Horizon Theatre Blog

The History Behind HOW BLACK MOTHERS SAY I LOVE YOU

Immigrant Domestic Workers and Family Separation

The phrase “family separation” has taken on new meaning in light of recent events surrounding immigrants and asylum-seekers to the United States. Though the specifics are different, How Black Mothers Say I Love You examines the repercussions of a similar separation for one family, and a path to healing and acceptance. Daphne, the mother in the play,  would have come to North America under an immigration program that allowed her to do domestic work in order to earn citizenship. Programs like this often required women to be single, so bringing any children she may have had would be out of the question.

Playwright Trey Anthony originally set this play in Canada to reflect the stories of the women who were part of a Canadian government program that began in 1955. The West Indian Domestic Scheme recruited young women from select West Indian islands to satisfy the country’s need for post-war household labor. However, this scenario, of a mother emigrating to find work and create better opportunities for her family, was and is common all over the world.

Anthony herself comes from a legacy of black mothers who have left their children. She says, “My grandmother left her children in Jamaica and went to England and was separated from them for six years. My paternal grandmother also left her children in search of a better life. Both of my grandmothers were poor women mothering in less than ideal situations. The legacy of mothers leaving continued when my own mother left us in England in search of the Canadian dream. I was left behind… Even though my family is now reunited, we never fully recovered from these separations. We are women who share a complicated herstory of leaving and being left behind.”

The West Indian Domestic Scheme recruited young women from select West Indian islands and enlisted over 2,250 women who left their homes to assist thousands of upper class families in exchange for permanent residency. Due to Canada’s strict and often racially discriminatory immigration laws, the scheme was often the only opportunity for women to migrate to Canada in order to better their families’ lives. By their own accounts, while leaving their children caused them immense sorrow, many of these women felt they had no choice.

Women intending to participate in the scheme submitted an application through their country’s Ministry of Labour. Applicants were required to meet four criteria: they must have been between the ages of 18-35, must have been single, must have received at least an eighth grade education, and must have passed an interview and medical examination conducted by Canadian immigration officers. Once granted access to the program, the women were required to serve one year as a domestic worker earning a salary of $280. Only then could they send for immediate family members and pursue more prestigious job opportunities.

Upon their arrival, migrants were often literally and figuratively isolated from each other and the surrounding community. According to a study conducted by social researcher and anthropologist Frances Henry, many women felt they were unprepared for the isolating, demeaning, and strenuous way of life. While some women expressed a positive experience, the majority of those interviewed cited instances in which they were personally discriminated against. For this reason, many women were forced to continue working as domestic employees for years after their service ended; no established  business hired people of color. Racial bigotry at times led women to leave their children in the West Indies permanently to spare them a childhood of alienation.

 

Brief History of Immigration Legislation in the United States

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a landmark immigration reform bill, the Hart-Celler Act, into law. It abolished the quota system that had been established by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which critics condemned as a racist contradiction of fundamental American values. For example, the Johnson-Reed Act is the legislation that prevented any citizens from Japan from entering the United States.

By liberalizing the rules for immigration, especially by prioritizing family reunification, the Hart-Celler act stimulated rapid growth of immigration numbers. Once immigrants had naturalized, they were able to sponsor relatives in their native lands in an ever-lengthening migratory process called chain migration, which is an enduring legacy of Hart-Celler that is a significant part of the immigration conversation today.

Unlike flows from other parts of the world, the uptick in Caribbean immigration was not necessarily prompted by the 1965 Hart-Celler Act because migration from the Western Hemisphere had not been subject to the national origin quotas set in 1924. Instead, the growth had to do with circumstances specific to each country. Migration from Jamaica and other former British colonies was driven by immigration restrictions set by the United Kingdom and the simultaneous recruitment by the United States of English-speaking workers of varying skill levels, from rural laborers to domestic workers to nurses. At present, Jamaicans are the largest group of American immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean.

