Morgan M. Younge in Lifecycle of A Blackberry. Photo: Keith McGill

Lifecycle of A Blackberry

Based on the writings of Kentucky Poet Laureate Crystal E. Wilkinson
Directed by Keith McGill
Assistant Director Ebony Jordan

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

We all know that culture is all too frequently seen in stereotypical terms, and African Americans have suffered the most in this regard. Forgive belaboring so obvious a point, but watching Morgan M. Younge occupy the stage in this profoundly moving one-woman show, one is keenly aware of stereotypes being turned inside out, upside down, and entirely exploded.

Devised from the work of Crystal E. Wilkinson noted African American writer, professor at the University of Kentucky, and proponent of the Affrilachian Poet movement, Lifecycle of A Blackberry is one of the fullest and most complex explorations of the identity of Black women I’ve encountered. We might easily assume that autobiography is at work here, but pinpointing it may be difficult and pointless. The women we encounter all feel as authentic as any confession so that the truth of their stories is never in doubt.

The power of Younge’s performance can be measured first in the range of voice and expression. These are the most easily understood markers of acting. But there is a specific moment in which Younge enacts a young girl and a slightly older boy who attempts to rape her. Not unusual for a one-person piece, the actor has many such moments, but the relationship of the visceral poetic language with the anguished and subtle playing is chilling. We feel the violation while also exulting in the level of craft involved in delivering this scene.

Later, we spend a lot of time with a young woman who works in a restaurant and is involved with a series of men of varying quality. A notion of sexual freedom replaces any perceived promiscuity, and Wilkinson and Younge frame it as a natural means of survival and a claim for passion as a necessary part of the human experience. The narrative of these relationships is also a tidy catalog of male stereotypes that is both comical and sad until a man comes along who appreciates the importance of the care and attention to women and clothes.

As is often the process with Looking for Lilith, the script has been devised by a team led by Younge, Tiera Bowman, who also did the costumes, Meg Caudill, Ebony Jordan, Jennifer Thalman Kepler, Karole Spangler, Shannon Woolley Allison, and Jasemine Reed. LKindsay Krupski did the atmospheric lighting.

In a talkback session with Younge and director Keith McGill, it was made clear that this is a crucial step in the development of Lifecycle of A Blackberry but not the last, and that the work is being refined with the intention of touring in and outside of Kentucky. At that point, it will be a distinguished representative of the Commonwealth and Appalachia as well as the voices of Black women, but we might also hope for its return to a Louisville stage. 

Lifecycle of A Blackberry

March  21-24, 2024

Looking for Lilith Theatre Company
The MeX Theater at The Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for