Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Karamu House Theatre Artistic Director Terrence Spivey was given a Proclamation from Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and a Resolution from Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell on Thursday, August, 25, 2011. To watch a slide show of the presentation, please click here.
Legendary actor Robert Hooks offers up congratulations too:
Congratulations on being honored for your dedication and hard work at Karamu House. What a privileged you must feel to be apart of the true cultural and community history that Karamu has provided for the city of Cleveland over so many decades.
I recall in the early sixties- while starring in Leroi Jones' "Dutchman" being visited backstage at the Cherry Lane Theatre by the great poet laureate Langston Hughes- who spoke in such glowing terms about Karamu and how it was so important in his beginnings as a playwright. Through the years I've had the pleasure of knowing and performing with many Karamu alumni such as Ivan Dixon- Robert Guillaume- Clayton Corbin- Beverly Todd- Al Fann- Buddy Butler and many more from your classic Karamu House.
I also had the privilege of meeting both the Jelliffes (Karamu's founders) while visiting Karamu with the Broadway company of "A Taste Of Honey" in the sixties. All this inspiration- years before I co-founded another great theatre institution "The Negro Ensemble Company."
Cultural institutions like Karamu and the NEC have led the way in America's communities for so many creative artists in all areas of legitimate theatre.
To learn more about The Karamu House Theatre, please click the post's title.
Barbara K. Asare-Bediako's BAD MEDICINE reading at JFK Center for the Performing Arts 3/3 (Washington,DC)
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
THE MYTH MAKERS
What is the reality of wealth and success in the current world system? It seems to my mind, the acquisition of more things and an accumulation of more debt. In this way people feel completely inundated with their material property, actually drowning so-to-speak in what they do have or drowning in the desires for what they don’t have. All of this swept away by the sea of death that renders all such desires, worthless at the end of the day. No matter how much one seems to acquire, somehow it’s not enough and one may feel completely un- whole in their souls. This belief is so acute that there exist possibilities for murder and mayhem even between family members as a result. In fact, this appears to suffer a soul sickness of sort at the root of many social and material addictions, personality disorders and other ill mental affects. This spiritual disorder seems to manifest itself in rich and poor alike. The end result is a murderous competition of a culture of more in direct proportion to one’s ability to acquire more.
The rich and powerful destroy in their activities to gain more. The poor and displaced destroy in their activities to gain more. It is a highly competitive systemic society motion where sports arenas are the focal point of mass angst displayed and expressed in this culturally approved phenomenon of winning the prize—more. The wealthy class may own twenty cars. The middle class may own two cars and the poor may own one car, but no one has enough cars. In this system of things one must have more. Is this a mindset carryover from the developmental hunter/gatherer periods of human existence? Only more sophisticated now in our attainments; now that we have engaged a social contract of arrogant and stubborn naïveté in consideration of a mythic order termed sovereign governance and national states, grouping into sphere of interest and power.
There still appears no matter how modern or primitive a society, there exists a tribal mindset despite the idealized complexity or simplicity of that state and its society. In this social constellation of societal sets, the social grouping into larger tribal associations create social, national and international antagonisms; hence, the NATO alliance or the assignation of so-called Third World countries. These systems can also be categorized or assembled on the basis of race, economic or social stratifications or in any combinations of these elemental (resources) units making up the whole. The elements not available become the desired and sought after parts in the pursuit of acquisition of more. Once having gained the parts sought after, the search is on for more parts in the pursuit of progress. This process is mindful of the never ending jungle existence of the hungry animal’s search for food and shelter; only, it’s a search not as a result of instinctual drives. But rather by sentient beings, with complex psychological issues of creature comfort; usually directed by concealed mental trauma, real or artificially induced by social engineering and political mechanizations.