A Note From Playwright Trey Anthony

FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT

I come from a legacy of black mothers who have left their children. My grandmother left her children in Jamaica and went to England and was separated from them for six years. My paternal grandmother also left her children in search of a better life. Both of my grandmothers were poor womyn mothering in less than ideal situations. The legacy of mothers leaving continued when my own mother left us in England in search of the Canadian dream. I was left behind…

Even though my family is now reunited, we never fully recovered from these separations. We are womyn who share a complicated herstory of leaving and being left behind. As a result, we are storytellers, telling jokes rather than talking about feelings. Silences feel dangerous and “I love you” is replaced with overflowing plates of rice & peas and chicken. Yet, even with the many things left unsaid, I have no doubt that my mother and grandmother love(d) me and each other fiercely.

When my 80-year old grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, for the first time, she seemed compelled to finally talk about her past. Armed with just an iPhone and pen and paper, I eagerly recorded her response.

Me: “Gran, do you have any regrets?”

Gran: “My biggest regret was leaving my children, they have never forgiven me, especially your mother. Sometimes as a mother you have to do what is best for your children. But they will never understand.” 

How Black Mothers Say I Love You became my own way of trying to understand this complicated herstory of my family.  It is the love letter of understanding… It is written for all those that had to leave, and for those left behind. It is for every mother who is mothering under less than ideal circumstances. It is for every daughter who is trying to find her own place of healing while navigating her own childhood hurts.

We are all hurting, all feeling that we need more love and understanding in our lives. I affirm daily to be kinder, softer, and more loving to everyone I encounter. I wish to hold black womyn and especially my mother, in a kinder, safer, more gentle space. How Black Mothers Say I Love You, is my gentle place, my kinder more forgiving place… There is great love here for you.

I would like to thank my beautiful and amazing life partner, Dr. Vernetta Harris, my grandmothers and mother, and my family/friends for all of their love and support.

I want to truly thank you for coming out to see my play, and  please stay in touch I can be reached on Instagram @blackgirlinlove and on Facebook, under trey anthony.  Please keep spreading the word to ensure diverse stories continue to be told.   Much love.

 

– Trey Anthony

 

Trey Anthony was Horizon’s National New Play Network Playwright-in-Residence in 2016, during which time Horizon produced her smash hit, Da Kink in My Hair, and workshopped her new play, How Black Mothers Say I Love You.   Both plays were directed by Artistic Associate Thomas W. Jones II and the Black Mothers workshop featured Yvonne Singh and Minka Wiltz in the same roles you’ll see them in for this production.   We are thrilled to present the American premiere of the play after its great success in Canada.   

About HOW BLACK MOTHERS SAY I LOVE YOU

How Black Mothers Say I Love You

Powerful and Touching:

From the creator of ‘da Kink in my Hair comes a tale of immigration, family, and sacrifice

July 13 – August 26, 2018 (Press Opening July 13)

 

Second in Horizon’s New American Dreams Series, How Black Mothers Say I Love You is a powerful, funny and touching tale of a Jamaican mother and her daughters back home together – laughing, shouting and searching for love. How Black Mothers Say I Love You makes its U.S. premiere at Horizon Theatre Company with an all-star cast and creative team, with performances beginning July 13. Ottawa Tonite says, “Playwright Trey Anthony’s love letter written to those women in her family that had to leave their children behind has both a whimsical and a hard edge to it. This play is good – standing ovation good.  Sweet, touching and funny, ample in its raw emotion, How Black Mothers Say I Love You can’t help but work its way into your heart.” The play is sponsored by the family and friends of Denise McLaughlin in honor of her milestone birthday.   Performances begin July 13 and run through August 26 (press opening on July 13) on the intimate Horizon Theatre stage in Little Five Points/Inman Park.

Hard-working Daphne left her two young daughters in Jamaica for six years to create a better life for them in America. Now thirty years later, proud and private, Daphne is relying on church and her nearby dutiful daughter to face a health crisis. But, when feisty activist Claudette arrives unexpectedly from far away to help out, her arrival stirs up the buried past, family ghosts and the burning desire for unconditional love before it’s too late.   Horizon’s Associate Artist, Thomas W. Jones II (Blackberry Daze at Horizon, former Artistic Director of Jomandi Productions) is at the helm of this production as director, and it features Yvonne Singh, Wendy Fox-Williams, and Horizon favorite Minka Wiltz (‘Da Kink in My Hair at Horizon).

