SLU alum premieres one-act show in Baton Rouge


Chloe Williams

The cast of “The First” posing on stage after their first night of performing. “The First” showed at the Silly Rabbit Club in Baton Rouge for its premiere.

Known for his play “Break a Leg! The Ultimate Theatre Parody” and his work as an alum and employee at Southeastern, DeJuan James premiered his latest piece “The First” at the Silly Rabbit Club in Baton Rouge. 

“The First” is a one-act play centered around a presidential debate in an alternate universe where the last two candidates have come down to either the first female president or the first black president. James described that the idea came to him out of curiosity and he kept coming back to the project over and over again.  

“It was partly inspired by current politics, but also partly came to me as an interesting story idea. I just happened to be performing in another show around the time that I started working on the script, so I was going back and forth on it for several months. I wanted it to have some current relevance, but with sharp humor and parody,” James explained. 

Dejuan James, the playwright of “The First” is an alum of SLU and currently works as an admissions recruiter on campus. (Courtesy of Dejuan James )

The show was produced by 225 Theatre Collective, a non-profit theater organization based in Baton Rouge and directed by SLU alumna Taylor Meng who also directed James’ show “Break a Leg.” Meng added that she was asked by 225 Theatre Collective to direct a play and that led to them asking to meet with James. 

“When I was asked to direct a production this winter, we began to toss around some ideas as to which show we could do. Stephanie, 225’s artistic director, loved Dj’s script ‘Break a Leg,’ but we wanted something with a bit smaller of a cast,” Meng said. 

After Meng and James met, he began to work on the dialogue and story beats of “The First.” 

James found that writing this show was a different experience compared to writing “Break a Leg.” 

He said, “‘Break a Leg’ was about theater, which I felt that I knew enough about, though I’m no expert. This was a different league I was playing in, but I was able to bring my ridiculous humor along which helped my first play become what it did.”

Meng found that this play could allow viewers to laugh at the actors poking fun at politics, but at the end of the day it contains some very serious topics. 

“Our nation is more divided than ever and I think the message this play gets across in the end is something that everyone needs to hear. Plus, they say laughter is the best medicine,” Meng divulged.

As production progressed, Meng commented on the actors that she worked with for “The First.”   She found them all to be rockstars and found that even though none of them knew each other at the beginning, their collaborative efforts and shared experiences tied the show together.

Meng continued, “This cast is full of rockstars. I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated, hilarious group to be telling this story with.” 

If any readers are considering playwriting in the future as either a career or a hobby, James worded some advice. Even he is not done in his progress, for his goal is to flesh out “The First” into a full length production. 

James said to those who want to playwright, “There’s a reason they’re called ‘first drafts.’ You’re never going to be a perfect writer so don’t try to be. Tell the story that you want to tell, then go back and revise where needed. And more than anything, just write.”