Audra McDonald and George C. Wolfe | Interview | TimesTalks

hi everybody welcome we were talking
backstage about how we like this evening to go and we just decided we were going
to just have a good time and the thing that I immediately wanted to ask was
about why George you wanted to do this and why now I mean for anyone who
doesn’t know this show is met a commentary on the original 1921 show
where the show that was opened on Broadway in 1921 and I mean the full
title of what you’re doing is itself along with the making of the musical
sensation in 1921 and all that follows and follows is on the back of the
teacher so so what’s the all that followed part I mean because that could
be 1921 in the the relationship among the four men who came up with this show
or it could go almost a century later in terms of the politics that you’re
actually dealing with two yes it’s all that well it’s fascinating me was i you
know i i think I first heard about shop along be a prob soon became obsessed
with in college and I know that he was a replacement in the show then I learned
about Florence Mills who is this extraordinary super startled by letting
people know about who everybody discusses the group when the greatest
performance ever in there is no recording of her as a performer who did
that was very intriguing to me then Josephine Baker within the cast and then
William Grant still became an opera composer was in the work within the
period and it was and it was fascinating because langston hughes wrote that he
decided to come to school at Columbia so he could come see shopper law and and
and then you have held is writing about it and so it seemed to attract this
highbrow and lowbrow uptown down town phenomenon obese people seem to
find themselves inside of shop along and I went oh and and and a trap of hydrogen
for performances which was astonishing in nineteen ten years at work out to be
a mean how many would they do it day it’s also added a midnight show because
it was so popular and also the Broadway stars like five or six years year-to-year to something is wrong really bad man or 10 years and then and
then into a preferable but then I found this book that was a pictorial history
of Broadway and 4 1921 there were like 15 pages and and I was looking through
and looking through and looking through looking through and then I got till the
end and as the footnote it said also that season shop along yeah and I was
just intrigued how something could go from being so significant to ending up
as someone’s foot note that gap you know seems to me a musical in some strange
way what I mean I think it seems like you and i watch you guys work last week
for about a little more than three hours and I think you may be covered five
pages of the the actual script for anybody who is unfamiliar with this
process has a pretty much worse I mean that’s a lot of work for a little span
of time in the book and what would it seems to me is happening is that you are
taking the show and then in a sense trying to capture the phenomenon of the
show itself i mean because not only was it the five hundred and four
performances it was happening at this time we’re harlem culture in black
culture were in New York was the epicenter of American culture i mean
this was the thing to do and it had high and low but it also had this the sensation around the show was was it
the blackness and I think what you’re wrestling with to me it looks like is
the is the timelessness of that of that interest in black people without
necessarily being interested in black life and the struggles among the four
guys who made the show and how to hold onto black art black culture while there
are guys like losing felled and George Gershwin who are also interested in
black music and how you hold on to that and who owns it belongs to why did you i
mean why why add this sort of commentary element to the show because I think its
intrinsic in the material because one of things interesting is that she belongs
to me what’s fascinating it was also alleged that interesting typo because of
a college town in downtown we’re getting to know each other and and and the show
ended up at the around 63rd Street which doesn’t exist anymore but any sort of
like but obviously different worlds were meeting on that stage backstage and
there was a connection in in in in some people credited with creating this
energy inside of downtown so that the whole phenomenon of slamming and going
to harlem is considered the shop along with the catalyst of this and I think
that anytime you put and end end end end and then I read this this some cultural
critic was speaking at the cause of shuttle along and it’s extraordinary
success and was most successful black musical at the time it it put into
motion a model that we’re still dealing with to this very day and Justin since
they did that noble sicily you Blake were what we’re very urban composes but the
show is set in the south in a place called Jim town and that sort of that
tension between Northern and Southern i think is very much so interesting and i
think is frequently plays itself out in in various music to develop happen so it just seems to me
that there for it you know it it was deceived from which a whole lot of other
things spring for it and so when you’re in the
moment you’re in the moment but you’re also watching in 2016 n you watching
every single thing that happened in the middle because it did exist inside of
performance and also one of things that i think is really fascinating is very as
various ethnic groups figure out what proportion of who they can be true
performance you know I think Fanny Brice you remembered Williams they were all
figuring out how much they could be who they were and how much they had to be
