Inequality addressed on the ‘Radio’

By Jake Saunder

A performance piece can be an effective way to address national concerns, and this weekend SIU will play host to a piece focused on one of America’s most controversial topics.

The Tony Award-winning play “Radio Golf,” written by August Wilson, opens Friday at the McLeod Theater and deals with a variety of issues, including inequality. Associate Professor of Theatre Olusegun Ojewuyi is directing the performance.

“August Wilson’s plays speak to some of the issues that I find most troubling for our country, the United States and the world today,” Ojewuyi said.


“Radio Golf,” set in 1997, focuses on an Ivy League-educated African American named Harmond Wilks. Wilks runs for mayor of Pittsburgh and is challenged with race, gender and class inequalities.

“Most transformational, however, are those issues of identity, personal integrity and accountability,” Ojewuyi said. “It is the way [Wilks] navigates the conflicts that sets up the very taut crises of the play. Wilson juxtaposes Tiger Woods with Martin Luther King in setting up a dramatic puzzle.”

Assistant Dean of Students Jeffery McGoy portrays the character Roosevelt Hicks, Wilks’ friend and business partner. McGoy said the two characters attempt to redevelop the Hill District in Pittsburgh.

“I can relate to each character in the play,” McGoy said. “I have met each one of these people, those in the play physically or mentioned, in my life and have witnessed the personal struggles each one has gone through.”

McGoy said one of the play’s main themes is personal identity.

“The identity of each is challenged in this play as each character makes decisions about their past and future,” he said.

Lecturer of Dance Movement Performance Mark Davis plays the part of Elder Joseph Barlow. Davis has appeared in plays written by Wilson before; “Radio Golf” will be his third, he said.


Davis said Wilson has written a Decalogue, or a 10-play cycle. Each play has a direct correlation with another and “Radio Golf” is the last of the sequence.

“It is almost Tolkienue. What Wilson has accomplished, and his work, should and must be discussed and performed for decades to come,” Davis said.

Davis’ character is mentioned in one of Wilson’s earlier plays and comes to prominence in “Radio Golf,” he said.

“I feel it is my job to bring the character to life,” Davis said. “I think it is then automatic that he would be believable because he is real to me. How he walks, how he has survived so many years being poor, black, wise, smart, rebellious. All those traits I’ve had to explore in my own life experiences.”

Ojewuyi, as well as each of his actors, speaks highly of Wilson’s creation. “Radio Golf” finds itself as a play between the boundaries of historical relevancy, with both reality of life and theatre drama combined.

“I believe that the theater should always ensure its audience an exuberant artistic excursion,” Ojewuyi said. “Great scenery, lighting, costume, sound should be welded with strong acting in creating magical nights of performance elegance. This is one of such opportunities.”

“Radio Golf” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the McLeod Theater and runs through Sunday. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. while Sunday’s matinee begins at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $6 for students with a pre-show lecture at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Jake Saunders can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @saundersfj or 536-3311 ext. 254.