The role and existence of the so-called African-American or Black person is a critical one in this hierarchy of systemic desires in currently the most powerful nation state in human history, America. The so-called Black man and woman are in a socially designed state of attenuated psychological manipulation in a mythic matrix of conflicting desires that can never be satiated in a carrot on a stick diversion from the really important issues of existence. The first of these diversionary issues is one of “identity.” The racial group as a result of trauma based mind control programming, has is hard drive completely erased; and a new program installed in which the subject has no direct involvement in its choice of motive inclinations. As a result of this mental operation, this particular group has no control over its individual or group destiny. They remain in constant controversy and flux, concerning its approval ratings, by a system of ranking they lack the power of input and adjustment. Instead, entrapped in a never ending circle of frustrating false starts that usually leads to a dead-end social climbing experience whose consequences more often then not, devolves into a complete detachment into the upper reaches of a societal system which demands compete devotion to its ideals or a level of hopeless poverty dependent upon the graciousness of the entitlement systems of the dole; this condition, typically perpetuates a life of indolence and indulgence. The end product is a social dis-connect between the communal strata of universally shared life. This mental condition of identity loss is a generational discourse and emotional fiat that prevents a true organizational proviso for corrective actions by those personally and collectively affected.
Is there a solution to this problem and its attendant issues? Yes.
It must first be understood that “our “ Identity is myth, manufactured by Myth Makers, that the so-called Blacks living in America are uniquely different from Africans and other so-called Blacks in the World’s Diaspora. This position concerning the issue of identity must be a critical understand and awareness; for without it, there can be no useful metaphases at the cellular level and forward movement from the mind control system employed in the self-perpetuating management of our irrational milieu and its auto-response to the external stimuli of the New World Social Order under a One World Government. This process is coming as a result of immutable conditions as part of a universal progression. However, this does not mean it is something to be feared. Why? Because, all governments are systems of order out of chaos; the difference for those who wish to make personal choices is deeply rooted in the awareness and understanding that we are mis-informed as to the nature of ourselves.
The first step in altering the cerebral connections of our psychic connection to the Patriarchal Matrix of left brain thinking; it is necessary to reduce and finally, eliminate the cycles of psychological, emotional and physical stress brought about by attempting to function by the standards of the conventional thinking of the current world order.
If we understand that we were once aboriginal natives who were lawful captives by a society composed of the most advanced genetic scientist in the history of the world. These scientists rearranged our major DNA program structure through a very formalistic system of mind control programming, generally called “institutionalized slavery.” We were designed and named just as easily as a chemical product is developed in a manufacturers’ laboratory and production plant. As a result we have about as much consciousness as a box of spaghetti that is opened, emptied into a pot of boiling water, cooked and then eaten by someone. A complete cycle of function has been achieved. The superficial purpose is a function of a product. The product has been rendered obsolete by the Industrial Revolution and results in the product being placed on the sidelines. However, there is a Higher Purpose that Supersedes the lower functions of the current settings. What makes this a situation of transmutation (as opposed to a static box of pasta) is the capacity for a conversation of possibility. There is in what is generally regarded as an End Time a major inter-galactic transformation, time warp change, historical transference, intuitional recalibration, spiritual awareness, planetary shift and social meaning as metaphor for living. This process will overcome all evil as currently construed. The power relationships will re-organize themselves in a manner that is honest and loving despite the outward appearances of terror, war and destitution.
What does this mean?
Meditation is very important to the stability of the mind’s perception and ability to improve the electromagnetic field of her or his environment(s). This is a very important point. The need to slow down the cellular and protoplasmic layers of existence in a fast changing world that will otherwise seem destructive, dangerous and damaging. The greatest obstacle to what is currently happening and coming is FEAR and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
We cannot afford fear anymore to govern our emotional and intellectual comprehension of the world that resonates around us. We must positively and resolutely grasp the truth that racial and ethnic identity is a falsehood useful only for the separation of things from the unifying bond of love. To seek these kinds of identity is to engage an endless trap from which there can be no escape. It is a black box theater creating dramas of enmity and conflicts between opposing entities that can never be resolved by intellectual models of species, race and ethnicity. This historical condition inhibits the confluence of true freedom, justice and equality in a world gone mad with its compartmentalized sense of self.
