AAPEX Interview: Jacquay Waller — AAPEX Interview , Jacquay Waller — AAPEX

Friday, June 4, 2010

AAPEX Interview: Jacquay Waller

Jacquay Waller

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
Theater and the arts have always been a major part of my life; even before I realized it. I've been told that as a child I had a vivid imagination. For instance, when I was in Kindergarten, I talked to my class about my life on a farm and how I had lots of animals. Yeah, right! I was born and raised in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. There are no farms in the city limits (that I'm aware of). I have no idea of where I could have gotten that story. At a young age, I realized that I had a gift for drawing and writing. I was able to hone this by drawing with family members who could also draw. I would also mimic the handwriting of others because I enjoyed switching it up from time to time. Many times teachers would mistake my writing for that of a girl's. My parents supported my love for Art by enrolling me in art courses at Memphis State (now U of M) during the summer. I also did the occasional school play and Easter Speech. It wasn't until I got Jr. High School that I really got involved in the Performing Arts. I started training in Classical music with the Chorus which also gave me an opportunity to join a singing group. I was singing all over the country. It wasn't until high school that I had my first major exposure to theater. I was an understudy to the lead character "Alan" in "Babes in Toyland". Luckily for me, I was able to perform every show because I could sing and the lead could not. So, I got the opportunity to stand in and perform the singing parts. The next year, I was the lead. Keep in mind, that while I'm performing as an artist on stage I was also a Varsity football player. I think it was rather refreshing to switch between both worlds. When I went to Tennessee State University, I was selected (via audition) to join the TSU ShowStoppers under the direction of Diana Poe. This ensemble provided me with the opportunity to sing, dance, and act. It is where I grew to love the stage. It is also where I discovered I had a passion for acting.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I have grown leaps and bounds as an artist. I started my journey unknowingly as a “StoryTeller”. My next phase was drawing and handwriting duplication. Thereafter, I moved to singing, which I love, and I was actually ranked as one of the top singers in Tennessee and was selected for the All-State Chorus. What an Awesome Experience! While singing in High School, I was also acting, but that “bug” didn’t really bite me until college. When I got TSU, the world became my stage. I was a ShowStopper performing all around Nashville; I was on the Step team of my fraternity; I was in a theatrical ensemble under Dr. Lawrence James. I’ve always been active in school, but this was different. I was in leadership roles, performing on multiple staging, and utilizing multiple performance vehicles. It is where I learned that art can be a tool of guidance, motivation, and healing. When I moved to Atlanta, GA to attend Seminary at Emory University, I had no idea that my experience would birth my company, DreamCatcher Productions. Many people believe that Seminary students spend all of their time studying the Bible, but that’s not true. A lot of time is spent studying the Bible, but they also engage other cultures, religions, global issues, etc. I was tapped to direct a dramatic piece for the Black Church studies most prized event. This was my directorial debut. I learned so much from this experience and a fire was ignited in me to utilize theater as medium to evoke positive change in this world. A great example of this is my piece entitled “the Black Man-O-logues”. I felt compelled to write this piece after a class entitled “Sexuality and the Black Church”. This was a class of about 30 people. There were only about 3 men in the class and the rest were women. Boy, did we get jumped on that semester! It was at this moment I noticed the need for truthful dialogue about sex, church, relationships, and just plain life among men and women. The “Black Man-O-logues” examines love from a black males’ perspective. All of these stories are true accounts. Many highlight or shatter double standards that exist between men and women. The idea behind this type of theater is that one I raise certain issues, audience members can no longer pretend that they didn’t know the issue existed. Even though I’m an ordained minister, I never tell viewers what to think or how to react. I leave that up to them. I raise the issue and “lay it on their laps”. After leaving one of my shows, you can no longer pretend that you didn’t know about a particularly raised issue. For instance, I observe spousal abuse where the woman actually abuses the man. Believe it or not, many people don’t realize this issue exists.

What are your objectives as a playwright?

I have multiple objectives as a Playwright:
Theater is a branch of my ministry. It is a platform that allows me to unashamedly address social issues in an attempt to bring about change and healing. I don’t “sugar-coat” anything. I won’t tell people if the issue is right or wrong. That’s up to the individual to determine. It is my hope that they would examine their lives and surroundings and start to see how they can aid in developing a solution to the problems that cripple our society.
to create new thought-provoking material
to create material that forces the audience to look inward
to address stories that should be discussed in church, but are avoided because they’re perceived to be “inappropriate” for church, unpopular, or too risqué.
Force theatergoers to view content at face-value and examine their own lives to determine if they’re a part of the solution or a part of the problem.

What are your thoughts on Atlanta as a base for actors, playwrights and other members of the entertainment community?

As far as Atlanta being a base for actors, playwrights, and other entertainment community members, it is a growing base. There are a lot of major production companies, film companies, actors, and other entertainment professionals who are relocating or establishing a presence in Atlanta. I think Atlanta has a very bright future in the Entertainment industry because it is fairly young in the game as compared to New York and L.A. which are saturated. Many are starting to label Atlanta as the “Hollywood of the Southeast”. Some have even labeled it as “Black Hollywood”. It is a great time to begin establishing a name and a brand in the entertainment industry in Atlanta. The industry will only continue to develop, grow, and expand. As with real estate, one would definitely want to be on the front end of this movement than the back end of it.

Please click image to enlarge.
Synopsis of Blackman-o-logues
There are enumerable perspectives on black love. There is the love between a husband and wife; the love between a parent and child; the love between siblings; the love between best friends, the love of a community, etc., etc. "What runs through the head of a black man when he is confronted with the subject Love. Black Man-ologues offers answers to the question of "How Does a Blackman Express Love"? In this piece, nine diverse characters offer a montage of experiences and perspectives on black love."
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