YBY ep 247 : Alric Davis on building connections with your characters, your audience and your community.
This week on Yes But Why, we interview Alric Davis, Artistic Director of The Sankofa Collective in Houston, TX.
Alric Davis is an artist focused on preserving history through the power of words and movement. Since 2013, he has served as the Founding Artistic Director of The Sankofa Collective, a non-profit theatre organization in his hometown Houston, Texas. The Sankofa Collective produces theater for the purpose of educating and enriching the lives of at-risk communities of color. Alric is drawn to work that is equal-parts thought-provoking, communal, entertaining, and visceral.
Since getting his B.F.A. from Howard University with a concentration in Musical Theatre and Playwriting, Alric Davis has been writing and producing his own plays to rave reviews. His original work, “Different, Damaged, Damned,” received accolades at the 2016 Capitol Fringe Festival. Alric is also a freelance performer, director and adjunct instructor in acting, playwriting, slam poetry, choreography and acting.
In this episode, we talk about creating art that starts conversations. We discuss the work Alric has been doing producing theater in Houston with The Sankofa Collective. We chat about Shakespeare, Olivia Pope, and slam poetry! This was an amazing conversation with a top notch storyteller!
ALSO — Alric is a great guy to share the stage with! He and I performed together on a Zoom improv show called Magical Lying Hour produced by the Pronoia Theater! Check us out HERE!
Support Alric by connecting with The Sankofa Collective, his non-profit theatre organization – SankofaCollectiveHouston.com – for online shows, classes and creative inspiration!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com to join in on the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded phone call on 12/21/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why episode 247 – my conversation with playwright Alric Davis. But first, let’s chat about our sponsors. Today’s episode is sponsored by audible. Get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Audible is available on most of the devices in your home. Go now to audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY to download the app and sign up to get your free audiobook today. Our other sponsor for today’s episode is my company, PodcastCadet.com. My husband, Chris Jordan and I run the company, PodcastCadet.com. We provide advice and production help to anyone who needs it! We do one on one consultations. We have prefab videos to help with specific issues like what audio equipment to use, or best practices for interviewing. We can give you a little push or we can help you with the production of all of your episodes! Contact us now at PodcastCadet.com and use code YBY20 to get 20% off the first service or workshop you buy! Podcast Cadet.com – helping creators navigate the waters of podcasting. In this week’s episode of Yes But Why, I interviewed playwright and director, Alric Davis. Alric is the Artistic Director of The Sankofa Collective, a non-profit theater organization based in Houston, TX. In this episode, we talk about producing theater, Olivia Pope, and slam poetry! Listen in now for a really great discussion. I now present to you: yes but why episode 247: Alric Davis on building connections with your characters, your audience and your community! Enjoy! I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why podcast
art is weird, like, I don’t know, it’s like, I learned all the rules so that I could break them. But I also know there’s nothing reciprocal, like there’s nothing like reciprocal energy like in the room with the people you’re collaborating with, or even the audience. And that’s obviously right now, that’s what I’m missing the most is like that energy that you get from the audience, as you’re doing the thing that like, lets you know that you’re on the right path, and that all the jokes are landing and that, you know, the pathos is there like their hearts are invested. Instead of everyone just kind of checked out. And with you know, this zoom theatre and like doing things on thing, it’s so easy for people to just kind of like tune out instead of, you know, be invested like they would in a theater.
Totally. Yeah, definitely. It’s way easier to tune out. Right. And like, you can’t a lot of times the audience is not on camera. And the people are, the actors are so like, they’re usually just like acting to themselves. Like, right, like, even like in the show that you and I did. Right. And we did that scene. I really wanted to look at you, but I couldn’t because it wasn’t going to be visually. It wasn’t going to work out for the
violin work. Yeah. And I’m
looking like, camera, like, yeah, she’s above my like, my monitor. So like, I know you’re there. But I’m still head talking to you. And I’m like, direct away. Don’t look at him. Don’t look at you. Right, right,
like, cuz then for them. They’re like, Oh, they’re looking at each other. But for us, we’re like, oh, God just feels weird. And I think that’s more of like the film world, which I’m like, dabbling in a little bit. As far as screenwriting and acting on film goes, but I’ve never really just like, done it for real for real. And I think a lot of the things for film like I just do not enjoy, like, I don’t like how awkward it is. How? Because they’re like, Oh, well, it’s not as rehearsed as theater. But it is though like film is more rehearsed because you have to get it from so many different angles and the lighting and the makeup and all of that stuff. And it doesn’t feel as organic to me, as theater does.
