Written by Tanya Terry, with photos provided by FIM.
The Flint Courier News recently had the opportunity to talk to Playwright James Anthony Tyler about the world premiere of his play “Into the Side of a Hill.” The play is coming to is coming to FIM Elgood Theatre February 2-18.
Tyler started working on the play 2019.
“I had the idea for about five years before I actually started writing it,” explained Tyler.
At the time, Tyler became part of a writer’s group called The Vagrancy. The Vagrancy is a small Los Angeles Theatre group that supports playwrights doing work they feel is adventurous. Tyler worked on “Into a Side of the Hill” there, where he joked he was the only male in the group.
“The play is based off truthful experience,” stated Tyler. “There’s truth in the fiction.”
Tyler is a graduate of two HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and is a member of a Black Greek-Latin organization.
“The play on the surface is about six fraternity brothers putting together their Homecoming Step Show over three days, but under the surface we are exploring themes of toxic masculinity, the pros and cons of brotherly bonds and mental health issues.”
According to Tyler, although the characters are not the actual people, they are usually composites of people he knows.
Ken-Matt Martin, director of “Into the Side of a Hill,” pointed out that both he and Tyler have been fortunate enough to work all over the county. They also have extensive training in the form of degrees related to their craft.
“But, to be honest with you, the thing that best prepares me to direct this play, of all plays, is like James, I’m also a member of a Black Greek organization – a lifetime member specifically,” stated Martin. “Also, I was the one in my chapter that used to put together the step shows and everything else. Long before I’d been doing all the other things I’ve been doing, back in my undergraduate days, this play feels reminiscent and truthful and honest to my own experience.”
Matt-Martin also said members of the cast are members of various other Greek organizations and also attended HBCUs.
The cast includes Freddie Fulton (Off-Broadway’s Confederates), Flint’s David Guster, Brandon Micheal Hall (CBS comedy “God Friended Me,” Peacock's “Poker Face,” ABC’s “The Mayor” and Broadway’s Trouble In Mind), Victor Musoni (Goodman’s Toni Stone), Brian Sullivan Taylor and Antonio Michael Woodard.
The play was developed in Flint Rep’s 2022 New Works Festival and produced in association with Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
“I hope people come, and they laugh a lot,” said Tyler. “I hope if I’ve done my job right, they’re pressed emotionally to the point they want to cry, an they feel like they’ve had a full experience after 90 minutes.”