Theater grad’s play tells close-to-home tale

In Donja Love’s “The Nigga Files,” high school plays out as a struggle for survival.

It’s about giving hope to those who think there is none left. Temple theater grad Donja Love’s compelling new play, “The Nigga Files,” takes a look into the lives of five inner-city boys. With one student already lost to the streets, a high school history teacher tries to save the rest of his pupils from succumbing to a variety of ailments including but not limited to substance abuse, family issues and sexuality confusion.

Love said he hopes to paint the grave and extraordinary details of the baffling issues facing inner-city youth today. Love is from Southwest Philadelphia and hopes to present a play that reflects reality for many and opens the minds of others.

Although Love faced rejection from some of the inner-city schools, others opened their doors to the conceptual and riveting beauty of his play. Love still feels, despite his rejections, in no way worried about offending someone.

“The people offended might be the truest to these characters,” he said. “No matter the situation, or what people think of you, the play is supposed to exhibit an uninhibited hope to do better.”

Writing the lives of characters has become Love’s new passion. As a student at Temple, Love majored in theater and African-American studies. With the dream of becoming an actor Love also had to study play writing. He now enjoys looking deeper into characters and shaping them throughout his play.

During the writing of “The Nigga Files,” Love connected the most with the character Jamal played by Sammy Tarantino. Love respects his go-getter attitude, overall logic for putting his family first and kind heart.

Though finding all these actors was no easy task, Love found the process to be fun. Many of the actors in the play had never acted before but displayed such talent the first time around that he knew they would depict the image he had in mind for his characters.

With the play just moments from an open curtain call, rehearsals are intense and must be extremely productive. During rehearsal Love observes the actors’ performance and gives positive and negative criticism, but also accepts any suggestions they have.

Love’s very own Carlo Campbell –  known in the play as Mr. Isaiah –  states, “Donja’s directing style is open and nurturing. He has an awareness of everyone’s point of view and is open to input.”

Love said with this style of directing, there is a better opportunity for his writing to get better. He enjoys when the actors use their natural intuition when rehearsing because it brings more insight to the possibilities of the play.

With every hardship the boys face throughout the play Love makes sure not to paint only a negative picture by following every downfall with a moment of epiphany that once again reinforces hope.

Love is looking forward to his next play and believes this to be just the beginning of many.

Maria Cannon can be reached at

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