By Jonathan E. Coleman
The last few days before his production “Young, Black and Misunderstood 2” is scheduled to take the stage, life is pretty hectic for 22-year-old playwright Edward Varnie.
He’s busy gathering the 13-member cast for rehearsals, fine tuning the script and taking care of a seemingly endless list of logistics that come with staging a performance.
But, as chaotic as things appear, experience has taught him a great many lessons that have made preparation for this show much less harried than his first show.
“The last project, I just kind of made it up as I went along,” he said. “This one was much more planned out. Always, the last two weeks, it’s like non-stop.”
Less than a year removed from his first play, Varnie has already come a long way.
“We had a guy with a search light and different colors of Saran wrap for mood (lighting),” recalled Fodee Wiles, who acted in the original “Young, Black and Misunderstood.” “This is the grandest stage we’ve been on.”
The latest performance, which will be performed twice on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Spirit Square, Duke Power Theatre in Charlotte, is a look at issues in black culture. It covers a variety of topics from abuse and neglect to HIV and perceptions of young love.
“I like to look at it as a snapshot of each of the characters’ lives,” Varnie said. “They are all trying to figure out who they are while they’re going through these big things.”
Wiles said the performance is partly intended for entertainment, but it’s also to make the audience think.
“At some point, you will be a part of this audience and you will feel it,” he said. “The spectrum of the scenarios is so wide that you will be able to relate to something in the play.”
From writing the script to casting, staging and rehearsing, “Young, Black and Misunderstood 2” has taken about five months to come to life. For Wiles, it’s been something like a roller coaster ride.
“You know the feeling when you’re on a rollercoaster and you’re going up that first hill,” he said. “You get right to the peak and it’s like ‘Oh my God!,’ but then you start down and it’s a rush. It’s fun.”
For Varnie, who wrote the play and also acts in it, seeing his words take shape in the form of a performance is a powerful image.
“I love expressing myself through writing and seeing it come together visually,” he said. “For me, it’s a passion. I feel like I was put on this earth to challenge people, to make them think.”
He also enjoys providing and opportunity for young and aspiring actors to take the stage and share their craft with and audience. While many of the thespians in the show are from Central Piedmont Community College, Johnson C. Smith University or UNC-Charlotte, he also has two teenagers, including a 16-year-old from Wilmington in the cast.
“I love giving young people the opportunity,” he said. “I know it’s hard, especially as a actor, to find a project. It’s not about the money or the fame. It’s about expressing yourself through art.”
And while he’s excited about how the performance will be received, Varnie said he’s already looking ahead to future productions.
“You’re only as good as your last show,” he said. “As soon as Sunday hits, it’s on to the next project. I already have ideas in mind. I have concepts about how part three will work out. As much as the people want it, I’m willing to produce it.”
• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.