How Black Mothers Say I Love You plays July 13 – August 26. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. (see details below) at Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points/Inman Park (1083 Austin Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA. 30307).  Tickets are $25-$45 and prices increase as performances sell out, so get your tickets early.  Seating is general admission.  Tickets and information are available at horizontheatre.com or 404.584.7450.

 

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

Trey Anthony is a visionary creator, motivational speaker and award-winning playwright of international significance, currently based in Atlanta. Her hit play and television series, ‘da kink in my hair has received tremendous critical acclaim and was named one of the top ten plays in Canadian theatrical history and the winner of four NAACP awards. It sold out all of its performances for the Horizon Theatre Company production in 2016, directed by Thomas W. Jones II   Trey is the first African Canadian woman to write and produce a television show on a major prime time Canadian network.  Trey is currently adapting her hit play, How Black Mothers Say I Love You into a feature film.  She constantly champions black women through her plays and new business ventures. In 2017, Trey launched her new brand, Black Girl in love, which features the first lifestyle planner/organizer geared at professional black women and also includes merchandise, workshops and retreats. Trey is a sought-after professional speaker and delivers hundreds of keynotes per year, using humor, personal insight and vulnerability.   She is a crowd favorite and is known to receive standing ovations everywhere she goes.  She also delivered a popular TED talk which continues to inspire thousands of people everywhere.  She is a writer for Huffington Post and a contributing writer for the Toronto Star. Trey, has also been featured in numerous magazines and publications and is a popular guest on daytime television in Canada, where she has appeared on City TV, Global Television, CTV, Rogers Television and more.

Horizon Honored With 50/50 APPLAUSE AWARD

The International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) announced that Horizon Theatre Company is a recipient of a 2018 50/50 Applause Awards, honoring theaters that produce plays written in equal measure by women and men. The awards honor theaters at least half of whose productions in their July 2017- June 2018 seasons are written by women. Further, a theater must have staged three or more productions during the season and have plays authored by both male and female in their season. The recipients of this year’s awards are found throughout Australia, Canada, Finland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, United States, and Wales.

For the 2017-2018 season, approximately 60% of the qualifying theaters are repeat recipients. “We are pleased to see that there are some theaters that, year after year, provide opportunities for women playwrights. We salute their efforts,” said 50/50 Applause Award Co-Chair Patricia L. Morin.

The 2018 50/50 Applause Awards come in the wake of a momentous year for women’s struggle for equality in many different arenas. The #metoo movement that began in October 2017 rocked the film, media and theater industries across the world. The movement has shown how a bullying and sexually abusive environment limits the participation and career success of women. A majority of theater artistic directors do not stage the work of female and male playwrights in an equal proportion, and this has repercussions for society by suppressing women’s stories and filling the theater stages with the male imagination. The male presence not only dominates artistic directors, it dominates the theater boards, governing boards, and public funding institutions throughout the world. The bravery of those speaking out in the #metoo movement is echoed in the words of Millicent Fawcett, the early 20th century British suffragist who campaigned for women’s rights throughout her life, and whose motto was “Courage calls to courage everywhere.”

Horizon Theatre Company is honored to once again be receiving this honor and promises to stick to its commitment to equality.

ABOUT ICWP

ICWP started in 1988 with a mission to support women playwrights worldwide and bring attention to their work. The ICWP 50/50 Applause Awards were founded in 2012 to increase awareness and applaud theaters that produced a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights. 

 

A Note about Citizens Market from playwright Cori Thomas

This play is a very special to me because I wrote it as sort of an ode to my parents. If it weren’t for my parents, in general, I wouldn’t have been born. And if it weren’t for them, in specific, I would not have written this play.  I am a first generation American.  I am the child of immigrants. My father, who died in 2009, was from Liberia, West Africa. My mother is Brazilian. They spoke different languages, had different cultural practices, different ethnicities, they were also different races. My father was a diplomat, and I grew up living, and going to schools in the countries where he was stationed. Not only am I the child of immigrants. I know what it is to be an immigrant myself.

