Fame is a game many of us want to play, but winning comes with a cost. In the riveting stage play His Story, Our Reality, the lure of reality TV threatens to destroy a family. Held at the Paul Robeson Theater inside of Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center, this small production delivered a huge message.
Mike and Monique Bishop have been married for a while. Monique has lost herself in her duties as a stay at home mom to two teenagers who are testing their independence. Mike is a charismatic businessman who jumps at the chance to have his family on reality TV. Like many others, it goes to his head and he soon learns how his choices adversely affect his family.
Against Monique’s wishes, Mike approves production of the show and it doesn’t take long for the behind the scenes ugliness of reality TV to unfold. A shady producer and fabricated storyline showed how contractual constraints and social media demands are often the driving force behind reality show shenanigans.
In the midst of thinking he’s grinding for his family, Mike forgets they need his time more so than they need his money. In the end, he learns that reality show dreams can turn into nightmares if you’re not careful.
Steve White III and Jackie P. Jordan led the cast as Mike and Monique. Wavy Niyah played their sassy teenage daughter April, and Aaron Mungo played their brooding and misled teenage son, Nathan. Niyah, who has wanted to act since she can remember, said that she is nothing like April in real life. She had the audience itching to check her disrespectful demeanor. “I had to hang out with a lot of ghetto people, watch a lot of Tyler Perry plays, she said. “I had to get in character, ’cause at first, I wasn’t there. I pushed myself with help from my mom and dad.”
White, who is divorced, revealed that his portrayal of Mike was semi-autobiographical. “I kinda went through it before with getting into comedy, getting into plays,” he said. “My wife thought I was way too much … it was almost true to life.”
Playing the devoted, but frustrated Monique was a new experience for Jordan. She revealed that she usually plays, “ghetto or wild girls.” She is a mother in real life, but this was her first time portraying one onstage. She noted that she has little in common with her character. “Monique bit her tongue a lot. It’s about respect in my house,” she said. “She didn’t speak up and put her kids in line … I don’t play that, it’s about respect in my house. And that goes from me to the child too. I really did enjoy this role, it challenged me to do something different.”
Affectionately known as “twin,” Marini Smith, had the audience on 10 with her portrayal of Monique’s no-time-for-games sister, Jessica. Smith says she prepared for the role by “just doing me. I went with the script and just added me on top. [I] loved it; I had so much fun,” she said. Smith, who is also an entrepreneur, understands the importance of collaboration. “I would love to work with anybody, especially local artists. I believe in supporting our own. I love what I do and we need that local support. There’s a lot of local talent here that doesn’t get the exposure.”
Along with the drama, there was some humor. Comedian Josh Adams played a pivotal role as the reality show producer. His antics kept the audience laughing, but he also got the side eye for his manipulation of the Bishop family. Adams, who has a significant social media presence, is known for his hilarious skits on Instagram. “I got a good sense of how to improvise and still help push the story line. My job is to make it hard on the other actors,” he shared. “I try to break people. … It’ll be a scene where everybody laughing and they gotta keep it together. I don’t try to sabotage, I try to have fun with it.”
This engaging production was presented by playwright Richard Bass in partnership with SJ and AD Jackson. Bass also worked with his stage play sister, Melissa Talbot who directed and produced the show. Bass and Talbot are known for their complementary styles. They have earned a reputation for delivering quality stage plays with an ability to bring out the best in their casts. There were several moments during the play when viewers were compelled to react. The scenes were realistic and relatable.
“Everyone liked the new concept of TV on stage, being behind the scenes of a reality show,” said Talbot. Someone even brought up how the Kevin Hart incident came out while we were doing something talking about reality vs your family and real life. They felt the topic was very relevant. … We’ve been asked to bring it back next fall to a smaller theater to grow the audience, but they want to put on the production for a full month next fall, so stay tuned!”
As a husband and father himself, Bass wrote the play from an informed perspective. “Take time to make the time for those that are the closest to you,” he said. “Money may look good, but having longevity for those closest to you is one thing you can’t put a fee on.”
View scenes from His Story, Our Reality in the photo gallery.
Photo Gallery Credit: Mike Jeffers