There are some things they do in one take. Can you imagine?
Right? Imagine the idea. I can’t imagine how can I mine?
That is your important line in a movie. Yeah, say it one time. And then they’re like, Chris,
goodbye. Oh, got it. And I’m like, now wait a minute, I’ve been here for 16 hours. And I’ve blown like, you know, it’s, it is crazy. And I think it’s less about people and more about the camera. And I’m interested in the people I’m interested in, like, the collaboration and the synergy and the like, the learning each other’s like, you know, energy and rhythms to things that to me makes the experience to,
you know, I think, based on what you’ve said, I feel like theater is something that is about the whole space, including the audience, like it’s an experience we’re all going to go through. Whereas a, like a film is like, personal experience that you witness.
Right? It’s your witnessing, instead of experiencing it. Yeah. And for me, I like things that are immersive, like, I’m a very hands on Personally, I’ve always been that way. Like, even when I was younger, I’m like, Don’t tell me how to do it, like, give, give it to me, and I’ll just learn, you know, I’m the one who, like, I’ll take the instructions to something and I’m like that, I’ll figure it out. Because, to me, that’s more interesting. Like, I’d rather fail and messed up and get frustrated and go through all the highs and lows of that journey, just so we can feel real. Instead of someone doing that for me. And I’m just watching like that. That, to me is boring. Like, I don’t want to do that. And theater, even whether I’m in the audience or on stage, I’m still doing something like I’m actively working to relate to the character or figure out their problem or predict it. Like sometimes I love to predict, like, Oh, yeah, he’s gonna fall in love with her. And then it’s gonna be a tap number, you know, whatever.
And clearly a tap number
number, you know, and then you got to have the 11 o’clock number for the x one break. Those are, you know, mainly for the musical theater, but if it’s like a straight play, then all they’re gonna have a fight at the kitchen sink because you know, every kitchen sink is this drama. And you know, it’s it’s a thing and those are things that you as an audience member you’re working to,
you know what, though, you were talking earlier about the about like television scripts and stuff. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been teaching a one on one tutorial on sitcom scripts. So I’m working with this girl on how to write it and format it in different stuff. And the same kinds of things that you’re talking about in theater or they’re in sitcoms, right? The idea right, like at the act break, this has to happen at like, this is how many like beats of a story there needs to be like this, how many threads there have to be?
That is why I’m a little more drawn to TV over film. Because I can grow with the characters. There’s nothing like an Olivia Pope. You know, like, we’ve seen her she she was kidnapped. She was banging the president in the White House. She was getting chided by her daddy you know like she has been through the she’s negotiating diplomacy with like foreign ambassadors. She’s talking herself out of like blackmail it is it’s a journey that you go with, you know, these characters over years versus now I think films sell you an idea and just are trying to make the money back. Most big films that like you’re seeing now are here’s a really dope concept and a really dope actor you like give us your money so we can make our money back. And I leave it like Okay, that was cute like, okay, but I’m not like particularly moved versus what’s moved me now lately has been TV has been theater where I’m like, emotionally invested.
Yeah. I like your Olivia Pope example too. Because if you think about it, from the point of view of Kerry Washington, she got to experience like an Actor in a Play would similar because she she goes through each season as it comes to her. They’re not like Shonda Rhimes isn’t just handing her you know, six seasons or whatever. She doesn’t know what she’s gonna go through. So she’s changing the character and and figuring out like, oh, man, we’ve established for a while that I’m XYZ, but now my character is doing something that’s way different, like way outside of what you’d have to do. How do I Just to this, so like she gets the experience of like, like a theatrical actor where it’s like, I get to go through different waves of this character, what is this character going through like, and even like a person who’s doing a play the same play over and over and over the way that they ebb and flow and change is there, like there as the actor’s understanding of what it is, right? Because the more times you do it, then they’re like, Oh, my God, I’ve done this 100 times, I didn’t even realize this speech was about this, you know.
