Keisha-Gaye Anderson

the door

Jamaican Author Stefhen Bryan on his One-Man Play

March 11, 2014

Stefhen Bryan believes in exploring the full range of the human experience.

If the sexual excesses described in his debut memoir Black Passenger Yellow Cabs (Kimama Press, 2008) are any indication, he has already traversed territory that would cause fainting en masse among the sisters in the Kingston church compound where he grew up.

“I don’t have any shame about these human emotions,” says Stefhen, as we talk over coffee. “I don’t have shame about anything.”

Though Stefhen explicitly describes his abusive childhood, lingering depression, and years of suicidal ideation in his book, he has never openly spoken about his relationship with his father—not even to his therapist.

“Because of my personality, I sought psychotherapy from 23 years old. I went on my own accord,” says Stefhen, who dropped out of high school, but went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.

The relationship with his father—or the absence of it—would become the inspiration for his new one-man play, “Doodu Boy,” now at the SoHo Playhouse through the end of March.

The play’s title comes from Stefhen’s unfortunate experience of falling into the community pit latrine as a child. Produced by fellow Jamaican actress and playwright Debra Erhnardt
(“Jamaica Farewell”), the performance is a gripping 90 minutes of pure emotional honesty about a subject matter that is rarely discussed by Caribbean men, in any art form. It is funny, tragic, intense, witty, and fully engaging.

“My whole life, I’ve longed for my father and the acceptance of my father,” says Stefhen. “Even when my father rejected me, I would call him every day.”

The play, devoid of music or props, takes the audience on a journey from Stefhen’s draconian childhood in a strict Christian community to his turbulent teenage years, where his long-awaited reunion with his father brings nothing but pain and disappointment, to finally his discovery of healing, true love, and self-acceptance in Japan.

When asked what surprised him most as he embarked on this project, Stefhen cites two things: his ability to memorize 90 minutes of dialogue (which took him four months to nail), in spite of being dyslexic and coping with ADHD, and his feelings of anger.

"Living in Japan has made me forget everything," says Stefhen, who adds that Japan was the first place he ever truly felt at home. "Coming back here and bringing all this stuff back and putting it out there has put it in my face again. I find myself being angry at the opportunities I wasn’t exposed to as a child."

But Stefhen has continued to steadily overcome the obstacles that have fallen in his path to achieve professional milestones like voiceover work in Hollywood, acting roles on shows like Moesha and on Animal Planet programming, and the lead part in a 1996 production of the play “Moon on a Rainbow Shawl.”

Of the Jamaica of his past, and present, Stefhen has mixed feelings. “I always knew my culture was dysfunctional,” says Stefhen, who recalls witnessing two incidents of a gay man being burned before he was even 12. “I grew up watching people chop up each other and throw acid on each other. African people, descendents of slaves, need massive psychotherapy.”

Later this year, Stefhen will be taking his play on the road to the southern United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. He insists that he is not ‘tenacious.’

“I just do. I go with the flow,” he says. “I’m on this journey to improve myself and have self-actualization.”

For more about “Doodu Boy,” visit the Facebook page.