Student makes professional theatrical debut with The Black Rep
Every theater major dreams of the day they make their debut in a professional theatrical production. For junior Dwayne McCowan, that dream has come true.
“Milk Like Sugar” centers around a pregnancy pact between the three main characters, 16-year-old girls and best friends Annie, T and Margie. Motivated by the aesthetics of child raising—in their eyes, Coach diaper bags and baby Jordans—at their joint baby shower for the daughters they are sure they are having, the characters in “Milk Like Sugar” choose their baby daddies based on the type of phone he has—a better phone means a better social standing for their child’s father. Written by Kirsten Greenidge, “Milk Like Sugar” takes a look at domestic abuse, abusive relationships and their power dynamics, women’s health and religion through the eyes of youth. Greenidge looks at aspects of the Black community that people tend to shy away from acknowledging: poverty, teen pregnancy and lack of privilege.
For the seriousness of the topics that the show tackles, the show is funny. The characters’ conversations are real and captivating, and these characters do not mince words. The set provides a startling contrast to the rest of the show’s vibrancy—it is all white. The costumes are patterned, brightly colored and accessorized. When paired with the clean, minimalistic lines of the completely white set and the voracity of the dialogue they are especially impactful. To complement the set, the show’s soundtrack features a mix of popular R&B and gospel music, making the transition music between scenes one of my favorite parts of the show. The sounds were comforting and familiar.
McCowan plays Malik, the main character’s love interest. Malik wants more for himself than he thinks his community can give him: He wants to go to college. He wants to escape the cycle that is prevalent in the Black community and works to change the main character’s mind about getting pregnant.
“Milk Like Sugar” is McCowan’s first professional production—he has been paid by the Black Rep for his work from the audition process to the performance itself. “It’s been hard,” he said, “juggling being a full-time student and a full-time actor, but somehow it’s all worked itself out.”
On working outside of the classroom with Washington University professor Ron Himes, a Black Rep founder, producer and director, McCowan said, “I saw him sitting in a different seat of power and he had a different charisma about himself because it was his company. It was something he was very passionate about, something he cared very much about.”
“Milk Like Sugar” is coming up on its final weekend in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, with performances tonight at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.; tickets are $15. While this is not the final Black Rep show of the season, this is the final Black Rep show for which students will be present since it is the last one of the semester, so I encourage students to go see it while there are still tickets left.