this other thing is that I don’t think it was conscious I think it was just an
intuitive understanding that was going on and I think the same phenomena seven
shuttle is people to pick out what proportion of me and I mean what
proportion and I meet my Broadway and what proportion of my new york and and i
think is just becomes fascinated because the meth is in the message a wonderful
way the Mesoamerican culture wait in the new york city way the meth is in the
performances in the material it’s in the artists who are creating the show and
what happened to them and if you just go inside their stories I mean flournoy
Miller indeed who who who wrote the book ended up writing for Amos and Andy after
he sued them because they lifted a lot of the rhythms from shop alarm and put
it in a mercenary so they got around the lawsuit by hiring him to write for Amos
and Andy so it shall be then america in black and white and popular end local
and all this other stuff it’s all in there and it becomes very fascinating to
me so I want to put a pin in that case I want to come back the relationship between the nineteen
twenties and you know the early part of the 20th century and now what else I
mean you were talking about ownership in in performance and identity in trying to
figure out how to perform yourself in front in front of an audience and I mean
that’s a natural way to to ask you how you came to ask hard road to be a part
of this I said please as it pleases began ability well it was it was you know georgian
I’ve never actually worked together on a on a big project benefits and stuff like
that we’ve known each other for years but never worked again I’ve always
wanted to work with him and we have been in contact or whatnot and he called me
and said you need to come out to lunch with me I want to talk about something
so the last thing I was thinking was that he was going to tell me that
because I know how busy he’s been I had no idea that he’d written entire musical
we sat down and I you know what I thought he was gonna tell you one
million and 50 things I don’t know anybody that I wrote a whole musical
that you think about that I haven’t been doing in like the last three weeks that
I’ve seen you that’s the last thing on my mind and so he said you just said you
know that’s a long and I for me I was so intrigued not only because it’s George
but because I didn’t know any of this history and this history is you know
it’s a direct line to me as a performer and the fact that I knew nothing about
it immediately I was just like tell me more tell me more tell me more we were I
don’t know how many hours I’m trying to learn about the history and I knew
immediately I even had other things I was probably gonna commit to doing and I
knew immediately that had to drop everything else and do this
not only so that I could learn my history and be a part of you know
creating something with Georgian finally following the professor and working with
him in the room but also so that I could be a part of helping tell that history
if I didn’t know it not that I’m the world’s most brilliant and smart person
but I I know there’s a lot of folks that are like me they don’t know about this
history and so it just became important to me to be a part of sharing it educating audiences about this time and
I’ve learned more and more about you know sort of myself by learning about
history you know my history that I didn’t know I had fairly quickly and he
was older and you say so it’s like that that seems like outside some government
building in a scandal stuff along here so I mean during which
version of that story I said no it’s it’s it’s very interesting very early on
there was a woman named Lady G and she was there and then she was and she would
be you know there would be an article manag has just formed a sister act and
she’s considered the best dressed woman in show business okay and then I found out that she would
you be Blake had been ongoing love affair and and then I read somewhere
like eg is in Shanghai and has a cold and can’t make it back in time to be on
Broadway but the next show which there was no next show but she was doing
Pradhan pressed about it and then I read an entry which was stunning to me al-qaida begin the writers names she
said wheel right at four o’clock in the morning we arrived at the Grand Duke and
Lady G was just in town and we were all drunk from too much champagne and she’s
saying her hit song from Chapel alive she wasn’t in great voice but we all
cheered medley and was just it was a world in that one paragraph and also
there was this woman and she wasn’t a note under program she was this
complicated and credible woman and very little about her yeah gathering
information about her having to gather information mean georgia’s finding it
you know and I mean little sellers no I don’t even know where you’re finding all
this information is able to bring in like a little tiny interview here there
every once in a while coming with a picture that he’s but they’re very difficult to find so in putting her together you know
we’re having to sort of learned from what was happening around her at the
time people that she would have been influenced by people that she worked
with but that’s it it’s kind of like sort of attendance gentle way of getting
the information about her because there isn’t a lot written about her for sex
with an interesting way of coming to find a character especially since the
other four guys in the show there’s quite a bit and the other two rfb Miller
and Audrey are very liberal ails ya did she become to you yeah I mean I mean you
basically are kind of creating this character from from New scraps basically
and anecdotes i mean so what did you how did you how did you build her saying
