New stage play ‘Karma’ opens in Austin

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by Andrea Watson on November 23, 2012

A new stage play in Austin takes audience members on a journey with a young black couple whose love shatters and evolves through something some might call “karma.”

The two-hour performance, “Karma“ hosted by the Saint Martin Repertory Theatre and held at Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church, 5700 W. Midway Park, addresses the real-life issues of family dysfunction and the characters’ journeys of learning to cope and mend relationships through compassion, forgiveness and honesty.

The issues of alcoholism, substance abuse and domestic abuse may hit home for some West Siders and beyond. Finding love and keeping it strong is hard enough for many couples, but these factors make the already difficult task even more daunting.

Warren Feagins plays the main character Ezekiel Lee, who the audience learns has a lot of regrets, but the past can not be changed. Olivia Charles plays his wife, Queen Lee. Feagins said he believes the play will reach most of the audience because it will be a reminder for them to watch their actions.

“Within the [black] community you see so much going on with people behaving hastily…stuff escalating from fights, to people being murdered over misunderstandings,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of that, which speaks to the community, humanity at large but definitely the community where everything is heightened because of the level of poverty.”

What often happens in poverty-stricken communities is people tend to act without weighing the consequences of their actions, and actions can be “tragic,” Feagins said

“That added tension just escalates into things that you can’t take back, and this play is just a, I think a healthy way for people in the community to kind of see how stuff plays out and maybe act as a reminder–think before you act.”

The play’s writer, Chicago playwright Senyah Haynes, thinks audience members will identify with its characters.

“I think there are so many recognizable moments. Somebody will recognize their aunt, somebody’s going to recognize that man who’s got that habit,” she said.

Haynes said inspiration came not so much from her personal life, but from a variety of experiences, including those of her friends. Her parents divorced when she was 10, and while she said she thinks she had a decent childhood, when writing this she asked herself how could her life have turned out differently. She said when she writes her stories, she’s always asking, “what if?”

The story is full of pain, Haynes said. “I think pain is a universal language,” she said.

The St. Martin Repertory Theatre is unique and necessary for the community, said Larry Nance, co-artistic director of the theater. He said the theater is important because the West Side lacks resources and this theater offers art, something people need.

“It’s important for us to offer this space to marginalized voices because we find quite often, people want to express themselves and either don’t have the outlet to do that or aren’t necessarily sure how to do that,” Nance said.

The church shares its space to the theater company. Both Nance and his colleague Derrick Dawson agree offering the stage and their time to the community, especially to the young people, is a good investment. A few months ago they started an apprenticeship that works closely with youth in the community.

The performance runs weekends through Dec. 2, and ticket prices start at $20 each. Group rates can be applied. Any questions can be answered at (773)-378-8111, and more information can be found at the TicketRiver website.

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