Scene from "Brother Toad."
Scene from "Brother Toad." Credit: Photo courtesy The Ensemble Theatre.

With the recent shooting of Ralph Yarl, our nation is once again faced with the issue of gun control, gun violence and the choices that we make as individuals. Reminiscent of many news headlines over the last 20 years, the stage production “Brother Toad” confronts the harsh reality of the harm that owning and using firearms against another human being can cause.

Are we (collectively) desensitized to guns? Are the increases in gun ownership happening due to the population’s desire to be safe, or are people becoming increasingly scared…or both? Do we, as individuals, realize the great responsibility alongside the tremendous burden of owning, carrying and potentially firing a weapon?

“Brother Toad” poses these questions for us to ponder, without bias, and forces us to answer first to ourselves.

Scene from "Brother Toad"
Scene from “Brother Toad.” Credit: Photo courtesy The Ensemble Theatre

Nathan Louis Jackson is known for writing plays that have strong social themes blended with politics, race relations, economics, and even hints of mental health issues and awareness. Jackson’s “Broke-ology,” an affecting family drama about an African American widower and his two adult sons in Kansas City, Kansas, was previously performed in 2013 at The Ensemble Theatre and was well received. Like “Broke-ology,” “Brother Toad” features a depth of character and the intricacies of real-life issues coupled with decision-making in which Jackson does not offer answers, only uninfluenced choices.

“In his … play, ‘Brother Toad,’ … Nathan Louis Jackson addresses how we think about guns — ‘Americans love guns more than apple pie’ — and how we live with their pervasive presence,” said Deborah Hirsch,

Hillman Jennison said he was told about “Brother Toad” by a fellow church member and plans to take his son to see the play.

“I need my son to see this issue of gun violence up close and personal without having to experience for real up close and personal,” Jennison said. “These no-good politicians are bought up by the NRA and ain’t thinking about doing anything about the problem. We the people have to do something. And maybe this play will help get the conversation started.

“Brother Toad” is co-directed by The Ensemble Theatre’s BOLD Associate Artistic Director Rachel Hemphill Dickson and Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris.

“In any good story, there is a conflict. In this play the characters are faced with personal choices versus that of family and community,” Dickson said. “When it comes to gun control and gun violence, it’s not only about your personal stance – it’s you walking down the street and not knowing what choice someone else has made and how their choice will ultimately affect you. Gun violence is not a distant conversation, it’s an everyday reality that we all must face.”

In conjunction with the play, the Ensemble is offering a community forum focusing on the heavy topic.

“On Sunday, May 21, The Ensemble Theatre will host a free EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) discussion as part of our ‘Celebrating the Creative Journey series,’ on the ‘Impact of Gun Violence on Communities’ following the 3 p.m. matinee. We invite all members of the press and mass media, as well as our Community partners, social justice organizations and community activists to join in on the discussion, as The Ensemble Theatre seeks to assist in providing solutions to our Community.”

“Brother Toad” is rated PG-13 and runs through Sunday, June 4, 2023.

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...