By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The holiday season is officially in full force and with it comes a plethora of activities including shopping, ice skating and, for some, attending a theatre production. In Milwaukee, plays and musicals are as much a part of the holiday scene as snow and light shows. This season includes the introduction of a new play “Black & White Christmas.”
The play was written and produced by Kenner & Kenner Productions and its set to premiere Dec. 2. It tells the story of an interracial couple as they visit their families during the holiday season. Split into three acts: the first act takes place on Thanksgiving, the second on Black Friday and the third on Christmas Eve.
With a focus on family dynamics and antics during the holiday season, the play is a heartfelt comedy that is partially based on personal experience.
Playwrights and brothers Brian and Jeremy Kenner began writing plays back in 2003. At the time, they wrote for fun and as a way to spend time together. One day, their father happened to read one of their productions and encouraged them to share their gift with others.
“Why not give it a go,” Brian asked on their decision to bring their plays to the public.
Spurred on by their father’s encouragement the brothers decided to produce their plays. Utilizing their church and family members their words came to life on the stage. What originally started as a hobby led to the creation of their production company, Kenner & Kenner Productions, and several play performances.
In 2010, they produced Yoked. The story of several couples each with their own set of relationship problems that decide to seek relationship counseling with their pastor, who is struggling with relationship troubles of his own.
Seven years later and they’re back with Black & White Christmas.
Brian explained this play has been roughly a year in the making. Writing began last fall and concluded in the summer. The experiences examined in the play are partially based on the lives of the brothers themselves—each of them is in an interracial marriage.
Soon after the final script was finalized the brothers assembled a team and began casting.
Typically, Brian said, most of their plays are staged at their church through the congregation which consists of majority black families. The team reached out to other groups and volunteers who could be cast as the Caucasian side of the family.
The assembling of the cast directly reflected the nature of the play.
“It’s about two cultures coming together and working on something,” Brian said.
Brian feels that every audience member will be able to relate in some way as the play addresses issues of race, explores different cultural holiday traditions, and examines the family dynamic.
“No matter where you come from,” Brian said, “There will be someone in the play you like and someone in the play you don’t like.”
Given the play focuses on family, it only makes sense the production team consists of several family members.
In addition to Brian and Jeremy, who co-wrote and acts in the play, Brian’s wife also acts, their uncle wrote the musical score, their cousin designed the artwork, several relatives play instruments and that’s just a few.
Brian said the experience granted him the opportunity to grow closer to certain relatives like his uncle.
Although, producing plays is a side job, the brothers hope to make it a full-time gig in the near future.
They are currently rewriting Yoked in preparation for Sweetest Day 2018 and creating a new romantic comedy.
Black & White Christmas will premiere at Sweet Communion Church this Saturday at 6 p.m. with two performances to follow on the weekends to come. Details on locations and dates can be found on Kenner & Kenner Productions Facebook page.