What Lies Underneath: Otis' Epiphany, a powerful drama from emerging playwright Francine D. Miller, brings the struggles of 1970s Harlem to 2015 Philadelphia.
Nastalgia "The poet"Jenkins
Francine D. Miller
Coming to us from Philadelphia playwright Francine D. Miller, author of My Husband Didn't Teach Me French and My Man Stripped Me Down to the Ground, What Lies Underneath: Otis' Epiphany is the story of a dignified, discontent, yet ambitious OTIS HENRY, a 36 year old man who has endured a life of setbacks, false starts and limitations that have kept him and his family in poverty. The son of parents who were part of the Great Migration, OTIS' overwhelming love and adoration for his wife ODESSA and their teenage son OTIS JR. motivates him to continue cooking up schemes to improve their lives and become their super-hero. Strangely, OTIS' deceased uncle BYRON HENRY, whom he has never met, suddenly creeps in from the dead, offering OTIS help through some old-fashioned witchcraft. Little does OTIS know that
his ghostly uncle is seeking revenge against the Henry family, OTIS' now deceased relatives, who had abandoned BYRON decades ago. BYRON HENRY'S ghost is out to destroy, and this is when hell enters the Henry family, in Harlem, New York, 1974.
In the early 1900s, Harlem, New York was the epicenter of amazing African American arts and
creative production, as well as the rise of entrepreneurs. However, after the Great Depression and the eventual death of industry in New York City, many African Americans resorted to a life of crime. Poverty was rampant due to job loss and racial discrimination. Some hopelessly resorted to dark, otherworldly, or forbidden sources in an attempt to rid themselves of poverty. THIS is where the story of OTIS HENRY begins.
What Lies Underneath: Otis' Epiphany is set in 1970s Harlem, New York. President Gerald Ford was in office and the nation was crying for jobs, particularly in the African American community. Instead of jobs, pride, and empowerment, government assistance in the form of welfare was forced upon many Harlem residents, which led to riots and protests. Once a booming, thriving dream place for African American, many of whom were transplants from the South, Harlem in the 1970s was filled with economic hardship. Consequently, scores of African American
family men were left without any dignity, creating broken homes for their children.
In 2015, we still see economic hardship in Harlem and other urban minority communities across the country. We can look to outsourcing, eminent domain, racism, cycles of abuse, poverty, addiction, and dis-empowerment. These issues put people in desperate situations--- ultimately triggering individuals to choose the wrong path in order to gain so-called success and comfort. Of course, this story is relevant to not only Harlem residents, but to all communities in the U.S that have fallen victim to such circumstances.