that it’s the past tense it’s happening right now I was I was only there for
three other guys are done yet how would you like to continue building are making
her as three-dimensional as real as human as I possibly can give them a
little information there is also looking at the other thing that we just figured
out I just figured out I took the time to really focus on was that when shuffle
along day viewed in 1921 lot eg was 34 years old that’s old for that time
period to be into being unmarried woman the age of 34 finally getting her
Broadway debut playing a non-jew new that’s old and so that already informed
quite a bit for me just already just sort of opened up a whole world about
how much you’ve struggled up into until that point and the fact that it also I
looked up just recently you know life expectancy for you know women that were
not caucasian at that time I found a charger and 57 58 I think was it so you know it’s an achievement kind of
middle age and so that’s an interesting thing you know so little tidbits like
that but are helping to support of in-form who she is also I learned a lot
about just reading some of the reviews from chapel on that said you know you
know this soprano voice and she wouldn’t be
appreciated down reviews about the fact that her voice would necessarily be
appreciated in some like the jazz clubs but you know it’s it’s a fine voice with
Finn and stuff that’s informing I guess I’m supposed to say I mean ok so the
reason I probably put it in the in the past tense in terms of the work you’re
doing on this part is you know I was lucky enough to watch you guys work for
about three hours last week as I mentioned before we should also say that
savion glover is doing the choreography and absolutely love this show in this
very sort of tap focus show yes and and this is a tap demon now well I mean this
is just to say you know you saw what I saw when I was there was you guys trying
to figure out a sequence it involves the sort of representation of getting from
one taking the show from one town to the next like the bunch of stops in
Pennsylvania here susquehanna as part of a cell and
just watching people come from behind the dividers to watch savvy on figure
out this routine what you’re out of the room for for some of this and it was
just amazing Brian Stokes Mitchell comes out from behind this divider to watch
this dance get me and I don’t know if he i mean he’s not part of his number so he
clearly just interested in watching this dancer is part of that part of the
number but he’s alright I did say that yes that’s true you guys come in at the
end but he I don’t know I mean what they were trying to figure out didn’t
directly involved and it’s just amazing watching this guy savion glover sorry do his thing and the answers to try to
figure out how to do what he’s doing and these guys the guys have gotten show the
dancers are great they’re amazing it’s amazing you know first of all your work
with savion he does not he doesn’t if you say full app or like if you say you
know like a ball change or something like that he’s just and then it does
that and then he and then he says okay you and he goes no and you’re watching
it and you’re watching his you know his feet are living but you don’t even know
how even though you’re right there seems like I’m this close to your feet like 15
sounds in two seconds and I don’t know how you’ve done it even though I’m right
here and then you say to me okay so we are very aware of the fact that we are
watching a genius and learning from a genius a very patient genius to as well
who’s willing to go over it with you like 5,000,000 times so I think what
you’re seeing is also especially once a few months to really demonstrate
something he’s never gonna do the same way twice everybody comes out the final
result actually going to be but also because you’re watching a genius at work
and so the dancer seemed caught between having to follow what he was doing and
just being a novel he was doing so at some point you know they don’t have the
luxury of our race you aren’t in the rooms are you didn’t
see the law and so you know at some point that nobody like they were lost
everybody sort of lost trying to follow him in I guess the Los look on their
faces with sort of bewildering to him and he said you guys look at me like I
need Jesus but the reason the real reason I brought that up with to say
that during this you were off behind another sedative out like behind one to
two layers of dividers you were against the window in the far back very
concentrated you want on your phone you weren’t separate from the energy of the
room but you would sort of I mean you just seem to be really deeply in thought
and then once they’d figured out enough of that number in Georgia come in and
light said no and yes I don’t like that and do that again and no I don’t end you
know savion is like ok whatever it was you want to do you want to do that
entire sequence and Audra McDonald comes from behind these dividers and used
you’ve got a song which song called in that put in that number ya daddy wants so I don’t know how 60% and I don’t know what percentage you
were asked why I was like oh you just going to look a little bad like low be
ATT just you know you got enough to get through the next two hours beyond to
give everything so when we say she was it like 110 to me that could have been
your fifty well I’m gonna that’s because of him George is someone who I mean aside from
the fact that this entire show the idea of a show has sprung forth from his
brain like you know a pheno from zoos fully formed and he’s trying to spill it
all out to us as quickly as it’s coming to him which is we’ve all had to learn
how to speak george because we’ve been workshopping it for a while now we go
