Arts

Hip-Hopera Promises To Put ‘Real Life’ On Theatre In The Square Stage

Actor, director, playwright and composer Joel P. E. King spoke with "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes about his musical “Real Life: An Original Hip-Hopera.”
Actor, director, playwright and composer Joel P. E. King spoke with "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes about his musical “Real Life: An Original Hip-Hopera.”
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

Severe trauma can affect families for generations. The musical “Real Life: An Original Hip-Hopera” looks at the intergenerational trauma in African American urban communities and offers some ideas of ways to heal.

Actor, director, playwright and composer Joel P. E. King says he was inspired to write the show by “being in it.”

“I’m number seven of 11 children,” the St. Louis native tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes. “We definitely experienced some economic disparity here and there. It built me in certain ways and exposed me in certain ways.”

King, who also works as a teacher, says he was also moved to write the show by overheard conversations in his classroom.

“There was this group of young men speaking all sorts of jargon, and it forced me to ask, ‘What keeps you all connected to this idea of the ghetto?’ They were talking all these sensationalized street ideas, but I was like, ‘You’re 11 years old. And this conversation is so profoundly connected to this thing that I don’t know if you guys even understand.'”

“His response was, ‘I will never leave the ghetto because if I do, I’d be selling out my community.'”

King leads the show as the character of Ray, a young man facing a choice between his morality and life in the streets.

The music is a mix of gospel, R&B and hip-hop, which borrows in equal measure from Nina Simone and Tupac Shakur.

“Real Life” is onstage at Marietta’s Theatre in the Square from April 19 through May 5.