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King Already: A Lesson in Being Enough


During the fourth act of Uncle Vanya, Michael says to John, “It must be very hot in Africa. Now, I mean. It’d be unbearable”. John responds, “Suppose so.” Now, I know the heat in Africa (Ghana, at least) and it is beautiful. How could I justify saying these words written by a white Russian man? Did Chekhov ever think that an African could one day play this iconic role?

Before coming to grad school, I was told that if I were to be myself fully, I would always play the funny side character. My first few quarters at UCSD doubled down on that feeling. So when I demanded to play the titular role of Uncle Vanya in my last year, a part of me felt inadequate. I had unconsciously decided that I needed to separate myself from my Ghanaian roots in order to justify playing a role that was never meant for me. However, in our first read through, I quickly realized that I had been primed for this moment.

In these three years, I have grown from a boy to a man. Through voice class I learned to unleash my tongue, process taught me to really listen and take space, and when I stood in movement in my red nose and proclaimed “I don’t know what I’m doing”, I leaned into failing forward. I had always been enough, but UCSD lit a fire in me to reclaim my throne: an actual throne forged by my grandfather, King Nana Kofi Adu of Dunkwa, when he helped liberate Ghana from colonialism. He would slap me across the face for thinking I was anything but a king.

No one else, in this moment, was meant to play Vanya but me, a queer, joyful, grounded, vulnerable Ghanaian man who longs to go back home, stand in his royal atarie, and show my mom that “maa menyin aye b33ma me d)”. And in owning my full self, I am now able to justify and play the hell out of words written by a white Russian man, who perhaps never went to Africa.

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