okay you want us to do this but the first is giving a hundred and ninety
thousand percent every cell of his body every moment in rehearsal so shame on
you for not doing the same and not that he ever has to say that it’s he doesn’t
you can not bring everything that you have even though it may not all be
correct or or or perfect you have to bring that same level of commitment and
energy to what you’re trying to achieve because George is meeting you with that
and his presence in all that energy and intelligence and passion and inspiration
demands that you come back with that much so that’s why thank you but also
this woman is like it’s just a cheap shit like this parrot for truth she said she is like this as he does that’s
that’s kinda true that kinda to know that’s true and she’s just it’s I think
it’s a roomful of obsessive-compulsive overachieving black the dream of the day
of a low-key black person in their rooms no I mean ok well you know that it could
be that I went plays comes to answer the state’s thank you energy was already
really intense and everybody was working really hard at that moment and you could
have not come out and it would have been great but when you started that number I
just watched everybody’s faces and I hope this doesn’t happen during the show
because that would be bad but everybody just they weren’t happy they were just
watching you and all of them in the gravitational force in that room cuz you
at the front and just everybody sort it was like drawn into your tractor beam
and it was amazing I just never experience I’ll never be able to sit
that close to you while you do that and so that was a magical thing it’s all of
us with everybody yes some of the major nap numbers happen
where it’s just the dancers and that energy is also something in the sound of
I don’t have many dancers there on the number that I saw but that sounds like a
thirteen people tapping like that it is the most erotic insane violent kre Z
energy just feet hitting the floor is Brian Sieber book by the way that the
history of tablets out right now if you didn’t get that kind of leads out with a
major characters are in the history of tap any does really interesting
descriptions of what of what the force of hitting the floor is like I felt
really in unique energy I have to say I think there’s also we’re
all being driven in an odd way by these girls absolutely i mean you know what you want
to believe in but I every day we walk into that room I feel like these ghosts
these are these ancestors these saying thank you please tell our story now I
definitely cannot be here tell us that we feel that energy and then and it’s
also deprive perpetually moving things we first talked about it it’s it’s it’s
wonderful when you have your edits certain point in your career where you
have options and the thing which is starting I find completely totally
moving up these people had no option so they made one broadway’s it I think the last show
there was george walker kind of flourishes shows that were done at the
turn of the century opportunities in the way to work with the republicans george
walker with mad from some simple and so he he was made to eight overturned who
like eg dance wit and then there was a fifteen year that’s up nothing so these
people were going i mean it is it’s it’s mickey in judy is haiti’s that’s put on
a musical setting Jimtown you and I need there was there was no permit they
weren’t given permission so therefore they just had to do it because they
there were no options that they had to craft their own and I and that is
exactly I think everybody feels like this incredible sense of responsibility
under people who just went ok I stupidly or naively or bravely or heroically just
wait and now we show we don’t have any money and we can go out of town and
we’re gonna come here and we are putting on broadway they had nothing and it
happened I mean stunning people don’t get paid they wanted debt yes I mean
they risked a lot to do to make this happen so i dont wanna go back to just this
particular moment because I want to talk about your strategy in terms of your
singing because that moment that song you do some really interesting You make
some interesting choices and one of them is you you seeing you begin in most of
the song is done in this what I would say classical way and there’s some
comedy that you put in by by making some of the freezing black and giving that
some funk or something and it’s really funny and I think you’re doing it for
comedy that the pop pop pop pop it’s written and I mean it’s there but like I
mean salesmanship that you have to give it
read it it’s worth telling the story is a story that and Georges very writer
jorge just said ok just be funny here I’m not gonna happen but because of
where the body is in that particular moment in the story what she’s feeling
the contentment that she is feeling in that particular moment is is why I’m
able to go into this particular sort of the longest in a lot of this is it tour
of this song is brought into my boy’s teacher the other day of the same
teacher I’ve been with since 1995 the same he’s he’s the one that got me
through master class and everything seemed teacher and he teaches a lot of
opera singers as well and it keeps my words very healthy as much as you can
and I brought this song into him the other day and usually you know I’m
bringing in something where I’m sort of mix see more like singing you know
really wide bowels when he believed you think you can you know what has to be
out you know he’s trying to figure out how
to make it healthy he was because it’s it’s so stratospheric Lehigh and you
cannot sing it any other way but I erratically and I’m so happy but it’s
it’s it’s it’s at Blakes wit because they put a song that where it’s all that
