Akeem Davis can’t believe his luck in being cast in the role, nor the irony of how close he comes to exacting the character he plays.
Taking the role of Monroe in “Slip/Shot,” presented by Flashpoint Theatre at the Adrienne Theatre through May 5, the plot is eerily similar to the recent killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
“I play the part of Monroe, a Black senior in high school who has won a scholarship to college,” Davis explains. “But one night, after a picnic with his girlfriend, Monroe is walking home, passing a whites-only hospital, and is shot by a white security guard.”
And although the Martin tragedy hadn’t happened yet when Davis auditioned for the role, the irony of it all is certainly not lost on him or the rest of the cast.
“I’m from Miami and attended the same middle and high schools as Martin, in the same neighborhood in Miami,” Davis recalls. “So I can really relate to him. Here is a young man who will never have the chance to achieve his ambitions, hug his parents or tell them he loves them, kiss a girl or fall in love. Here is a young life that nothing and no one can ever bring back.”
The playwright, Jacqueline Pardue Goldfinger, wrote her play three years ago, and set it in 1962, but it echoes, she says, “Just how the American justice system seems to let people down.”
Davis agrees. “I know there’s an area in Miami that hasn’t yet recovered from the riots in 1980 over the beating death of a young Black man in which police were acquitted. And today, having spent some time in Tallahassee, and being a graduate of the University of Florida, this play is especially poignant for me.”
At the beginning of the rehearsal process, Davis says that the cast didn’t discuss the issues. “But as we continued and began to work more on the project, we began to discuss everything as a group,” Davis points out, “including the gun laws in Florida.”
He continues, “Theater is a medium that speaks to the issues at hand. It’s about saying something, about taking a stand, about facing what we are as a community, and being involved in a meaningful dialogue. This play is a prime example of that and exactly why I thought I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.”
Davis’ thought process started when he was just six years old. “I was always a very talkative kid with a whole lot of energy,” he says. “But lucky for me, neither my parents or my teachers saw that as a problem. They saw me as a kid whose energy just needed to be channeled.”
And so a young Davis was enrolled in speech classes where he started reciting poems by Black poets. And by the time he reached high school, he decided he wanted to become an actor and that nothing else would satisfy him.
“For me, acting is a challenge and I recognize it as a science, a form of alchemy is you will,” he explains. “You have a stone and you must turn yourself into gold as written by the playwright. And today, I find myself facing incredible challenges, such as the one I face in doing this play.”
Davis has moved from Florida to the Philadelphia area to take full advantage of becoming the actor he wants to be. “Living here presents me with a whole lot of opportunities. I always had faith that I would wake up and be able to be a professional actor. And now, here I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 665-9720.