So learn something new about it.
Yeah. And I feel like Kerry Washington in that show, because it was so involved. And because it went on for a while, and there were so many ups and downs, she had to learn like that, too. She had to be like, yeah, didn’t know what Olivia Pope was even about, until season four, you know what I mean?
And then we’re like, oh, there’s a whole new thing. And I, it mirrors humanity, for me, like, that’s us as a person. Like, when I started watching the show, I was a different person. So you kind of grow with the show, and you grow with these characters, and experiencing experiencing things, you know, as you know, in your head and your imagination as they are just like theater, were even in that small little black box over those two or three hours. We’re going through the journey together. And I think there’s something about film that offers a distance that I guess, when you bring in the camera, and you bring into screen, there’s a little bit of a distance. And that to me can be cold. Because if I can distance myself, I’m not as invested as I could be. So
filmmakers really like, like, focus on the cold, like Wes and right for instance, he’s a detail man. There’s a lot of colors. The characters are, like shapes of people. They’re not necessarily like real people. Sometimes they are like, maybe one or two. That’s like a deeper feeling like person. But usually they’re just like caricatures. But it’s all very stylized. And it works. You know, like, that wouldn’t work in another medium because of the visual that he presents to you. And then like certain setups, even the idea of the long shots that he likes to do, where you’re like, Oh,
this is all one chimichurri, you know,
I mean solvers, imagery, all of it.
She’s like, a different way to do the art, or a different style. That’s not based on the visceral emotional connection between characters, but more about, like, you know, what the world feels like and looks like? What nothing else is movies are beautiful,
beautiful to look at, and bear. I think at the end of the day, it’s about like, whoever that artist is of the filmmaker, or whoever’s in charge of it, to see, how do you want people to feel? Not like, how do I feel while making it. And what I’m noticing now, especially with film is like, I can tell that they were excited about whatever it was, but they didn’t want to make us excited about it. Or something like I don’t, I don’t feel as if it was for me to be excited about. And that could be because, you know, I’m a young black queer man, who knows. So there’s not a lot of representation for me anyway, when it comes to screen representation. So we were speaking in an even more like, smaller kind of spectrum. When I see something and I’m like, Oh, I really love it. Especially in the last five years. I’m just like, yeah, good are all Yeah, they did their thing. Like I’m speaking about it in individual terms, but not overall, I left it being moved and changed. Hmm. So that to me has not happened since like Barry Jenkins moonlight Hmm. Huh? Were Yeah, of course, like the representation and all of that our stories kind of being similar, but also the way it was shot. And and the way the black bodies were lit. The way that it showed so much beauty in just how they were depicted on screen. That alone is what moves me to tears that like I could look as beautiful as someone like Leo DiCaprio, like on screen like to be archived forever and ever and ever. And now you know, Oscar award winning whatever, what have you So, and you know, I think he’s one of the like people who are still making art that I am. I’m changed by Because he has a tenderness to him that reminds me of theater. So a lot of how he likes shoots things, that certain angles he does, like, there was a very short scene, and if bill street can talk could talk, which like the main character rolled up his sleeves. And the way he did that it was the most sensual, like, they were just on a date. But he was like, oh, here Have a seat. And he rolled up his sleeves. And I was like, look at how that’s done. It’s zoomed the camera zoomed in, the tones are warm. And there’s a there’s a human element to it, that I have not seen when it comes to me on screen. And so sometimes it’s the big stuff. And sometimes it’s a little stuff like that, that makes me like, Oh, this this is it. Like this was a great film.