debt debt debt debt that Daddy hope up up up up up up up okay it’s out of there
but they put it away the hell up there tonight and that i buy me buy me a few
times a week that’s exactly and so is it just crashed for malady and in his
sexuality and sensuality Mets together and it’s very very sophisticated what
they did very very smart and you be said that he sees it he said the sheet music
sales were so low on that show on that song because the audience was screaming
so much because the song is actually the result I was won’t you please come home
but his dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad is so other people into by the sheet
music when you’re looking for dad and so I knew the real title with you please
come home its deposits now I mean it’s it’s it’s like six things happening in
just the rehearsal it’s one of those it’s it’s a moment
it’s a moment so what is i mean so I don’t really have a sense of where the
show is going so I mean you you taking it there on the road with the show they
get it to Broadway and they’re obviously there’s obviously some tension between
the four men in LA D and then you have these outside forces the ziegfeld empire
and gershwin all sort of interested in black on black music and in that show in
particular in taking parts of it right because at
some point they go off to work with or they got to work with it is very
interesting 1920 1921 I guess they explained earlier
there had been any black musicals for a very very long time then shop along
happen and then that next year there were five and 10 2010 from 1990 22nd at
2280 27 1922 until 1929 there was a splatter on black music you know if
they’re in the thirties happen in NorCal has it has a great deal I which is why
people downtown rediscovered in Ocala today moved downtown and then so end but
it but it is interesting that was the song chapel on Capp indeed 1921 in the
Ziegfeld Follies of 9th ok it happen 1921 I just want to stress
their one year later in 1922 there was a song at the Ziegfeld Follies called it’s
getting dark on old Broadway after one show no and we can play with it anyway
no I mean that was at the same time that like the Black Bottom stomp was
happening there is I guess jelly roll morton route that song and I remember
who recorded it now but I mean that was a dance craze that white people were
doing in a camera guys the guy who had a series of it was indeed it was felt
basically his competition george and so the the Black Bottom dance was a huge
part of one of those escapades and when a million lyle’s as one of their shows
which is running wild they introduced the Charleston yes I’ve been around for
centuries and it it started the Charleston craze and so I mean let’s try
to get too interested in in in in how you talk about ghosts and and how they
gonna take you over a little bit and also wanting to honor the past and in
the way all that all of that energy is a row found this show but then it also seems
to be still happening and I know that you know it’s crazy to kind of make this
relationship work but I’ve been thinking about this thing with Taylor Swift and
Kanye West and this these ideas of who can speak for human who who’s a rightful
winner in who can own aspects of black culture in those ghosts are still with
us in this really interesting way and that’s not it I mean what’s going on
with with whatever the nonsense is going on with does seem to be a part of this
conversation in its not explicitly what’s happening with Kanye West trying
to assert that someone like being teased about artisan Taylor Swift in her
pushing back against him but there is this interesting racial dimension to
what’s going on with them in addition to the gender thing and Beyonce puts out
this video two weeks ago and when it comes out it comes with a disclaimer
from people on social media saying you know you can’t talk about this way
people this is ours and their the place this sort of unofficial cordon around it
and you know this is beyond T speaking to two US black women in particular and
we’re in this moment were these things are really touchy insensitive about
appropriation and ownership and appetite you in the twenties it was it was open
blackness was sort of an open-source situation there is a i think im not
saying it was better know but I think what was happening with shop along to
their was a reclaiming to you in a way you know I mean there
were some was you know the minstrel see that was going on in and there was no there were there were
caucasian people you know all johnson on the 19 sort of you know going around but
with wood shelf along they were able i think there was a reclamation is that a
word yes I think I also think that’s what it was but I I think it it’s it’s
very interesting because carbon victim who was you know it’s complicated but
interesting I really fascinating guy major weight figure in the harlem
runners yeah and do great parties on 55th Street where he downtown in bed and
one of those parties that possesses punched out his wife because she got
very drunk and he just sort of like this insanity and she was a ballerina and he
knocked him out and he evidently stepped over here instead miss miss miss miss
chasing after her and the back of his criticisms of shop along whether that
they were trying to do something to appeal to white people and they were
just I don’t think the thought processes even
that’s it wasn’t even that there was no agenda they were just trying to put on a
show and they put on a show with which the show that they know how to put on
and and cruelly influences that there were rounded the the dancing girls who
come out in the palace customs but one of the things which I would want to give
away too much but one of the things that the chaplain contributed to the