The most important first step is to LISTEN and ask QUESTIONS based on two principles: LOVE all living things and the DECISION made upon the harmony of knowing that substance is to be shared in harmony by all beings animate and inanimate. To choose any other path is to continue down the road of self-destruction and that mistaken direction taken by others. To allow others to insist on race based identity is to pay Pimps to do a job that cannot be completed successfully while paying them salaries in the coinage of our future. The evils and hurt of the past centuries are weighted on all societies who at one time or another engaged in mandated bondage or slavery. All have committed this evil. Now is the time for a clear understanding and unconfused declaration: There is but one race, the human race.
Mankind cannot expect to solve the immense problems of its existence or reach the stars as separate and distinct racial sets. But as a federation of concerted human efforts, these issues can be addressed and usefully unraveled. There is a new Age approaching of Harmonious Inclusion where all things are possible.
More to be revealed.
August 24, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
MEAT, which received a reading at this year's National Black Theatre Festival, deals with the career of Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell who, over a three year period, claimed the lives of 11 women. The victims are evoked by a trio of women who reference the three witches in MACBETH, and the play's structure is intense and visceral.
On another note, Weems is also the author of AT LAST, a revue of monologues and songs recalling the lives of such American legends as Zora Neal Hurston, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Bessie Smith and others.
I asked Dr. Weems to tell us something about herself and her work and this is what she has to say:
Interview by Jaz Dorsey.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Billie Holiday's voice was the St. George that slew the dragon of segregation in the US, and the horse she rode in on was Barney Josephson, a Jewish shoe salesman from Trenton, New Jersey, who had a passion for jazz.
In December 1938, Josephson opened a club in Greenwich Village called CAFE SOCIETY - irreverently known as "The Wrong Place for the Right People." CAFE SOCIETY was the first integrated night club in the United States - in fact, it may be the first and most profound example of integration in our country - and it was certainly a testament to the power of music, because jazz was the first thing to bring the races together in this country - in a good way!
Playwright Hershell Norwood has written a new play about Billie Holiday - BILLIE'S BLUES - which focuses on this particular moment in our history, a moment when Billie's mother could go to hear her sing and when Billie and her band could step off the stage and sit at a table having drinks with white folks.
On Monday, September 19, The African American Playwrights' Exchange, in partnership with Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department's New Play Reading Series, invites you to join us at The Looby Theatre at 2301 Rosa Parks Blvd.37228 for a Nashville reading of BILLIE'S BLUES, directed by Courtney McClellan and starring Vilia Steele, Dara Talibah, Jonah Kraut, Max Desir, Dominique Howse and Julie Ness, with special guest artists Perlie Dunn and Elan Crawford, and hosted by Helen "Olaketi" Shute-Pettaway. Dr. Jamie Cutler will costume.
AAPEX is honored that BILLIE'S BLUES is serving as the kick off of the brand new "Play Reading Series" through Metro Nashville Parks' Theater Department.
"We would like to offer one new play reading each month," says Carolyn German, who heads up the Theater Department, and who started the program, "because readings are so vital to the process and it's a great way to share the process with the community."
The reading is free to the public. Reservations may be made at email@example.com or by phone at 615-915-0891.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
My childhood was filled with many wonderful experiences that fed my imagination and nurtured me artistically. I was a sickly child growing up, tending to be shy and introverted. As a coping mechanism, I developed a world of make believe which transcended the segregation of the fifties, my family's poor economic circumstance, and my feelings of being different. I created the most amazing castles from sticks and rocks, or made a beautiful mud pie -- fit for a king, or plant beans in a vacant lot and make-believe I was a Kansas farmer.
My mother was very influential in my creative development. She loved to work with her hands sewing, doing hair and arts and crafts, but would always take time to read to me and my brothers. We would gather on her bed and listen to her read fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables and more. She also took us to the Municipal Opera (“The Muny”), an outdoor summer theatre in Forest Park (site of the 1904 World’s Fair). Every summer we saw many of the popular musicals of the day – together, as a family.
Several things stand out in my theatre development. Once, we went to Tijuana and my mother bought me two puppets. I loved those puppets and played with the constantly. I would make up elaborate stories of heroes, villains, and damsels in distress. Puppetry certainly enhanced my wild imagination! My fourth-grade teacher also was very influential to my creative development. He brought classical music and opera to our inner city classroom for us to experience. Most of my classmates were bored, but the music enthralled me. It was the first time I heard the Opera “Carmen”, by Bizet. It was amazing.
