A Lifestyle not a Religion: Songs from the Book of James, written by James V. Cockerham and directed by Samuel O. Williams, is a traditional family story told through the eyes of Mr. James, played by Tomiko Smith, who receives a treasured family book from his favorite aunt. Shortly after receiving the book, he is visited by his nephew Chris, played by Samuel Nathan. Chris who is intrigued to find out more about the James’ family book, ask his uncle to read the book to him.
This begins the musical journey of the James family that combines both stories and traditional Negro Spirituals and Gospel songs. The backdrop begins as the audience is transported back in time to Africa when slaves were brought from their continent through The Door of No Return. The supporting cast outlines various stories that speak of challenges and difficulties following the Middle Passage to contemporary times.
Throughout the course of the play, Mr. James instills important values and lessons to his nephew, as well as his neighbor Mrs. Johnson, played by Bernice Hall. Johnson, who is coming to grips with her own personal trials, ultimately heeds the wisdom and advice of her neighbor and finds solace in a newly discovered revelation.
“Love is something everybody can share,” said the playwright. “The bottom line is, the greatest of all is love. The message I want the audience to take away from this performance is before you start to judge an individual, at least get to know an individual and share some love with them,” Cockerham added. This marks the fourth musical stage production written or co-written by Cockerham.