One day, I was in the supermarket on the upper west side in New York City, standing on a line waiting to be checked out, where a new employee was being trained. As I stood waiting my turn, watching her hands shake from nerves and fear, my mind flashed to my parents. My mother, in particular, arriving in New York City, as a young woman from Brazil, barely speaking a word of English. I thought about how brave she was to go to an unfamiliar land. How resilient and tolerant she was to have been willing to try to forge a new path where the food, the weather, the rhythm, the music, the language, the people, your life is not at all what she once knew. And how lonely she must have felt without her friends, her family, her community. And then I thought about how, in time, that “newness” disappeared, and the ways of the new land became as familiar to her as if she had been here forever.

These days her accent remains, but she doesn’t clutch a dictionary as if it is her lifeline.  America became and has been her home for a long time now. I’ve learned from her and my father, that we all have something to offer each other and to take from each other. That is what I wrote this play wanting to express. It is my hope that you will leave this theater agreeing with me that I was lucky to have had parents whose existence is proof that we can all co-exist. I hope you walk out of this theater realizing that an America where everyone is not welcome to try to walk and work and live alongside those already here, is not America.

Cori Thomas

 

Dedicated to my mother, Zuleika Ivelone Santos Vaz Andrade Thomas

Bring your food and help stock our shelves for Citizens Market!


For Horizon Theatre’s next production Citizens Market, we need to create a small grocery store onstage! That’s a challenge – and an opportunity. We can stock our shelves and benefit the community, too, through the STOCK OUR SHELVES FOOD DRIVE for the Atlanta Community Food Bank!

We are asking for you to donate food items to help Stock Our Shelves AND the shelves of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. During the production your donations will be featured on the set of Citizens Market (designed by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay), but after the production closes, every single item collected will go to the Atlanta Community Food Bank to support our community.

We will need a lot of items to fill our set’s shelves and the more we collect, the more goes to our community in need.
If you’d like to donate simply sign up for a donation with THIS FORM.
Then before May 8th, purchase 6-12 of your donation item (same label and style item) at a local store and drop off your contribution at Horizon Theatre. Examples of what would be good to bring are below!

If you want to contribute, but won’t have the time to deliver items yourself, you can help by donating money instead through our completely secure and tax deductible PayPal Giving Fund.

A donation of just $10 allows us to buy 6-10 cans of vegetables. A donation of $25 or more allows us to purchase a set of highly needed items for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, like canned Tuna, Natural Peanut Butters and Whole Grain items. Every dollar will make a difference.

Food Items are needed starting immediately, and we are collecting through Tuesday, May 8, 2018. You can drop off your items at Horizon Mon-Fri 9am to 11:30pm, Sat, 10am-11:30pm, Sun 11am-11:30pm. If you have any questions, or need to drop off your donation at another date or time, please reach out by contacting us at 404-523-1477 x100 or emailing: christina@horizontheatre.com and we can make special arrangements.

Together, we can stock the shelves for our friends, neighbors and those in Atlanta who may need a little extra help from time to time.

 

Sample Items for Stock Our Shelves:

Dry Goods:

Barilla brand Pasta:
16 ounce packages:
elbows
rotini
fettuccine
spaghetti
12 boxes each type

Ronzoni brand pasta 16 ounce packages:
spaghetti
rigatoni
elbows
12 boxes each type

Mueller’s brand pasta:
16 ounce packages:
corkscrew pasta
penne pasta
100% whole-grain penne pasta
12 boxes each type

Zataran’s rice boxes
12oz boxes
Dirty rice
black beans and rice
jambalaya
8 boxes each

Minute brand rice boxes:
Brown rice 14 ounce box
white rice 20 ounce box
premium rice 14 ounce box
12 boxes each type

Near East brand rice:
5.25-5.5 oz boxes
Tabouli
original couscous
rice pilaf
Eight boxes each 

Kraft macaroni and cheese boxes 15 ounces:
whole grain
original
extra cheesy
12 boxes each

Idahoan brand boxed potatoes:
cheesy scalloped potatoes 4.94 ounce box
loaded baked home style casserole 5.11 ounce box
10 boxes of each

Stove top brand stuffing mix 6 ounce boxes:
chicken
lower sodium chicken
corn bread
8 boxes each

Quaker oatmeal canisters:
Old-fashioned
Five minute quick cook
Oats with raisins
12 cans each

