Interview by Jaz Dorsey, Director of Education, The African American Playwrights Exchange
Charlie Rule of Portland, Oregon, exemplifies the spirit in which AAPEX was founded. A playwright himself, Charlie has taken on the mission of moving the work of another AAPEX writer forward.
BILLIE' BLUES TONIGHT AT MAMA'S JAM, by AAPEX artist Hershell Norwood, is a new play about legendary blues singer Billie Holiday. BILLIE'S BLUES was the first play to receive an AAPEX staged reading at NYC's Players Club in March, 2008. Following that reading, the script was picked up by producer T. Bankole and presented at The Cherry Lane Theatre as part of the 2008 Downtown Urban Theatre Festival.
Now Charlie is preparing BILLIE'S BLUES for three staged readings, January 22, 28 & 29, as part of Portland's Fertile Ground Festival.
I asked Charlie to tell us something about himself. Here is what he had to say:
It began at R.L. Sabin grade school in Portland Oregon. Fourth grade. It was election time for school offices. I picked Fire Marshal. Figured it would be the easiest job. Living in a foster home often diminishes self worth as one discovers no one really wants you.
The moment little Charlie placed his foot on the stage, magic ran through him. I still feel that moment. Looking warily at the students I announced, "I don't really want to be a Fire Marshall. I just like standing up in front of people and talking." Never got the job.
If you had two legs and walked, I could imitate you. Got into a lot of trouble doing that. English teacher, Mr. Louis Maxfield, Waldport Oregon, steps into the picture. Catches me imitating him in the class. Gives me two choices. Copy out of the dictionary for two weeks every night after school, or be in the high school play. I realize there are girls in plays. A scholarship as a student understudy to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, finalizes my lust for standing up in front of people and blabbering away.
Through several misadventures I end up in San Francisco. Mentored by Larry Menkin (Screen writer), find myself not only acting, but directing as well. Meet Tennessee Williams, am allowed to sit in on rehearsals as Mr. Williams re-works "Two-Character Play". This takes me to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. From there to Vienna and the International Theatre. Worked as an actor, directed and taught workshops. Following that, found myself returning to Portland.
Begin working on a script about a slave who bought his freedom by playing the fiddle. Through AAPEX and a fellow I have come to know as Jazmn, received a script by Hershell Norwood. Being a Jazz fanatic, fell in love with the story.
Thanks to AAPEX and Jazmn, am producing/directing Mr. Norwood's "Billie's Blues-Tonight at Mama's Jam". Should you be out this way or are already here, start the New Year off by seeing this play. If you haven't been bitten by the lust for standing up in front of people and blabbering away, you might well be after seeing this show.
To see a video trailer Mr. Rule made for the production, please click here.
Please click here to visit Fertile Ground website.