© 2024 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Emotions Run High in George Street Playhouse's "American Son"

John Bolger and Suzzanne Douglas
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Stage and screen stars Suzzanne Douglas and John Bolger return to George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ for the award-winning play American Son, which runs through February 26th.

American Son
Credit George Street Playhouse for WBGO
"American Son" runs through February 26th at the George Street Playhouse

Douglas is returning to GSP for the sixth time.  She plays Kendra Ellis-Connor.  Bolger plays her estranged husband, Scott Connor.  Their son Jamal's car has been pulled over in the middle of the night and the Connors can't get any answers about his whereabouts. 

Douglas says her character fights like a tiger to save her son:

“The image, the idea of Jamal is universal she’s for fighting for all sons everywhere, our children, are all of our children and to be an advocate as a mom that’s my number one duty in life. I would kill for my daughter. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for any child they are, I believe our gross national product”.

Bolger says emotions build and the estranged couple learn more about their son's feelings and dreams as the play unfolds:

“Sometimes love is not enough, you know its assessing that damage and then caring for that individual. There’s no way of knowing except to live it and to and try to be there when people need your help and sometimes we just aren’t there”.

Suzzanne Douglas and John Bolger
Credit George Street Playhouse for WBGO
Kendra Ellis-Connor (played by Suzzanne Douglas) lashes out at her estranged husband Scott Connor (John Bolger)

Douglas expects George Street audiences to have deeper conversations about race and assumptions as they leave the theater:

“Who are we as America now that we are a melting pot, I thought that’s why we are here. Lets celebrate that and embrace that love that fed that unique quality of diversity. So its all of that which makes it so interesting in present day, that takes us outside of the theater and hopefully compels us to not only just talk about, but do something about it, healing how broken in our situation our marriage is and if you want to go outside of that, our country and our world."

Douglas' television credits include starring in the long-running family sitcom The Parent 'Hood.  But she says performing on stage enables audiences to truly see her and other's emotions in a much more powerful way, especially working with a great director like David Saint, cast and crew....

“You’ve got a safety net, your spirits are connected, your minds are thinking as one full unit. And you’ve got this goal that you’re aiming towards, together. There’s a great sense of community surrounding the theater that you don’t necessarily have in film and television”.

Despite her amazing run of shows at GSP, this is the first time she has David Saint as her director.  Both Douglas and Bolger say Saint is amazing.

American Son also stars Mark Junek and Mark Kenneth Smaltz.

Bolger played linebacker and special teams at Bucknell University and knows the important of "team."  He thinks working with a group of talented actors on stage results in the same chemistry as athletes and musicians in their venues:

“You know when you go on a court and you’ve played with people for a long time if you played pick up basketball game and you’ve played with guys for years you don’t have to talk you just get on the court and you start playing its and becomes almost like a jazz piece.”

John Bolger and Suzzanne Douglas
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO
John Bolger and Suzzanne Douglas enjoy the halls of WBGO with host Doug Doyle

John Bolger expressed his appreciation for jazz during the interview with WBGO's News Director Doug Doyle:

"I just think of it as an astonishing quilt, this astonishing collage of color and sound that's made wherever jazz musicians get together and play."

Suzzanne Douglas, who played Billie Holiday in GSP's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, is a veteran jazz vocalist and performer.  The New Jersey resident describes jazz as:

"Historic, necessary and vital."

Click above to hear more about what John Bolger and Suzzanne Douglas have to say about Christopher Demos-Brown's 2016 play American Son.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 250 awards from organizations like PRNDI (now PMJA), AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.