Pop tart eight count boxes:
strawberry
blueberry
Smore’s
6 boxes each

Carnation brand dry milk:
9.6 ounce packages
12 packages

Hungry Jack boxed mashed potatoes instant 26.7ounce:
10 boxes

Quaker oats instant oatmeal boxes:
apple cinnamon 10 count (15.1 ounces )
original 12 count ( 11.8 ounces)
10 boxes of each

Cereal:
Cheerios, 18 ounce box
honey nut Cheerios, 17 ounce box
Lucky charms, 16 ounce box
frosted flakes 15 ounce box
shredded wheat 15 ounce box
6-8 boxes of each

Canned Goods:

Bush’s brand beans:
Best black beans 26.5 ounce can
garbanzo beans 15 ounce can
reduced sodium garbanzo beans 15 ounce can
12 cans of each 

Green giant canned vegetables:
corn cream style sweet corn 14.75 ounces
kitchen sliced green beans 14.5 ounces
8 cans of each

Libby’s brand canned vegetables:
Cream style sweet corn 15 ounces
cut green beans 15 ounces
whole kernel sweet corn lightly seasoned 4cup pack
diced carrots 4 cup pack
sweet peas 4 cup pack
10 of each can
8 of each – 4 count package 

Delmonte brand canned vegetables:
Fresh cut green and wax bean blend 14.5 ounce
fresh cut Italian green bean 14.5 ounce
fresh cut fiesta corn with red and green peppers 15.25 ounce
fresh cut white corn 15.25 ounce
8 cans of each

Del Monte brand canned fruit in 100% fruit juice, 15oz cans:
pear halves
pineapple chunks
fruit cocktail
sliced peaches
12 cans of each

Market pantry brand canned fruit, 15 ounce cans:
Mandarin oranges
no sugar Mandarin oranges
sliced pears
6-8 cans of each

OTHER:

Scott brand toilet paper:
12 pack 1000 sheet rolls – 6 packs
24 pack 1000 sheet rolls – 6 packages

Angel soft brand toilet paper:
pack of 12=24 regular rolls – 6 packages

Charmin brand toilet paper:
pack of 12=24 ultra soft rolls – 6 packages

Viva brand paper towels:
six roll packs  – 6 packages

Bounty brand paper towels:
eight roll packs, white – 6 packages

Sparkle brand paper towels:
eight roll packs, white – 6 packages

Bounty brand paper towels:
400 count paper napkins, white – 6 packages

Friskies brand of cat food 5.5 ounce cans:
Beef and gravy with meaty bits
shreds with turkey and giblets in gravy
tasty treasures with chicken and cheese and gravy
pate turkey and giblets dinner
12 cans of each

Friskies brand cat food 3.15 oz bag
Indoor delights – 6 bags

Nine Lives canned cat food, wrapped 4pack packages:
Chicken and tuna
meaty favorites
Tender morsels with real flaked tuna and sauce
6 packages of each

Purina beneful dog food, 3.5 pound bags:
Original with real beef
healthy weight with real chicken
8 bags of each

Lacroix brand sparkling water 12 pack of cans:
tangerine flavor
berry flavor
peach Pear flavor
3 boxes of each

SYFO brand sparkling water 1L bottles:
tangerine orange flavor – six bottles
wild cherry flavor – six bottles

Ritz brand seltzer water 1 L bottle:
6 – bottles of plain flavor
6 – bottles of lemon lime flavor

Bottled drink multi pack:
Mountain Dew bottles, eight count pack
6 packages

12 pack cans of soda:
Coke
Diet Coke
Sprite
mug root beer
4 of each

Coffees:
Folgers classic dark roast coffee 30.5 ounce canister. – 6 canisters
Maxwell house original ground coffee 30.6 ounce canister – 6 canisters
Café bustelo espresso vacuum pack coffee 10 ounce brick – 12 bricks
Folgers classic instant single serve box, 7 count – 20 boxes

Celestial seasoning boxed tea bags:
fruit tea sampler 18 count
Jammin  lemon ginger 20 count
Peppermint 20 count
Honey vanilla chamomile 20 count
8 boxes each flavor

Lipton teabags:
black teabags 100 count
green teabags 40 count, matcha ginger tea 15 count, matcha mint tea 15 count
6 boxes of each flavor

About Freaky Friday

FREAKY FRIDAY – ABOUT THE PLAY

Welcome to Freaky Friday, a new musical twist on an American classic — a smart modern fairy tale about parenting and growing up in today’s world. A mother and teen daughter are at odds until they magically swapped bodies and are forced to see life from the other side of their generation gap.  

