Oakland’s theatre department delivers a sweet performance to audiences

Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet is the first all African-American production at OU. The play surrounds the main character, Marcus who is discovering his sexuality and learning about his late father.

The chatter among the audience went silent as the lights went out in Varner Studio Theatre. In the pitch black darkness thunder clapped, followed by the sound of heavy rain. As the lights came back on, casting a dim glow on the stage, a boy was seen lying on the floor tossing and turning.


Another clash of thunder echoed throughout the theater and an African American man dressed in all white, dripping with water appeared in the doorway. The man in white walked over to the boy and knelt beside him.

“Remind him,” he said to the boy. “Tell him that one day.”

On Thursday, Nov. 8, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance put on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s third installment in “The Brother/Sister Plays”, “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet”. McCraney won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie “Moonlight” which is based upon his play “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue”.

Over the past year and a half, the Theatre Department produced the first two installments in the trilogy, “In the Red and Brown Water” and “The Brothers Size”, but McCraney designed each part of the trilogy to be stand alone plays.

This is the first all African American production that Oakland University has put on where the majority of the actors are theatre majors.

The play focuses on Marcus Eshu, a 16-year-old boy who is on a journey to discover his own sexuality as well as learn about his late father, Elegba.

Musical theatre major, Brandon Santana, plays Marcus. Santana was also cast in the first installment, “In the Red and Brown Water” as Shango.

“I relate to Marcus in a lot of ways,” Santana said. “The biggest thing that stuck out for me was him being without a father and just trying to explore and find himself. Those are definitely things in my life where I felt shut out by society or people didn’t understand me. My dad being out of my life really affected me. So going into Marcus was like a dose of reality, a dose of humanity.”

“I think we’re [the black community] not portrayed in the media… honestly and it’s like we have stories that are just as powerful as those that are whitewashed,” Santana added.

The show also explores the problems many members of the LGBT community face while they’re trying to find their sexuality, especially those who are part of the LGBT community and African American. 

“I think that’s why it’s so significant to tell [the story] so people can wake up and realize that this is a thing,” Jordan Taylor, who plays Shaunta Iyun, said. “It’s not something that’s going to go away, it’s not something that’s going to hide, we’re going to be prideful about it, the people in the LGBT community.”

Santana hopes that this play will be a learning experience for anyone that comes to see it.

“This is a queer play and I think this gives people voices in that community,” he said. “The thing is yes we want their voices to be heard and we want them to be the forefront, but we’re also inviting everyone else. This is important for people who are outside the LGBT community, outside the black community because we are educating them but also entertaining them, and that is such a wonderful thing that this play does.”

“Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet” will be running at Varner Studio Theatre Nov. 16-19. Visit oakland.edu/mtd for more information.