Updated: Aug 16
It has been an amazing past few months. Before 2019 ended I auditioned for August Wilson’s, “ Seven Guitars,” at Cal State University Dominguez Hills. This audition was one that I really wanted to give my all and more. August Wilson was a black playwright who had an achievement of The Pittsburgh Cycle also known as his ‘Century Cycle’, where he had written a series of ten plays that centralizes the African American experience during the twentieth century. All but one, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom set in Chicago, are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. 'Seven Guitars’ is the fifth play in this cycle based in the late 1940’s. (I was so excited for the time frame because I love vintage fashion and just could not wait to see all of us performers in costume bringing this story to life.)
Getting that phone call from stage management offering me the role of Vera was a moment I will never forget. Vera is a strong woman and her story reflects many women of every generation and it was now my responsibility to give Vera’s story my all and my truth with hers. It was quite the process to give myself permission to tell this story wholeheartedly, I had cried, I had questioned my ability to be an actor, & I had moments of anxiety attacks because of the pressure I was putting on myself. I give a lot respect to my Director Jozben Barrett his patience, his push, his honesty, really helped me refocus and have fun with this process. I had an amazing cast who we all supported each other and pushed each other to be above and beyond amazing. This has been the best ensemble I have ever been a part of and I miss my cast already. We had created just a bond which plays out on the stage with the relationships of our characters.
One of my favorite aspects of this whole show is timing. It was black history which I strongly celebrate and acknowledge every year. From being a little kid in elementary school participating in Black History Month showcases at Ambler Elementary, to participating in the multicultural show at Narbonne Highschool and learning African dance. Being black and proud is so amazing me. So the timing of this play could not have been any better. Here we had a black playwright, all black cast, and a black director! Sadly, these opportunities do not come often and the more I tried to embrace every moment of rehearsals, and performances, the faster it seemed to pass by.
Our Director has brought in amazing people that contributed to our final project. We had a dance choreographer, Bridgette Dunn, who has her own dance company and toured with the original National Tour of the Lion King. (I went to her dance show recently and it was amazing, make sure to check her out!) We were also given the opportunity to work with a fierce fight choreographer named Alex! She also helped us with the intimacy parts of the show, she gave me a lot to work on with my monologue in the beginning of the show where I am letting Floyd know that what is was like being left alone for a year and a half and how it affect me. Getting a woman's point of view really was helpful, and not only that but we had Denise Woods as a dialect coach. She has worked with stars on their dialect, from Idris Elba To Will Smith, you name it! She is still continuing her work as we speak. She too has helped me with my monologue and even teared up when explaining to me the deeper value of this piece. Then we had our 'Uncle' Tyrone come into many of our rehearsals and gave us inspiration and input in the show. He is best friends with our director and a 'Wilsonian' as well. Him coming into our rehearsal was always a treat for us.
Special guest Tony nominated John Earl Jelks came to see our show. It was such an honor to have him. He knew August Wilson personally and was Tony nominated for the role of "Citizen Barlow" in August Wilson's 'Gem of the Ocean.'
I am so grateful to have been a part of this whole August Wilson experience. Jozben has been an amazing director and I really hope to work with him again. My Castmates are now all my bestfriends whether they know it or not! And I have entered the right of passage as an black actor and am officially a 'Wilsonian.'