Men of Y-Haven present On His Way at Cleveland Public Theatre
by Maggie Antone
(Plain Press, December 2005) On Saturday, November 4th, the men of Y-Haven presented the stage play “On His Way” to a packed house at the Cleveland Public Theater. Inspired by their collective life experiences, “On His Way” is an exhilarating story of a man's journey in overcoming his troubles and learning to live his life in a more positive light.
Y-Haven, a program branching from Cleveland’s YMCA, provides transitional housing, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, and educational and vocational services for homeless men. The program has received several accolades, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2005 Award of Excellence. Currently, two Y-Haven facilities serve the Cleveland area.
The play tells the story of Adam, portrayed by Curtis B. Gill, who is traveling to see his dying father and estranged son. Throughout his trip, Adam is confronted with a series of personal trials and tribulations that threaten to take him off of his course.
Adam is constantly pestered by two opposing inner voices: Raphael (Anthony V. Biles), the voice of reason, and Justin (Sam Root), the voice of self-interest. Raphael tries to keep Adam on the right path, advising him to pursue the greater things in life. However, Adam is challenged by Justin’s manipulative urging, which at times is especially tempting.
One of the production’s main themes is that family members possess a profound bond that remains strong, no matter how far away they get from one another. From the beginning, Grandpa was certain that Adam would visit him prior to his death. He believes in Adam for two reasons: he has seen Adam journeying to him in his dreams; and, more importantly, because he is family and there is a deep love-connection between them. Adam's son, however, doubts his grandfather, and questions why his father would come home when he has not been there in years.
Ultimately, Adam arrives at the hospital where his father (Curtis E. Jones) has been admitted, only to find that he has passed. This leads to a confrontation with Ralph (Eric Reed), the son he has not seen in years. Yet, Adam and Ralph work through their differences and commit to improve their relationship in the future.
The story characterizes Adam’s journey from a life of bad choices back to his family as his way “out of the mud.” The men of Y-Haven defined “mud” as the bad choices, destructive behaviors, fears and insecurities that all persons must strive to overcome in life. To successfully wade through the mud, Adam must listen to his inner voice of reason and be more altruistic in his thinking.
Notable about the production was that sets were very simplistic, only consisting of a bed or some chairs. Yet, this did not take anything away from the story. It was so engaging and the acting was so superb that the audience was drawn into each scene. The simple sets were also critical to this production since it heavily emphasized substance and message, rather than flashy sets or special effects. They were not necessary to convey what the men were trying to put across: that it is possible to start over life, no matter how far into the “mud” you may be.
In a question-and-answer session after the production, the men of Y-Haven explained to the audience how their play came together. They first recorded significant reflections of life experiences, particularly aspirations and failures, in personal journals. These reflections would become the major scenes of the play, and when compiled and melded together, became the full story of “On His Way.”
The men also described profound ways in which acting has changed their lives. For some, the experience of performing on stage before a crowd taught them patience and tolerance. Other men stated that acting helped them to overcome their fears and anxieties. Robert Allen (Kenny and Kid at bus station) said that acting “has taught us to be better people; to collaborate, to make things happen, to say it’s never too late in life, to focus on the bigger things, and to do something right.”
For more information on the Y-Haven program, please visit www.yhaven.org or call 216.431.2018. To learn more about Cleveland Public Theater or for a calendar of events, visit www.cptonline.org, or call 216.631.2727.
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