State of the Arts: The Opioid Crisis As Seen From the Kitchen Table

Feb 9, 2018

An Akron theater company is telling the story of a family that’s been torn apart by addiction and put back together after years of struggle, only to find itself on the brink once again. "Daybreak's Children" looks at the opioid crisis through one family’s front window.

"Daybreak’s Children" is tragic, sometimes darkly funny and to Akron native John Dayo Ailiya, who wrote and directs the play, it’s personal.

"I grew up in the 80s and 90s in inner city America and addiction was everywhere," he said.

The play looks at how addiction has changed from the crack epidemic of 30 years ago into the opioid crisis of today.

"Even if a small percentage of black people are suffering from opioid addiction, we don’t see those stories enough."

Is love stronger than addiction
The story centers on a Detroit family who survived addiction in the 1990s and is struggling in the economic recession of the late 2000’s, when the opioid crisis takes hold.

'But the challenge is always to try to treat black lives, our lives, with the same amount of nurture, the same amount of care.'

"So that’s at the center of the story, this question: is love stronger than addiction?"

Caorl McAfee plays the character Sharon Hill, the mother who ties the play's three generations together. 

"Sharon Hill is a mother who has beat a heroin addiction and now she wants to beat her grown children. She has a lot of controversy in her family and then she finds out, above all else, that her husband has returned to the addiction that we beat together. So it’s very trying," McAfee said. 

"We didn’t want to tell stories that have already been told. We wanted to challenge ourselves to create stories that were as important to our experience as "The Seagull" would have been to people living in Chekov’s time," Dayo Ailiya said. 

John Dayo Ailiya started Ma'Sue Productions in 2011 with India Burton and Thurayya Umbaymke.
Credit Mark Arehart / WKSU

"But the challenge is always to try to treat black lives, our lives, with the same amount of nurture, the same amount of care. So that we can render the same amount of beauty, but about stories about people who live in the projects here in Akron or throughout America. You know what I mean?"

Ma'Sue's mission
Dayo Ailiya’s theater company was founded to tell those stories. It’s called Ma’Sue Productions.

"Ma’Sue, Ma’Sue that’s my grandmother. Her name was Sue and we called her ‘Mama,’ so that’s how it shortens to ‘Ma’Sue.’ I think that my grandmother was the one who inspired in us the need that, when you take something seriously, when you love something or someone, there’s a certain amount of love and care and detail that must be given to that thing or person. And she loved us."

His play about love, family and addiction runs through February 17th at the Balch Street Theatre in Akron.