Niree Turner's "Lost Sons" illustrates the importance of fathers in Black families

An introspection on the life of Black families affected by mass incarceration, “Lost Sons” by Niree Turner showcased the plights of a corrupt system.

Turner, a senior theater major, wrote and co-directed the play. She said she was inspired to write the play after witnessing her own extended family dynamic change as a result of Black fathers being imprisoned for long sentences for minor drug crimes.

 The set of “Lost Sons” at The Dance Theater in The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. (Briana Briscoe/The Black Explosion)

The set of “Lost Sons” at The Dance Theater in The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. (Briana Briscoe/The Black Explosion)

“The reasons why Black men are so absent in their children's’ lives ㅡ obviously there’s other reasons why too ㅡ but a lot of it is because of mass incarceration,” Turner said.

“Lost Sons” is centered around the lives of a Black family dealing with the after-effects of their father figure being imprisoned. The characters all represented many aspects of life for Black people: Tina, the mother trying to keep her sons out of prison. Darryll, the older brother who had previously been imprisoned. Ne Ne, the sister who wants to have fun but is also a second mother to her young brother.  As well as the younger brother, Terrell, who just wants to play video games but is entangled in the drug game to help support his family. The play used alternating scenes to show what life could have been like if the father figure, Mike, was not incarcerated.

The show had impactful monologues by each of the characters, displaying their feelings to the audience of what they wish their lives could be,. Monologues were delivered as spoken word poetry, as characters displayed feelings of wishing for a different life, not being afraid of the corrupt criminal justice system and having a father in the house.

Darryl and Mike’s monologues were delivered while the characters were in chains, which . According to Turner said this was an intentional plot device used to represent those who had been or are still imprisoned.

“At first I wanted it to be a complete hip-hop theater play but due to time constraints, there wasn’t enough time to build up what it should have been,” Turner said.I really like the outcome of it with the poetry being intentional throughout.”

The aesthetic of the play was riveting, as well. Throughout the play, a beating heart was heard throughout, only stopping when a character delivered a monologue. “[The heartbeat] was up to interpretation for different people but it being [the mother] Tina’s heartbeat was the original plan by my sound designer Ty,” Turner said.

When asked  why she wanted this message to be delivered as a play, Turner said, “We have to make people listen in different ways. I feel like any artist should use their art for social change or should always have a desired outcome. The stories that I mostly tell in a PWI such as  [University of Maryland], I feel they have to listen. I have the ability to share the Black experience through theater and spoken word.”