Brimming with honesty, heart, and humor, this is a musical for all ages about families and healing and how to move on boldly and without fear after life throws us a difficult curve. The title is whimsical, and of course, the play is funny, but it is also poignant and inspirational, reminding us to take the risk to live and love fully even though we can never know where that path will lead.

Freaky Friday began as a novel by Mary Rodgers and was adapted into two movies (starring Jodie Foster and Hayley Mills in the 70’s, and Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan in the 90’s). Its story of the healing of a family was ripe for the next generation, so Disney commissioned this new version by an A-list team. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composers of Next to Normal and If/ Then created the high energy pop rock score. The writer and Co-Executive Producer of the hit TV series Parenthood and Friday Night Lights tapped her expertise in storytelling about American families to cook up this fresh take. It premiered in 2016 at regional theatres around the country and will be a television movie later this summer.

At Horizon, we have been fortunate to have an audience grow and change with us for over 30 years. That is a gift.  Now we are looking to build the next generation of audiences for Horizon by producing at least one play each season that multiple generations can enjoy together. So, bring your teens, tweens, aunts, uncles, friends, co-workers, and grandparents. Our lives are made richer by sharing theatrical stories together. We see our lives and our communities reflected onstage, and we learn to understand the perspectives of others who are different from ourselves. So, next time you come, reach out to someone different from you and bring them along for the ride. We welcome all of you to our intimate home for today’s stories that connect and inspire us.

“Go where you never thought you would go.“

A Conversation with Amari Cheatom

Amari Cheatom speaks to Horizon Theatre about his current role as Klook in Ché Walker’s production of The Ballad of Klook and Vinette.

You’re starring in Ché Walker’s play, The Ballad of Klook and Vinette at Horizon Theatre through February 18. Could you describe what the play is about?

Two wayward souls with troubled pasts who find each other and look to mend their wounds through the love they find with one another.

You’re playing Klook. Could you describe your character?

Klook is a man on the path of true rehabilitation. When we meet Klook he has reached a point of stability in his life… monotonic stability. Romance offers him a change of pace; a rush, akin to but outside of the shifty activity that he was once accustomed.

So how do you go about discovering this character? And do you identify with him at all?

Ché has scripted such a thorough text that starting with the words was most advantageous. Finding grounded truth in the poetry was a big part of discovering the inner workings of Klook.  Also becoming familiar with the references to people and places that I was unfamiliar with gave a lot of insight into the way Klook’s curiosities sculpted his perspectives on life.

What’s it like working with director and playwright Ché Walker?

Working with Ché was interesting. He has a way of allowing the rehearsal space to have a certain levity while also keeping the necessary pace. Adjusting to that flow led to a relaxed yet focused environment.

What was it like working in a small cast of two?

Working in a small cast has advantages and disadvantages that are sometimes one in the same. All of the storytelling is on two people. So we’re the stars AND the support at any given moment. We’re both on stage for the entire show with very brief breaks; so there’s only one other person to share the shine with… but only one other person to bear the weight of responsibility with as well. In this situation we are very fortunate to like, respect, and trust each other so the good has definitely outweighed the challenging. Not to mention an extremely supportive and able bodied Horizon Theatre giving us everything we needed to do our work to the best of our ability. In theatre, even one (wo)man shows are a collaborative effort.

For any aspiring actors and musicians out there, what advice would you give them?

To aspiring artists I would advise: follow your heart but take care of the business… it’s an arduous road if you don’t.

A Conversation with Brittany Inge

Brittany Inge speaks to Horizon Theatre about her current role as Vinette in Ché Walker’s production of The Ballad of Klook and Vinette.

You’re starring in Ché Walker’s play, The Ballad of Klook and Vinette at Horizon Theatre through February 18. Could you describe what the play is about?

This play is about love, fate, destiny and karma. It beautifully captures the good, bad and ugly that comes with trying to outrun your personal history.

