So I don’t have something specific to talk about. I just felt the need to reach out to my peeps. That’s right, I wrote ‘peeps’ . . . and I’m not sorry.
It’s rainy day today here in Niagara-On-The-Lake and it feels quite cozy. I just had breakfast and I’m sitting here in my living room contemplating my life and what to do next (next being after this contract). Wondering what I want to do. But at the same time, taking a moment to really enjoy where I am. I feel so freakin’ lucky, y’all. I’ve had a career many people would envy. I’ve gotten to do such a huge variety of things and go so many fantastic places. I’ve been taken to Barcelona, Orlando, Los Angeles, the Caribbean, Maui, San Francisco, all over the states – all for work. Paid and paid for. I’ve gotten to play roles not normally given to actors of colour like Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Che in Evita, Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf in Into The Woods, Freddy Einsford-Hill in My Fair Lady, and even right now Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm in A Little Night Music. All at major theatres. It makes me realize how nothing is impossible and how important it is to not put boundaries around ourselves as people or as artists.
I had a really interesting experience at Stratford after a matinee of King Henry VIII one day in 2004. I was playing Henry’s best friend The Duke of Suffolk, a member of the royal clique. I was jonesing (that’s right, I wrote jonesing . . . and I’m still not sorry) for a doughnut so I went into the Tim Horton’s. As I was standing there, these three mature black folk (I’m black so I can say that – bite me), two ladies and a gentleman from the States, came up to me and asked me if they had just seen me in King Henry VIII. I said yes and they began to gush “Oh it was so thrilling to see one of us up there playing royalty and not a servant.” They went on to talk about how for them, it was like the dawning of a new day and they’ve always enjoyed the shows at Stratford but to see a person of colour be used as a character of such high status and not as filler was such an added thrill. It made me keenly aware of what needs to continue to happen in the theatre world. People want to see themselves on the world stages. They want to see their stories told. But not just that. They want to see that they can be included in other people’s stories too. They want to see that they’re welcome in those stories. I’ve been so blessed/lucky/fortunate to be invited to play in everyone’s world. I’ve never thought there wasn’t a place for me and luckily I’ve had directors who’ve agreed.
One of the complaints I hear is that non-white actors aren’t always particularly “trained well”. (Usually that means they aren’t very good) But we must look at the training. I feel it’s way better now than years ago, but when you look at how many non-white actors are being taken into theatre schools, that is the beginning of the issue. As I say though, that has changed a lot, I think, especially in the last 5 years or so. But also, when young people/performers don’t think there is a chance for them, they don’t try. I remember the first time I saw shows at Stratford. I was in my teens and I saw Much Ado About Nothing and Cabaret. I was over the moon. It was magic. But I don’t think I saw a single ethnic face on that stage. It never occurred to me that I could be there. I didn’t know it was an option. I didn’t feel shut out, it just didn’t seem like people of colour worked there. If you don’t know you CAN dream, you simply DON’T. So I think it’s an issue that needs to be actively dealt with. Non-white (I don’t particularly like that term but seems to cover all the bases) actors need to be given an opportunity to get better by doing – ie. theatre school, shows, festivals.
I get lots of students of colour but also with different issues (weight, physical conditions, etc.) who comment on the variety of my career. I tell them all the same thing, the only person who really puts restrictions on you . . . is you.
Now having said all that, I have to say, I don’t believe in the chip on the shoulder thing either. There is nothing to be gained by being mad at the blanket “people in charge”. Whining about it and being bitter doesn’t accomplish anything. I have just never believed I have those limits, and thank God, I never really have. And I’m thrilled to be a role model if that’s what my career is doing.
The humbling thing is I’m still a freak, and insecure and all those other human things. I still have flops (not often, thank God). I still have huge disappointments. But everything happens for a reason. Even the flops and disappointments. They can point us in the right direction if you pay attention. They can clarify choices. They can tell you where to go next. If you can see them as such, then nothing that happens to you – good or bad – is actually bad. It’s all helpful.
Hmmm well that was an unexpected train of thought. Gotta love random thoughts. I need to try to do a video blog. I will in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in the next couple weeks, I will also have some work-related news. Stay tuned.
Okay, that’s about all. I need to shower and go to the theatre. I want to see if I can grab a room to rehearse some stuff for a call-back on monday. I can’t say what for but that may be part of the news. But only part. ooooooo suspense. Okay, suspense might be too strong a word . . . . . ooooooooo mild curiousity
And now the sun is coming out. . . . I knew there was magic in this day.