You know, I feel like I, you mentioned that a lot of times, it feels like they’re just putting out this idea of like, hey, look at this interesting idea. As opposed to like, you know, be part of this journey with us. Instead, they’re like, diorama of a world and you’re like, cool, but I don’t care about them. So
right? If I don’t care, then what’s the point? Like, what what does it matter to me, and then sometimes, you know, I can tell that the filmmaker cares. But there’s a, there’s a balance between like the specificity and universality, Black Panther, crazy rich Asians, those two movies work so well. And were some of the highest grossing movies ever and reached all these people that even were not from those marginalized communities, because they were so specific. Because they were specific tales, even, you know, Wakanda is not a real place. But they did work for years, to make sure that it felt like a real place that the fabric was real, that the language is that those geometric pattern, all of that stuff, the level of detail was accurate. And, and then you had two people both behind the screen and on the screen, who are represented in that to make sure that that truth, and that story was given them best and the most like integrity, that it could. That’s what we respond to we respond to how specific it is. Because then we say, oh, even though I’ve never been in a, I can feel like this character. There’s been times when I feel alone, there’s been times when, you know, I’ve had issues with my father who has never been present, or there’s been times when I feel the responsibilities of a king, even though I’m just an elementary school teacher, you know, so that’s what kind of makes those movies tick. And now I feel like a lot of movies are just pandering to everyone, and trying to get everybody like, Oh, look, this is where everyone I want to be number one on the box office, I’m gonna put this racially ambiguous lead with curly hair, and like, I’m gonna build all the demographics. And what that does, is now you’re like, McDonald’s. And I don’t eat McDonald’s. There’s a reason why McDonald’s is not good for you. There are some who eat it. And you know, I’ve done it a few drunken nights, but it’s not healthy. Versus like, you know, I have to prepare to go to like, another place, or I have to cook there when I cook like there’s love and tenderness made within the meal until I taste it. So yeah, I’ll bet you think
No, you’re. So you’re talking earlier about writing stuff. And one thing that I think happens, like we’re talking about, sometimes you watch a movie, and it’s like, it doesn’t quite hit and you’re like, don’t understand why. Yes, I do think that sometimes there’s like lazy networks and film companies that are just making like, you know, generic, this will make everyone happy, like you’re saying, right, I think that sometimes I think that it’s hard. I think that it is actually hard to write a good film and a good television show. And I think that sometimes some things get put like television, you can see when it’s been made too fast. You’re like, Oh, no, no, that was right. That No, they needed more time to work on that.
That could have been right.
But with movies, movies take forever. So like they’ve worked on it a lot. That being said, stories are hard to tell. And then the difference between the medium of you writing it down, and then it being made. First of all, if it’s an independent film, then potentially the same person who wrote it has to then communicate, how to do it to other people. And that’s crazy and weird and also to different mine. insets. But more usually when we see a movie, it’s because somebody else bought a script from someone and then took that script and did something to it and then made that script, which means whoever wrote it, maybe the story they wrote is still there. But maybe the story that they wrote was changed Arivaca, right by this network or, you know, film company. And then you’re watching this movie. And it says, like, you know, for the love of chickens by Joe Smith, and you’re like, Joe Smith, I love that guy. He’s so great, awesome. And you watch and you’re like, What is this, this is not as high caliber work. And it’s purely because the 27 hands between when Joe wrote it, and it got out in the world changed, it made it different, there were a bunch of people. And I feel like it’s born. The bad decisions are sometimes just born out of a it’s hard and it’s, you know, yeah, you’re not always going to get the best, you know, editing help from your, the people around you, sometimes you writing you know, you second guess yourself a lot when you’re writing. And, you know, you could have written the perfect scene, and then you’re like, nah, nah, I gotta change it. And it’s like, no, that literally could have made all of America cry in a good man
would have been it. Most times, your first instinct is usually the one that works. But when film happens, you’re going over so many different hands, so many different process that like, the internal vision is is harder to keep in like, pure. That sounds so terrible, but you know, I mean, like, it’s, it’s harder to keep that thing that you initially started, as, you know, intently, the same over all of those different hands. And that’s, I wish film had more of like a, like a workshop process to it. Like with theatre, you can take it, you can try it out of town, you can get some bad reviews are some good reviews. You can like hire some people, and consultant work on this kind of stuff. But with film, usually, like once it leaves your hands in the screenwriters perspective. Like once it leaves your hands, it’s done. And you’re done. You know, and I wish that it was small things that could still be worked on. Like what I loved about that Sonic process is everyone that Twitter saved the movie, because Twitter was like, Hey, y’all, Sonic is ugly. And since we are the fans are the ones who are gonna watch this. We don’t want to look at that blue. I don’t know what that is. And so what I loved is like, Sony was like, You know what, I bet, we’re gonna take this and make it a little cuter, make it what our customers want. We’re gonna take your feedback, we’re not gonna take it personally, we’re gonna fix it, and release it when it’s ready. And they did. And it was much better. And it did what it needed to do at the box office. So I’m like, I wish more film companies were, you know, a little more like that. I know, they lost a lot of money with that, obviously, and everything is about capitalism, but I wish it was a little bit more about the people and actually, you know, reaching who you’re trying to reach.
