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'Tour Detour' plays at Ashe Power House Theater

Estranged father and son, Harold Sylvester and Kenneth Brown, Jr., meet in a Central Louisiana prison in "Tour Detour."

Estranged father and son, Harold Sylvester and Kenneth Brown, Jr.,
meet in a Central Louisiana prison after 20 years.

Ashe Cultural Arts Center and HEC Communications are co-producing Tour Detour, a play about fathers and sons, written by playwright Harold Ellis Clark and starring acclaimed Hollywood actor Harold Sylvester and stage actor Kenneth Brown Jr.

Clark was inspired to write after reading an obituary in the Times-Picayune about a soldier who had been killed on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan. Before leaving the country for the last time, the Air Force Explosives Ordnance Disposal Technician (EODT) visited his father, who was serving a life sentence in prison. The two men had not seen each other in 20 years. Later, the young soldier was killed by a detonator bomb.

Clark, who grew up on the West Bank, acutely senses the pain of growing up without a father. His grandfather left home when his father was a child. Because of that absence, Harold Ellis Clark’s dad worked hard to establish a positive relationship between them. When his father saw Tour Detour for the first time, he became very emotional.

Kenneth Brown Jr. grew up fatherless, as well. He also served in the U.S. Air Force where he had experience with explosives. So, the message of the play is very familiar.

Tour Detour was one of two finalists for the prestigious 2013 Stanley Drama Award from Wagner College, a finalist in Stage West’s 7th Annual Southwest Playwriting Competition and a semifinalist for the 2013 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.

Clark wrote numerous unpublished novels and un-produced screenplays before becoming a playwright in 2010. Fishers of Men debuted to sold-out audiences at Dillard University’s Cook Theatre four years ago. That play focuses on an former convict and mega-church minister who sends his congregants out into the streets of New Orleans to “rescue the toughest of the lost souls,” Clark says.

He premiered another work, We Live Here, at Theaterworks in Memphis, winning the 2013 NewWorks@TheWorks Playwriting Competition. That script focuses on a black couple from the Lower Ninth Ward who win a house in a white neighborhood.

“I strive hard to make audiences move by making them laugh, cry and at times feel uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling, in my opinion, ultimately becomes a good thing in that it challenges people to think differently,” Clark told the New Orleans Tribune in an interview earlier this year.

Clark is a writer, journalist and university administrator at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).

Tour Detour continues at Ashe Power House Theatre, 1731 Baronne St., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 20.

Mary Rickard has been a regular contributor to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Orleans Advocate and Gambit, as well as newspapers and wire services in other locales. Feel free to send her comments or critiques at mary.rickard@sbcglobal.net.