*Updated with productions stills and link to reviews 6/25/2018
Opening night is fast approaching!
These feelings of excitement, adrenaline, and readiness to share was you've been working on that accompany an opening night of live theatre have been so elusive. Theatre was my first love. Before I'd ever dreamed of hearing "Rolling, rolling. Action. Cut" There was, "Cross down stage. Quiet backstage. Places."
And here we are in tech week for The Goddesses Guide: Adura For the Women of African Diaspora. We will play in a 50-seat house, a la black box theatre. My first experience with black box was in a theatre production at Kennesaw State University performing excerpts from the show Don't Bother Me, I Cant Cope as a guest student actress. The audience is right in your face. There's no space for mistakes, no room for non-focus or overacting. The style of acting required of black box theatre is equivalent to that required of camera work. The moments must be real, subtle yet intentioned, powerful yet controlled. For The Goddesses Guide our audience becomes the story. We communicate directly to and about everyone in the room at varying times during the 50 minute show.
I play the Yoruba Orisha, Oya. She is the goddess of change, finances, life and death, of truth. She is a powerful goddess whose influence is felt through the weather - one of the most tangible indications of great change. Our playwright, Camille Jenkins has positioned her as the goddess who resists the idea of creating a guide for the women in America. In The Goddess Guide, Oya struggles with her feelings of detachment from the women of the african diaspora. She is wrought with disappointment as she watches the goings-on from afar. She is at a loss considering if and how her guidance would be received and more importantly appreciated for a people who are "disconnected from their past."
The play also features Oba, the goddess of family, loyalty and motherhood played by Olu Agora. Also making an appearance is Oshun, the goddess of love, sex, relationships, and beauty played by Brianna Hunt. These sisters have much to figure out together. It will not be easy.
The Goddesses Guide presents many provocative questions:
How do women of the African Diaspora thrive in the west?
What is the importance of maintaining a connection with our African Heritage?
What do we risk if we do not?
How do the Yoruba Goddesses reflect our issues and conflicts with identity and purpose?
How would we change our actions or thoughts if we knew we were being guided?
If you are in LA, I hope that you will come out and see this dynamic show!
Here's the thing about singing: I LOVE to sing. "I'm using the word 'LOVE' here." (name that Jack Nicholson reference). Not hyperbole.
The Voice Memos on my phone is 15% audition dialogue and 85% my musical catalogue. My shower is my booth, my living room is my stage, my car... forget about it. It's a concert. My mother sings, my grandmother sings, one of my brothers sings. Fun fact: my father was once on the Apollo. (He never had a chance... You can't follow an ATROCIOUS gospel singer who's used up all of the audience's available patience and expect to get through a whole bar of a Fair Weather Friend by Johnny Gill if you're not Johnny Gill *rolls eyes*). Anyway.
You get my point. But I'm not really a singer. I sing. But I learned the hard way (from a brutal experience with a director) not to call myself a singer. I can't belt. I have short breath control and my range is about as short as Angela Rye's patience for that bullshit. But ask me to sing a jazzy something or other, a classic, or a bluesy standard and I will be all over it... That is, if it is me actually asking myself to sing for moi and no one else is listening. And I'll be damned if I'm not constantly asked to sing. It's my personal version of hell to be asked to sing for something important. Or heaven forbid a performance!
So, I have worked very hard to control what can only be explained by the worst version of stage fright I have known (outside of that one time when I couldn't remember the rest of my routine for a gymnastics recital at 7 years old.) My new response to the cringe-worthy, "Can you sing?" is now: "Yeah, I sing a little and dance a little."
And last night I sang a little. In fact, I created a melody for what will be something between a song and a chant for our Hollywood Fringe Festival show The Goddesses Guide: Adura for the Women of African Diaspora. I steadied my nerves, dropped the key, and used all of the power my little diaphragm could muster. And you know what? It sounded pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.
Pray for me though...
The world is incredibly small.
So, last night was rehearsal day one for a brand new show for the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival entitled, The Goddesses Guide: Adura For the Women of African Diaspora. (Info.)
This will be my first time back on stage for a theatrical--that is to say LIVE theater production--since I moved to Los Angeles 6 years ago to become a STAR!! (Kidding, not kidding.) I got all of the tingles remembering what it felt like to choose a monologue, memorize it, and actually hand a printed headshot and resume to the director on the day. Gave me all of the warm and fuzzies. Challenge: the monologue was to be prepared in a West African accent. Not a problem. My ancestors got me (dusts off shoulders).
I go. I act. I get called back. I go. I dance. I sing. I sweat. I leave. A few days later I get an email from my (very capable and definitely my junior) director, Camille that she would like to offer me the role of OYA. YASS! I accept.
Now, regarding this teeny, tiny, world we live in: I feel like I know the director. I think I even mentioned in the callback that perhaps she simply has a familiar face. I let it go. Truth is I feel this way all of the time--as if I know people, when I actually don't. And it can be a bit embarrassing, looking someone deep in the eyes searching for confirmation that we are already acquainted, only to be sneered at... because no one likes to be stared at by strangers. But I didn't really let it go. Before the end of the callback I offer that we've probably just auditioned together back in Atlanta where I find out she once lived. Good enough for me.
A few days before our first rehearsal, I find and add Camille on LinkedIn and discover that we have 1-degree of separation. Several years ago she interned for a theater where I performed many times. Okay, okay. We've definitely run into each other. I'm satisfied. At the appropriate time, we'll bring it up and have two seconds of the obligatory, "Oh really? Yeah. Oh, how funny." responses. It'll be a cute connective tissue, a way to build camaraderie. Such a small world.
First rehearsal arrives. My cast members are great, our stage manager, Bri, is my spirit animal, the choreographer has a warm smile and great eyebrows, the read-thru leaves me inspired! We talk about how there are no coincidences. They simply do not exist. This amazing show, with these talented people, about the Orishas is going to be electric, and we can all feel it. Camille looks me deeply in the eyes when she speaks... I KNOW THAT I KNOW her.
Rehearsal ends and I drive from Beverly Hills eastbound with a mission. I will crack this code... And I did.
While in Atlanta I supplemented my acting income with photography. I had a built-in clientele of actors needing headshots. So, as soon as I get home, I unearth my old hard drive, open a folder called Photo Gallery, find a folder named Academy Theatre, click the blue folder labeled Interns... and I'll be DAMN (by the way shout out to Kendrick Lamar for winning the Pulitzer Prize)!
Eight years ago I shot a small group of interns for Academy Theatre... one of which was a bubbly, young brown skinned girl dressed in yellow by the name of Camille Jenkins!
I copied the headshot to my dropbox immediately. Wait until I find the perfect moment to reveal our full-circle connection on Thursday...
enisha b jane
In my own words.