AAPEX Interview: Anthony Lamar White — AAPEX Interview , Anthony Lamar White — AAPEX

Thursday, March 8, 2012

AAPEX Interview: Anthony Lamar White

Anthony Lamar White

Interview with Anthony Lamar White by Jaz Dorsey

Last year, Florida playwright Anthony Lamar White contacted The African American Playwrights Exchange about his script CALMING THE MAN - a hard hitting play about manhood that offers some unusually demanding challenges for actors of the male persuasion.

I was delighted when Anthony contacted me to let me know that Atlanta's New African Grove Theatre was gong to give the play a read on March 17 at The Southwest Art Center. I hope the theatre will keep track of the feedback because I would love to hear what an audience says in response to Anthony's jarring look at fathers and sons.

I asked Anthony about himself and his play and here is what he has to say:

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
I was born a writer. I say that because I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Before I learned to read and write, I knew how to tell a story. My mother and grandmother encouraged my writing by buying me a typewriter for Christmas when I was nine. By then I was writing short stories, poems, and songs. However, during sixth grade, my class put on a Bicentennial play and I was cast as a letter in the word “History”. That’s when I fell in love with theatre and first tried my hand at writing a Christmas play for my church’s youth group. It was a smashing success. Later, during my senior year of high school, I was attending the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. and happened to be in the audience during screen legend Katherine Hepburn’s performance in the play, Westside Waltz. What made this even more unforgettable was my English honors class had read “On Golden Pond” and went to see the movie. And, this performance was the same week she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for “On Golden Pond." I've been aiming for Broadway since then.

There wasn't a community theatre or live theatre in my community, so I started a community theatre group in my hometown, Perry, Fla., during the late 1980s / early 1990s, and continued writing plays for the group to perform. In 1999-2000, I wrote the initial version of my stageplay, Calming The Man. The play was well-received, even selected to be part of the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival’s Readers Theatre of New Works. However, shortly after that my mother became extremely ill and I became her full-time caretaker. I put the play aside and did not pull it back out until a year ago. I spent a couple of months revising the play, and the staged reading by the New African Grove Theatre group will begin the play’s second phase.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I consider what I do as art because I was inspired to write by great artists like Toni Morrison, August Wilson, James Baldwin, and Sidney Poitier. Oh, and seeing Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues turned me into a screenwriter. I’m a playwright, novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and journalist who loves what he does. And that is write. I can’t say that I have a preference when it comes to the medium I write for. I usually let the story decide how it should be told. My play, Calming the Man, was begging to be told first-hand as only live theatre could do. While the story behind my novel, The Pages We Forget, needed to be unveiled slowly, layer by layer, chapter by chapter.

If I had to find one problem with my writing, it would be the writing process. I wish I could devote myself to working on and completing one project at a time, but I can't. Right now, I'm working on my next play, a romantic suspense drama, Vampire, which does not contain any "real, fanged" vampires. Or does it? I'm also completing my next novel. And, revising a screenplay. But still, I think I've grown considerably as an artist, but I don't think I'm nowhere near where I would like to go with my craft.

What inspired you to write CALMING THE MAN?
CALMING THE MAN is deeply personal to me. It was inspired by the life and drama that one of my close friends endured while growing up. This is not his story, but he inspired the main character, Tracey, a young man who wants so desperately to win the love of his father, Daddyo, a man who could not and would not allow himself to love his son. Daddyo was a product of the pre-Civil Rights era, and it shows in the way he
responds to his family and the people around him. Daddyo has been bleeding inside his entire life, but still, he blames his son Tracey for inflicting his deepest wound. My friend was very much like Tracey. And, like Tracey, his desperation for his father's affection led to some tragic events.

Calming The Man is an award-winning stageplay about the self-destructive anger that destroys so many young men - young Black men in particular. It's a story about the inherent anger passed down from generations of African-American fathers to their sons.

***The stageplay was chosen to premiere at the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival Reader's Theatre of New Works.
***Top-5 finalist in the 2001 Theodore Ward National African-American Playwriting Contest sponsored by Columbia College (Chicago)
***Top-5 finalist in the 2001 Wichita State University National Playwriting Contest
***Received a development grant from the Pilgrim Project Foundation (NYC) in December 2001 - a foundation that funds projects promoting Christian values;
***Premiered in NYC in May 2002 as a staged reading by the Oberon Theatre Ensemble (off-off Broadway);
***Awarded a development grant in 2000 by B.E.A.M., which is sponsored by Jim Beam Corp

What are the date, time and location of the Atlanta reading?
Atlanta's New African Grove Theatre under the direction of Keith Franklin will perform a staged reading of Calming The Man on:

Date: March 17th
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: The Southwest Arts Center
at 915 New Hope Road SW, Atlanta GA

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