You’re playing Vinette. Could you describe your character?

I always describe Vinette as a caged bird. She’s afraid of the size, depth, and beauty of her own wings and even more afraid to spread those wings and have them be seen by others. She’s witty and feisty; a lover of language and a diamond in the rough.

So how do you go about discovering this character? And do you identify with her at all?

I allowed Vinette’s language and personal history to guide me in discovering and developing the character. I identify with her in many ways— as a young Black woman, as a fellow artist/creator, as someone who has fallen in love, as someone who has experienced personal and professional disappointment— she’s a very relatable character. And in the ways that I don’t personally identify with her, I had fun melding my own experiences with the backstory that was created for Vinette both on and off the page.

What’s it like working with director and playwright Ché Walker?

Ché is brilliant and he won’t ever let you forget it! *laughs* No but seriously, it has been a huge learning experience working with Ché and I have benefited from being a sponge. Whenever a playwright directs their own work, the hired actors are always met with the challenge of rising to meet the vision that was in the playwright’s mind before we were ever thought of. It has taken a lot of hard work (that I’m very grateful for) to get our show to the level that matches the vision inside of Ché’s mind.

Could you describe the rehearsal process for The Ballad of Klook and Vinette? In comparison to Blackberry Daze?

This rehearsal process was a lot more intimate than any other project I’ve worked on, so far. Not only because it’s a cast of 2 people— but also because, the subject matter of the show is such that it requires you to dive deep inside yourself to reveal maybe some lesser known truths within the work. There were no larger-than-life characters to hide behind, which has been the case in other shows I’ve done— this process came down to pure and simple truth-telling.

What was it like working in a small cast of two?

More fun than I ever imagined— but that’s only thanks to a great partner. It takes a lot of mutual respect and trust to get through a piece this intimate.

For any aspiring actors and musicians out there, what advice would you give them?

If you want to make a career out of being an artist, don’t treat it like a hobby. Work harder for yourself than you’ve ever worked for anyone else and commit to the journey. Every path on the journey won’t be perfectly cleared but, like my Mom always tells me: “as long as you stay on the field, you’re still in the game”.

Is it a musical, or a play with songs? And does it matter?

Is THE BALLAD OF KLOOK AND VINETTE a musical, or a play with songs? And does it matter?

Playwright Ché Walker reflects on the difficulties of categorizing shows with music (or should that be musical shows?)

When I was nine years old, my father directed Guys and Dolls at the tiny Half Moon Theatre (where he was the Artistic Director), with a cast of seven, including Maggie Steed and Robin Hooper. I watched it every single night, and never got enough of it. I loved it. Everything I’ve worked on – even the ‘straight plays’ – has been a response to this perfect piece of writing.

Whether something is categorized as a ‘musical’ or ‘play with songs’ seems to be somewhat driven by the exigencies of marketing a show in the crowded city scene. Perhaps audiences arrive with different expectations if they buy a ticket for a musical. I certainly don’t think any of the shows I’ve worked on fit the mold of a cheerful night out you could take your grandmother to (unless your grandmother is Patti Smith.)

So what is a play with songs? What is a musical? Does it matter?

Perhaps the distinction between a ‘musical’ and ‘a play with songs’ comes down to the work that the songs are doing. Sometimes a song is in the service of the character’s rhetoric – they burst up out the scene because the stakes are so high and the situation has become so urgent that the character has no option but to launch into amplified sound with rhymes and a backing band.

Some other songs work as soliloquies; the characters’ private thoughts, shared with his/her new confidante, the audience. Other songs operate as a kind of Greek chorus, where we pause the action and reflect on what we’re watching and what we feel about it. It looks like all the shows I’ve worked on in the last five years use songs in all the ways described, so I’m still confused.

The Ballad of Klook and Vinette is mixture of drama, spoken word, and jazz. We’ve aimed to create a theatre piece that interweaves these elements seamlessly, like its one long movement of music.

Is it a play with songs? That’s what they tell me. Personally, I don’t have time to think about it. I’ve got a story to tell. A good one, I think, with maybe just a hint of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown in it. I hope you come and see.

(http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/06-2014/che-walker-klooks-last-stand-blog_34737.html)