The ShielD: What can audiences connect with?

Ron Himes:  I think that it’s an opportunity to look at a historical period and also see how issues and periods are still relevant today. We still have not solved or even adequately addressed the issue of race in America. We also still have teenagers coming of age, trying to make the transition into a young adult. These students probably really can identify with that, as well students in the audience who come to see it.

I hope that audiences take away the resiliency of the characters and the strength and the forward- looking of the main character, how she looks to the future and prepares for it. I think it’s going to be a wonderful production.