Sunday, November 28, 2010

AAPEX Interview: Charles Rule

Charles Rule

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.

Charles Rule

To see a video trailer Mr. Rule made for the production, please click here.

Please click here to visit Fertile Ground website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AAPEX Interview: Prav Menon-Johansson

Much to my delight (and surprise), AAPEX is looking forward to a London reading of Michael Bradford's stunning new play OLIVES AND BLOOD, about the assassination of Spanish poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. The reading came about serendipitously but would not be taking place if it were not for the interest and commitment of a very industrious director/producer named Prav Menon-Johansson. I asked Prav to tell us something about herself and here is what she had to say.

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
I grew up in suburban London where the major influence for culture was the world of Bollywood movies. I was always struck with the emotional content of the films – the young woman running across the top of the mountain singing about her lost love, dancers always appearing like a Greek chorus from nowhere. The world of these movies was very colorful and without realizing it I was immersed in a very passionate ‘theatrical’ art form.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I began my artistic career as a set and costume designer. My first set design was at the ADC Theatre at the University of Cambridge, England - The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca. I trained in design at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and when I was living in Boston (2006-2008), I designed After Ashley for Company One (resident company at the Boston Center for the Arts(BCA)), Sacred Hearts for Zeitgeist Stage and a number of other productions. All design work can be seen on Living in the vibrant theatre community in Boston inspired me to train as a director at the American Repertory Theatre (ART). I directed for Way Theatre Artists The Kiss by Mark Harvey Levine in FeverFest 2007 and also participated in SLAMBoston 2007. Also I was assistant to Paul Daigneault for the Mystery of Edwin Drood for SpeakEasy Stage.

What took you to London and what have you done/are you doing there?
Since coming back to London in 2008 I have directed premieres of plays - The Choir by Errol Bray (Australian) Busted Jesus Comix by David Johnston (USA). In 2010 I founded Liminal Space Productions to focus on new contemporary writing – American Bytes and American Bytes Back, an evening of new, ten minute American plays that introduced this genre to British audiences and Lashings of Whipped Cream by Fiona Samuel (New Zealand) which was part of the Nursery Festival. All directing work can be seen on

Share with us about this reading of Olives & Blood.
I am very excited about staging Olives and Blood in London. My love for the South of Spain and Lorca deepened when I went to Spanish school for a month in Seville where the passion and pain is felt in the terrain, unlike anything in the north of Spain. I flew to Granada at the end of October 2010 to discuss the nuances of the play with Michael Bradford and after the meeting I felt it would be beneficial to have a reading of the play in London before he went back to the USA. At very short notice, Caravanserai Acting Studios have allowed us to use their space to mount this reading on December 15th 2010 at 7:30 pm and Michael Bradford will be hosting a Q & A at the reading.

Prav Menon-Johansson
Mobile: 07799 412328