Boyfriends...and Jesus

In Just Be a Man About It, three attractive women live together, date the wrong men and tell jokes -- in essence, they act a lot like the characters on Friends. But this gospel play is about as far from that naughty sitcom as it can get.

"The hook is almost like a trick," says Emmanuel Seegars, the play's writer and director. "You come in looking at the pretty women, the story line, R&B, rap and comedy. Those things hook you, and then at the end, we give you a lot of Jesus."

The play travels around the country and is often performed before sold-out audiences. And we're not talking about a couple hundred people here -- try a couple thousand. According to BET.com, gospel plays "have taken Black America by storm."

Organizers advertise not only on the radio and TV but also through flyers left at local churches. And not all of the promotional materials mention that the play is religious. "We wanna get more young people in," says Seegars. "Gospel turns young people away because they feel like you're gonna preach to them."

Of course that's exactly what Just Be a Man About It does. For example, one character, Destiny, gets her comeuppance for being impatient with a boyfriend who's sworn off premarital sex. The guy, an NFL football player, gets paralyzed from the waist down, and that's when Destiny knows the Lord is trying to get her attention.

"What all the characters have in common is that all were spiritually grounded at some point," says Seegars, "and somehow walked away from God."

Gospel plays have been criticized for stereotyping African-Americans, but Seegars doesn't believe that's true. Referring to the overwhelmingly female audience, he says, "When they see our play, they're like, 'That's so real.' "

And in fact, according to Seegars, the characters in Just Be a Man About It are based on real people. Seegars says women are always telling him about their love lives, and he gives them advice. "Take your time," he tells them. "Get to know someone, and be their friend. And when you meet someone…find out about their credit. That tells you a lot about the man."

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Cathy Matusow
Contact: Cathy Matusow