Okay, CounterPoint. I think very, unfortunately, letting the whole of the audience like everybody like Twitter tell you how to do it can cause trouble. Example, yeah,
My throat hurts,
bro wrote two books, and everyone was like, yo, those books are great. Put them on this show, we’re gonna get a bunch of hot people, and they’re going to act it out. It’s gonna be great. And you’re gonna write some more, and finish up that story. And he’s like, I got it. Right. And then it took forever. And I swear, it’s because he was just held back by this idea of like, what do they want? What do they want me to do? And how is this gonna work? To the point where I don’t think that George RR Martin actually wrote the end. And some people say, No, he didn’t because it was terrible. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. It was terrible. But was it terrible? Because it was over thought. Was it terrible because people were trying to wrap it up and the story wasn’t supposed to wrap up. Like write stories don’t have to end with like, and that’s how everyone’s life is. No, doesn’t have to work out that way. Like also a show where you’ve killed like more than half of the leads. Why are you trying to make us happy at the end? That’s That’s no, we want kill off Every one that’s left Why aren’t they dead? This is the last episode if everyone’s not dead. Why? You know, like, cuz that was the allure of that show, right? But inside it became this weird thing where like, they listen to the show, the audience says this and then oh, maybe this, you know, and it was just all it felt like the last season felt like it was done based on like, votes from like, American Idol. Like, who
was like, What do you think?
Should they get together vote now? Right? And then it’s like,
they said they
whatever, you know, it’s like,
Yeah, that’s true. I can definitely see that side of it, too, is like, sometimes if it becomes too much about the crowd control, then the art is not in it, it becomes the the McDonald’s. Yeah, so I guess it’s about about a fine balance. It’s about that balance of like, fulfilling the need, or whatever you’re trying to do. But also division.
Also, like people like George RR Martin should never be allowed to look at social media. Like just right. Wherever you go to right. Should we find a love for you in Scotland for you to gaze? Go to Scotland or like
New Zealand, your cottage thing?
Yeah, just like look outside and think about all the animals and the creatures and what might make them happy? Like, it’s not about Hollywood, right. But it was, you know, so what are you writing? Like, what are you working on? You mentioned that you went to college for theater. So you have a theater degree, too. It’s very helpful in life. But, but like, you know, you also mentioned that you had to study pilots. Was that in school? Or is that like recently, while you’re working on writing TV pilots?
Yeah, so I went to school for musical theater in playwriting, which like learning plays and kind of learning the structure of writing plays, I would often rub elbows with a lot of communications majors who wrote screenplays. So I like Deadwood and dabbled a little bit on campus at Howard, in screenwriting, and I knew I loved television. But I was like, No, I think I’m just a playwright. Like, I don’t know if I can do you know, just that. And then I saw Katori Hall who was like an amazing playwright. She got this huge TV deal to do TV writing. And I was like, wait, and I looked it up. And all of my favorite playwrights were also TV writers. And I was like, Oh, I can do that too lightweight. Right. I just, you know, sometimes I, I feel like you have to get the divine permission to do stuff sometimes. I don’t know if that’s just because society tells you so or because of my specific socio economic groups, all of those things. No, I
know. I’ve said honestly.
