‘The Fall of the Kings,’ Tackles Mental Health in the Black Community

the fall of the kings, mental health, Walter Puryear, Mai Sennaar
​Lead Cast members with Producer Walter Puryear (seated left) and Playwright/Director Mai Sennaar (seated right)

The arts have emerged as a unique way of communicating health challenges and triumphs. True wellness is holistic, however, mental health has often been regarded as both a separate and uncomfortable subject, particularly in the African American community. Writer and Director, Mai Sennaar and Producer Walter Puryear are bringing an enticing new American drama with Afro-Caribbean roots to New York which tackles the complexities of identity, class, gender and mental health through the lens of the 1940s. The Fall of the Kings, tells the story of an African American heiress and her Caribbean husband fighting to sustain their family in the midst of an economic disaster. The play explores multiple factors that can impact mental health such as hereditary factors, environmental factors and stress.  According to the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American adults are “20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress” than Caucasian adults. Additionally, African Americans “living below poverty are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress” than those living above the poverty line. “The more that the conversation on mental and emotional health finds its way into our communities, the easier it becomes for families and patients to seek the help they need without a sense of shame or fear of being judged. Art can be an excellent tool in the combat against stigma,” says Sennaar.

The Fall of the Kings, reflects Sennaar’s continued interest in providing a unique perspective on the conversation around mental health. At the age of 19, Sennaar’s first play, The Broken Window Theory, premiered at the famed Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe in New York City starring Tony award-winner Tonya Pinkins and was directed by Tony award-nominee Michele Shay. Set in the graffiti movement of the late 1970s, the play tells the story of a mother suffering from Huntington’s disease and her relationship with her only son. Both the mother and son are artists and must find new ways to communicate as the disease progresses. The Fall of the Kings features an award-winning production team hailing from Broadway, film and television. Choreographer, Dyane Harvey-Salaam’s credits include The Wiz (original stage and film versions) and the classic Spike Lee film School Daze. Set designer, Christopher Cumberbatch’s, work has appeared both in theatre and in the Spike Lee films Crooklyn and Malcolm X. Composer Diana Wharton was a founding member of Sweet Honey in The Rock and composer for Ntozake Shange’s Broadway hit For Colored Girls… The award-winning, Grammy nominated composer and trumpeter Christian Scott is a featured guest soloist on the play’s main theme.

Through captivating performances, live percussion, dance and an incredible jazz score, the play is an inspiring celebration of the human spirit. Click here to view the theatrical trailer and visit www.thefallofthekings.com for tickets and information.

Written by Kumba Sennaar

Profile photo of Kumba Sennaar

Kumba Sennaar is a freelance writer, researcher on science and health, aspiring physician and Master’s candidate in Biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) in Science, Technology & Society (STS) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her passion is to help people live healthier, happier lives. For superior articles and content for your website, interviews, or technical writing support contact Kumba via email at Ksennaa1@jhu.edu or Twitter @kumbas1.

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