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I've always taken the approach to writing that says the more you know about other artistic disciplines; the better you will understand your chosen discipline. I've pursued formal training in dance, photography, music, painting and theatre; and, these various artistic disciplines have broadened me as a playwright.
I wrote my first play in junior high school. It was the typical droll example of the adolescent mind striking out at the injustices of the world at large. In high school, I was peripherally involved in theatre. My father frowned on the arts; he thought being in the theatre was for sissies. When I decided I was going to major in theatre, he gave me an ultimatum: find a practical career or he wouldn’t pay for college. I defied his wishes, and went on to major in theatre at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. There I studied theatre; began dance classes (and fell in love with ballet) and pursued a dance career with great zeal. I dreamed of one day dancing with the New York City ballet. After graduation, I packed by bags and moved to New York. I was going to be an overnight sensation; instead, I was schooled in life and hard knocks. I struggled and I starved. I continued taking dance classes, did some cattle calls, and got involved in all sorts of diversions. No matter how far I strayed from theatre, though, it always seemed to call me back. I eventually returned to writing by collaborating on a children’s musical. I wrote the book and lyrics and a friend/composer wrote the music. Over the years the small children's musical has morphed into the full-length musical “Starfest.” During this same period, I wrote another musical based on the life of “Joan of Arc.” The process of writing two musicals taught me persistence, the art of collaboration, and the beauty and power of dramatic structure.
My restless heart has taken me from New York City, to San Diego, across the ocean to London and now I’m firmly rooted in St. Louis again. Someone once said the best way to be an artist is to go out and live life. I’ve done just that, and my life has ended up on the pages of “Life Among the Trees,” “The Last Day's of Cafe Cafe”, “The Seamstress of St. Francis Street,” “Icarus Wing,” "The Healing of Joey Padowaski” and “You Know I Can’t Eat Buffalo Meat When There’s a Terrorist on the Loose.”
I’ve discovered over the many years of writing plays, and numerous other artistic projects, that I’m always chasing after that transcending moment when magic happens on stage; the dark shadows of life are illuminated, we’re able to laugh at the foibles of others we see in ourselves, and soar on the joy of being transported to another world. I strive to create these moments whenever I tackle a new project.
Tell us about the founding and the mission of The St. Louis Writers Group.
TheSt. Louis Writers’ Group is a group of like-minded scriptwriters who meet twice a month to help each other develop their scripts. We have no membership fees, no teachers, and no pressure to attend meetings. We are a family of artists helping each other perfect our scripts and writing craft. The group evolved out of my frustration in not having a regular venue to have my plays read and discussed. I approached the owner of a local coffee shop and asked him if I could do a reading of one my plays; he agreed and that was the beginning of the St. Louis Writers’ Group. I invited some other writers to attend the first reading, and they liked the venue and the atmosphere so much, they asked if they could have their plays read at the coffee shop. I agreed, and arranged more readings at the coffee shop, and the writers and scripts kept coming week after week.
One day, I realized the St. Louis Writers’ Group had a life of its own and needed legitimacy. First Run Theatre, is a local theatre company where I was closely involved and I approached them with the idea of becoming part of their organization. They agreed and the St. Louis Writers’ Group is now under the umbrella of First Run Theatre and has been going strong for the past six years.
During our short history, hundreds of writers, actor, directors, and other theatre professionals, have participated in our script developmental process. Many of the plays developed at the St. Louis Writers’ Group have gone on to full productions in St. Louis and across the country. One of our plays was produced in Ghana, Africa. The St. Louis Writers’ Group meets twice a month. The first Monday of the month we read complete scripts, and we workshop script in various stages of development on the third Monday of the month.
What are your thoughts on St. Louis as a theatre town?
There is a very large and diverse theatre scene happening in St. Louis. Although I don’t see nearly as much theatre as I would like, much of what I see is good and professionally executed. My only pet peeve with St. Louis theatre is there is so little original theatre done in the town.