formation of America musical was the first time that was a woman’s dancing
clothing course first time that women would not wanna meet patient would
parade about dancing duels and souls but the course of supplement with these
stomping sexy incredible dancing women who then as a result of it because of
their dynamic the field then hired two girls Michelle belonged to teach the
girls in this valley is how did a guy that’s what I saw its complicated
because because once you put something out there it’s
out there and there are recordings of Ethel Waters singing a song you’re lucky
to me and ended at the sections of the way she begins folks who kind of ready boo boos and
she’s like culturally are all over the map in one phrase and I think that there
was this is very interesting because there was a moment that I can’t believe
I just think of public but I digress ok with Audra McDonald I have no fear ok and I think in a fake soprano voice
and their streaming it I’m so happy about it I want some of that I want some
of their and I want somebody I think my boy sounds like this and you’ll be was
obsessed with with with with with broadway composers and at the same time
he was a record both at the same time he was the Jets were both so it’s
complicated because american culture and its best and most interesting is the
method is a method is so screwed up complicated horrifying exhilarating mess
so when you try to extract it and reach for purity when the fundamental dynamic
is you know tell us fifteen Kanye West who gives a crap it’s all in there how
can you extracted great you know everybody’s I mean you know you can look
at some people you know don’t be doing that but that even a person who
shouldn’t have been doing that is now a person saying wait people I used to do
this I regret it now don’t do it today exactly and then you
add in as the mechanics as the toys so once upon a time you had to get your car
yet to go uptown to see that you had to go downtown and edgy as the geography
equation has shrunk because of the technology then do so you don’t have to go out to eat
people used to have to go on a journey and emotional spiritual psychological
cultural just get taking a train or something to acquire the thing now you
don’t have to do that you can just go boom I could do that i mean and soul there’s
no investment and I think that’s what’s complicated yes you know the way when
anyone house townhouse she sounds there’s some kind of investment that is
connected to the fact that she’s sees you know jewish in England which is to
be very anti-semitic and it brings out some shit inside of her and so it
whether it’s one of the boys know it’s an old cultural complexities are you and
I mean I don’t you think about Al Jolson when you hear Amy Winehouse singing me
in in a in a good way you know I came to see shop along every Wednesday night
when they show anybody 300 tickets every every Wednesday night and wanted to do
Porgy and Bess my favorite thing with all-black cast I
love how but as for dinner but I love it and go for it out just for one night I
kind of springtime for Hitler goals you know what I feel like we can now we can
handle that I mean there’s a level of I think we’re all sophisticated enough it
some in some way to be able to unpack what what those relationships are doing
and what those images are doing and what those ideas are doing i mean that’s what
this show is in some way I mean it’s both erecting a reclamation an acknowledgement of the mess we’re all
in it together and we’re all in it together i mean i mean right or wrong i
mean you make ziegfeld a character in the show is that really mean who’s the
pretty snow soon like notionally rate so the idea of what the ideas their idea of
that weight appropriation is a character in your show will voter reg who did a
lot of the orchestrations 44 shuffle along did bill polly’s gershwin talked
to him a bit BBBS just as he was starting work on porgy bess it was just
you know it’s like when it cope cultural appropriation win is it’s dealing with
is that violation when is the intrigue when is it fascination and and I think
that conversation is a really interesting not an easy one and you know
in various people will appoint themselves to call the guardians of the
culture you now but it’s you know it’s it’s it’s it’s complicated with pop
culture it’s like you know if I were there somewhere that I don’t know it’s
interesting it is interesting to that you said the whole thing about you
really had invested get to other cultures in those towns and the fact
that it was you know such an adventure people to come up to 63rd Street to see
what was going on shuffle long as one story of US one man white man who came
to see the show every every night in a row for like five nights to check it out
and then you be home I’ve seen it enough now that I know I know that I can bring
my family to see it but I needed to do and I he had to go make sure it’s like i cant one sort of
innuendo that I think it’s going to be okay for me to bring my family up here
but talk about investment that you know and then just sort of and you’re right
that we don’t need that that I guess in those days they could have bought it is
a risk but there there’s no risk now YouTube it and yeah there you know then
you run into the thing that you were tied up before which is you can you can
get that exposure and then have no idea you can separate that are extracted from
a long time was one of the first times in in a theater that african-americans
were allowed to sit as close as like the 4th or 5th row and variety reports that
a variety reports that negroes was seated as close as fifth row from the
front itself alarm so I wanted shipped conversation just a little bit before we
