POST: 'Prodigal Son' - because it was expected of him

What's it about?

Prodigal Son is based on a true story about a troubled boy from the Bronx who gets accepted into an all boy’s Catholic boarding school. The boy has flunked out of his old school, but was given a full ride due to his unique personality.

What'd I experience?

It was a terrible day. My boss held me two extra hours for work. I got home exhausted and set my alarm for 5:20pm to get ready so I can get to the show by 7pm. But guess who slept through her alarms and woke up at 5:47pm… yup, this girl. On top of everything, I was worried because my boyfriend had recently been angered and wasn’t answering his phone. No text from him, but I got a text for a radio interview at 9:30pm which I would go to right after the show. I guess mood was a little better. I was still in my feelings though. It was 6:53pm and I was aggravated and blasting Kendrick Lamar. 55th street got it. Rushing into the theatre with possibly the most Brooklyn face I could put on until, “Jazmin?!!” I looked up. It was a friend from education at Roundabout Theatre Company. I couldn’t help but smile, I hadn’t seen her in so long. We exchanged a few words and she mentioned seeing me on Netflix and she was proud of me. I was proud of her tbh, she has done so much good for the company. She really lifted my mood.

I found my seat in the theatre and turned off my phone. There was a house on the set which was later described as the Thomas More Preparatory School in New Hampshire. A fifteen year old boy came on the stage and picked up a white book that was highlighted by a spotlight in the center of the stage. “I’ve always got a book,” said Jim Quinn who was now meeting up with Carl Schmitt, the head of Thomas More, at a diner. All of Jim’s personality unfolded in this short conversation between him and Schmitt. Jim liked to play the game of Socrates, the game of questions and curiosity. He definitely struck my interest as well as the interest of Schmitt.

Jim spoke his thoughts, from brain to mouth without hesitation. He reminded me of a small part of me. He was kicked out of his old school for questioning the existence of God. That scenario reminded me of the time I shut down a panel of Pastors at church camp by telling them the bible verses they were using were out of context. Jim would be getting a full ride and his response was, “Why are you giving me a scholarship, I flunked out of my last school?” “Well because you’re a unique individual...and your mother cried on the phone.” Well then, that’s definitely my mother. His response to the statement was interesting, he was curious because he knew what he deserved. Sometimes we get things we don’t deserve and don’t even stop to ask why.

Jim was rooming with Schmitt’s nephew, Austin. They were opposites but still a great team. Jim had swiped a bottle of whiskey and Austin was freaking out about it. My best friend Crystalin is an Austin. I guess I kind of turned her into a Jim. Ha. I was always the one starting the trouble and although she never really got too involved she can’t say she didn't like the excitement of hiding her mom’s Jack Daniel’s honey in her room. I always questioned life, always lived on the edge and always wanted her by my side when it was happening.

You can say her and I grew up differently, similar to Austin and Jim. Most of her life has been spent in nice parts of Queens while mine has all been spent in Bedstuy. I had a different mindset than she ever had because of our different circumstances. Like Jim, I am from the ghetto but I don’t let my circumstances define me. He is a little bit more reckless, though, or should I say he just gets caught more often. When Austin made the comment, “You’re not back on the block,” it hit home. It made Jim spazz out a bit but I guess I understood. People always try to put you in a box because of your gender, age, ethnicity, and even location. Jim was just upset that Austin associated his behavior with his location instead of it just being an individual problem.

Jim went for tea at Louise Schmitt’s house, the wife of the owner, Carl. Jim started discussing free will and brought up some interesting points I, weirdly, had discussed in my sociology class last year. Choice is a fallacy. He explained how he could only choose the choices that were given to him which means he does not really have free will because he does not have an unlimited amount of choices. "I am James Quinn that’s all I can be. Anything I do, I do because I am James Quinn. I cannot change the fact that I am James Quinn. If I were someone else, I would have different choices."

It’s true, in a way. In my sociology class, we treated choice as a joke because most choices we make, we do not make at all. The choices we make differ from the choices someone of a higher socioeconomic status can choose. For example, while we are trying to choose which subway to take, others are choosing which jet to take. Can we choose which jet we want to take to work, not at all, unless we can afford it. Therefore, our choices are limited because we were born into a middle class family as a John Doe instead of a Kim Kardashian. You peeped how Jim called himself James?? I had to double check the playbill. Nope, his name is definitely Jim. Hmm what did that mean… was he trying to say that in actuality we can change who we are and we shouldn’t be confined by a name. How clever… We later find that Louise Schmitt had a son named James, who was accidentally killed. It’s as if Louise changed his identity because she saw him as her son.

Towards the end of the play, Jim is days away from graduating but he gets drunk and is skating on thin ice with school. While arguing with Schmitt he states, “You have to tell someone they’re good before they are good.” “Are you saying I should have given you your diploma the day you arrived here?” “No, the day before.” LMAOOOO - why was he arguing with him when he was on the verge of being kicked out? He really gave no fucks and was risking being expelled by speaking his mind. I got where he was coming from and this was probably why he acted the way he did. He grew up in the Bronx, expectations are low. They tell you are bad, before you are bad. That’s how he had lived his whole life and that is why he acted the way he did - because it was expected of him.

Hoffman, one of his teachers, had believed in him before he had even believed in himself and that gave him all the motivation he needed. He needed someone to think he was good, so he could think he was good, as well, and ultimately act good. That is the problem with the system in America today. Some teachers go into classes already prejudging problem children - which changes the way they treat them. The effect in the change of treatment on the teacher’s end is the change of behavior on the student’s end. People in higher authority think they deserve more respect when in actuality everyone’s respect should be held at 100% until their actions prove they are unworthy of it.

This play has re-awoken my soul. It makes me want to break out of the monotony and question everything life has to throw at me. The show ends in a cycle because this story is all too common, just different variations. Jim leaves his book on the spotlight with a pencil and says “I think I’ll leave this for the next person.” I like how he left the pencil. It shows not only that we are to read and learn from other people’s lives but we are to write our own books and share our own stories so that we may help others that are going through situations like us.

I turned my phone on after the show to find a text from my boyfriend saying, “I’m fine baby everything is fine baby <3 wyd?” Theatre is definitely magical. Our moods had both brightened at the same time, 7pm. I walked to the train station with a kool aid smile on my face ready for the trek to City College feeling way more emotionally stable. It was definitely an interesting day and I have to give a special thanks to theatre.


Want to see it?

$25 Student Rush

Prodigal Son
Manhattan Theatre Club
@ City Center, Stage 1
thru Mar. 27