Opportunity knocks at death's door

Brainchild Stageworkx presents Ryk Lewis’s The Ongoing Plight of the Ferryman

2 minute read
A colorful illustration featuring cartoon-stylized angels, including Azrael, who is centered and is wearing masquerade makeup
Ryk Lewis's new musical sings a lot into (and out of) existence. (Image by Kelly Birch.)

The Ongoing Plight of the Ferryman is an original spooky musical for the whole family, arriving in a timely fashion every weekend in October. Ryk Lewis, writer, composer, director, and producer of the musical, brings it to the stage with Brainchild Stageworkx. Founded in 2009 and led by Lewis, Brainchild is a Philadelphia production company whose mission is to create access to artistic spaces for those denied entrance to traditional performance opportunities.

Staying alive, staying alive

The Ongoing Plight of the Ferryman is a dark comedy where everybody dies. Kharon the Ferryman (played by Kage Harris) has become bored with his task of carrying departed souls to the other side. Azrael, the Angel of Death (performed by Sophia Waninger), wants to maintain the natural order of things. The musical poses the question: what do you do when you don’t want to do the only thing you have to do?

Interested in mythology, iconography, and adapting legend to tell human stories, Lewis was inspired to play with one of his favorite characters—the Ferryman. Lewis fuses the musical with themes of self-realization, empowerment, and being comfortable in one's own skin—whatever that skin might be.

When asked what being an artist means to him, Lewis describes the godliness of art. “Artists start with intangible thoughts, ideas, and concepts that have no purchase in ‘reality’ and we bring that intangible thing into the realm of reality,” says Lewis. “We literally bring our thoughts into existence.”

A Philly native, Lewis is a self-proclaimed product of the Philly school system and a former member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir. Lewis’s artistic roots are found in Philly because of “all of the culture I was able to see as a kid, from the Philly O to Philadanco, to the Art Museum. Being in the Boys Choir as a young Black kid in the late 70s, early 80s did a lot to cement my comfort in white artistic spaces like the Academy of Music, the Union League, the Annenberg, etcetera,” says Lewis. “I try to use that ability and comfortability to navigate entry into those spaces for other artists.”

This show was postponed for a year due to the pandemic but comes to life as spooky season is upon us.

What, When, Where

The Ongoing Plight of the Ferryman. By Ryk Lewis, presented by Brainchild Stageworkx. $25 for general admission, $20 seniors and students. Every weekend in October: Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays 3pm and 7pm, Sundays at 3pm; at Plays & Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia.


The venue is ADA accessible; however, the bathrooms and the pub on the third floor are not ADA accessible.

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