take questions and just talk about what I want to say that it is a pleasure to
sit with you and be in in thinking about all the things that you’ve done in the
last twenty to twenty-five years just in New York Theatre you i mean this is just
the latest version of what of something that you’ve been working on for a long
time which is really looking at the past and figuring out how it has something to
do with what is happening to them to our particular moment whether it’s with
savion whether it’s whether it’s whether it’s with Smith I mean your commitment
to american cultural life and in in black cultural life engaged cultural
life is i mean i think people recognize this but I don’t think it’s been
properly celebrated agree with that part of that is that you know where
country that I mean it’s easier to just have a right to have an ambassador for
something and have that ambassador speak for you know in the case of Tony Kushner
he’s a great player and you know living and and August Wilson is the sort of the
paradigmatic he’s the apotheosis of black but I mean obviously there are so
many different ways to tell so many different stories and I think this I
mean your approach to me is so fascinating because you want you don’t
want there to be any walls between ideas and how those ideas reach the audience
and you respect what an audience can take home with them when they leave yeah
and I i then think about what you do in the theater in wonder as a person who
was professionally been responsible for watching movies I mean you are the thing
that to me in my movie going experience has been missing and just wondering if
you have any sense of of whether what you doin the way your mind works and the
way you see the world is is it too big for the movies is it too limited for a
person who is mine works the way you always does and I just I just scared of
you I just think to me when I think TV that I have my general definition you
know how big it goes beyond that but I think you know TV’s about my TV is about
character movies about about story and theaters about ideas and I think you
watch Harry Mars will get together but you take home with you when you see a
play that’s really throwing a wonderful musical experience you take home
something else and and and and so end and I’m just really intriguing I’m just
really intrigued by by by by history and and how do you extracted there’s a lot
you know museum which is what I think I’m perpetually wrestling with which
landed saying and whereas I can’t live inside of yesterday’s pain I can’t live
without it and and what is the proportion what proportion of history
can you put in your body so that it empowers you and what proportion of
history can you put in your body it overwhelms you and end at that and that
dynamic is very very it’s just very intriguing because I think it’s an
ongoing thing that a lot of people wrestle with it and i just i just racial
history but personal family histories for disturbing you need is like you if
you if you deny the texture than your boring but if you want but if you take
lawn all the textures you know you can turn into a rage machine you know and so
i just i and I think it’s it’s it’s it’s intriguing because a lot of times I’m
trade into the room means surrendering that things that you
held onto why you were waiting to get into the room and and and and I worked
you know I was raised to be a nice smart negro boy and the end I but the less
clothing line twenty thousand other things going on and so at one point you
have to blow up the definitions that are imposed upon you so you can become the
version of yourself that you need to be a part of that just means only get all
and only you know if you own it out then you can use the proportions of you that
you want as opposed to feel you so you have to be one thing or the other so I don’t know I’m just images it’s
just that’s what it is that I just intrigued by by any thought you go back
if you go back and study people who have gone through certain things you know
it’s an odd reflection of you and you can always your eyes and you can learn
something that I just like living in different worlds is like here in Omaha
Mongolia period I’m doing three men were working on something I just want to live
in a different place because then I’ll figure out something about myself that I
didn’t notice well when I went into this world and I think I did you know I think
there’s like a you know I think it’s my 14th Broadway show and after a while you
ok ready when you are now to me and you and I’m truck i’m new york you know me
then you learn all their crap and I i likely being in the space of these
people who didn’t know that they had to have that that you know that we’re going
to do this because gotta do it and so I just don’t know what I’m saying but I
know what I’m saying i’m saying you’re saying you’re really glad you stayed in
the theater at think we all are glad you stick it in the theater professor this
is rehearsal is like with george will work on a scene and then as we’re
working through and talking about a scene George starts spouting all of this
information and you see the cast just leaning forward and like trying to type
it out and and and just trying to remember it’s just incredible wisdom is
this is like I mean I wrote seven pages of notes while i was just things that
george my just things even when he was out of the room where is it going to
take notes for George just in case something happens while
he’s gone education we’re going it’s not just you
know he’s not just our director and writer this incredible piece you know
he’s learning about myself and my history our history and just how it
connects in the world on a daily basis so and they’re paying me so

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