To learn about Mario and his work, please click the post's title to visit his website.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
AAPEX Update: Norwood's BILLIE'S BLUES opens 9/19 Nashville's MPD of Theatre's New Play Reading Series
Due to some spicy language, this event is recommended for folks 18 and older.
If you can't make the reading but would be interested in reading the script,
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Nashville is fortunate to be one among those US cities which hosts national touring companies of Broadway plays. For the cost of 2 tickets to a Broadway show (one if you're going to see SPIDERMAN!), the TPAC Broadway series offers six of the most popular shows of recent seasons.
The 2011 - 2012 season is especially exciting, opening with the Tony award winning BLAST (September 27 - October 2) - a tribute to the marching brass band. Next is another Tony winner which hits close to home - MEMPHIS (November 15 - 20) - a story of the power of music set in the 1950s.
For those of us born way back in the last millennium, the rest of the season should provide as much nostalgia as entertainment.
In January, those of us who grew up in the golden age of television can really bond with our grand kids when THE ADAMS FAMILY (January 3 - 8 ) comes to town. And then, from the golden age of Broadway, the enchanting Rodgers & Hammerstein musical SOUTH PACIFIC (February 7 - 12).
The season ends with two more fantastic family shows - MARY POPPINS (March 20 - 25) and RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. Thanks to Nashville's own homegrown group THE WANNABEATLES, we've been getting our appetites whetted around here for as much Beatles music as we can get.
In addition to the regular season, two special Tony award winners are headed back to TPAC - just in time for Halloween, WICKED (October 19 - November 6) and in January, when you could use a good laugh, SPAMALOT based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The Broadway tours perform in TPAC's fabulous Jackson Hall, easily comparable to any theatre on the Great White Way. At the helm on performance nights is House Manager Rebecca Nichols, who tells me that Jackson Hall has a maximum seating capacity of 2,472 and that the average staff for a performance includes 2 floor managers, 19 ushers and 12 volunteers to greet audiences and get them to their seats.
From 1990 - 1997 I was fortunate enough to work as production manager for an NYC based touring theatre company, which has left me with a great respect for all those theatre workers who take shows on the road. I think that knowing what the touring actors life is like would add greatly to everyone's appreciation of these shows. As it just so happens, my friend, actress/dramaturg Debra Cardona, is out with the national touring company of MARY POPPINS, so I asked her to fill us in and this is what she had to say:
"Load in day is never attended by the actors. It is crew only. All of the MARY POPPINS show — and that includes sets, lights, costumes, wigs, makeup, and merchandise — take up 15 trucks. Load-out takes all night, and once the trucks arrive at the new theater, load-in takes about 24 hours. It is an incredible endeavor by our crew, and I marvel how they get through it every time and still have the strength to run the show that evening. There is a great video on YouTube put out by Clark Transfer, the major theatrical trucking company in the United States.
Before we open at each venue, we have a four-hour tech rehearsal, going over set moves and quick changes with the new local crews, as well as doing a sound check with the orchestra. We don't get through the whole show, only parts of it. So the first performance is a new experience for everyone involved. We are all getting used to the new theater, the new orchestra, as well as the new crew and dressers — and they are all getting used to working with us. After about 2 or 3 shows, everyone settles into a performance rhythm and things go fairly smoothly.
I personally departed on the tour on March 15, 2010. The show itself went into rehearsals in January of 2009. This is its third year on the road, and I have been with it for just about a year and four months.
Including the 4 children (there are two sets that play Jane and Michael Banks), there are about 36 other actors, 4 stage managers, 2 company managers, 2 wig stylists, 2 wardrobe supervisors, 1 makeup artist, 6 musicians that travel with us (the rest of the orchestra are hired locally at each venue), a tutor and a child wrangler, and approximately 10 traveling crew members (the rest, like the orchestra, are hired locally at each venue). Additional hair and wardrobe personnel are hired at each venue. Also, each child travels with a parent or guardian. And I haven't even counted the dogs that travel with their owners on tour!"
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!
F.L.A.G. - AAPEX
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Any retelling of this story is good, even if it's Star Wars meets World War II.