Yeah, it’s just like, I’m waiting on that, like Amazon patch to come be like, you can now do what you want. So I really have always had ideas for TV shows. And I’ve always written them, but I’ve never known the structure of it. So once I got serious about, you know, like, oh, learn how to actually write a screenplay like, oh, how do you develop a pilot? What is a one hour drama? What does the 30 minutes take on all of those things? And that’s something that I’ve been self teaching, and YouTubing and masterclass and all of that stuff for three years now. And I’ve developed three pilots to one hour dramas and one kind of web series format. And they’re weird, like, what is a comedy one’s an action, drama about or harm harvesting Oregon’s because I’m really like, obsessed with true crime meets science fiction. So I’ve created my own little like fusion of those. And of course, again, racism, you got to throw that in there. So it’s just really cool. And like, I was like, no one’s ever gonna make this. Like, I don’t even know why I’m writing this. And then HBO did Lovecraft country. And I was like, wait, this could, I might actually. Okay. So since that’s been out, I’ve been seriously developing my pilot, developing my paper pitch and all of those things. And I’m going to start, you know, trying to get a little more serious with our presentation sometime next year and copywriting and all the official stuff and joining all the unions and all of that. But now I’m still in the like, the research phase. So I’m like, What is my artistic aesthetic as a screenwriter and what shows my drawn to like, the stuff that I’ve done for theater now I’m doing for TV and it’s like, I’m in a whole second puberty I truly
I will, man like you brought it up. Audience he said it. So I’m gonna have to tell him, I have a theory. I have a theory of life. And I talk about it in a very episode, and I’m sure the listener like Amy Just don’t let it go. Nope.
They’re like, dang it, it was his time.
No. So the I have this theory of 18 years, like, I think that every 18 years you become a new person, right? So like, zero to 18 year your parents kid you do parents say you do whatever you have are grow up and you’re under somebody else’s thumb, like you don’t make really your all your own decisions. And most of the end of that is about getting away from all these people who are trying to tell you what to do and find your own place, right? 18, right, we all we either leave the nest and go to college, or we leave the nest and we get a job, or whatnot. But by 18, we’re like, ready, ready to be somebody else from 18 to 36. You get to become adult, you. You get to figure out all your things, you get to figure out what you like how you do it, you go through all the things you need to go through. And by the end, you know, you’ve had enough life experience that you can make decisions for yourself in an experiential way, as opposed to like, when you’re 18, you’re like, I’m gonna do it this way. And you’re like, sure, but you’ve never had that experience. But by 36, you’ve had most experiences. And if you haven’t, and they occur and it occurs to you and someone is like, Hey, did you know this was a thing that happens in real life? You’re like, Oh, right. And you can deal with that, but in an adult way, as opposed to a child way, which is like, you know, either denial or like, Well, that doesn’t affect oversaturation. Like so then 36. So then I think you have more Renaissance like, like 36 to 54, you become a new person as well, right? A lot of times 36 to 54 is when people’s kids have left their nest, right. So they had kids, and then their kids leave. And now they’re like, well, who am I? This is often a period of time when people do things like, cheat on their spouses get divorces, by sports cars, grasp too hard to their youth. That’s what happens. Because there’s no like cool group that’s like geared towards 36 to 54 year olds. It’s like, you know, how you live your life? Cool. Let me tell you, they don’t there’s nowhere that they’re telling you that right. And then once you get older, everything after 54 it’s just sort of like, hey, so you’re dead now, but really, you’re not. You’re a person. And then you have another one. Right? So then like 54, Math is hard. 54 to 7255 72, right? You’re making that because like most of us are gonna I mean, I’m gonna make it to 72. I don’t know about you, but definitely, like, genetics wise, for sure. And so like, what’s that about? That’s like, what? Like, right now I’m in third round. But I’m early on. Right? I’m early on in my third round. I’m in my early 40s. So I don’t know, right? But you and I are kind of in the same point. Right? So like, You’re, you’re seven years into your journey, right? I’m, yeah. Six years into mine, right. But we’re in a similar like, trying to figure out Oh, what’s this thing? Because I’m doing the same thing. You are like, oh, I’ve done a lot of this. But how am I going to, you know, what’s my new take on it? Like I studied this, right? I’ve done a lot of this. But now how do I use that knowledge that I have to learn something new? Maybe, maybe what I learned was to facilitate my work in like, we’re talking about television writing, right? You know, like maybe what you learned up till now, literally set you up. You had to be a playwright, you had to learn all this theater to be the best TV writer you could be right like, right, so I don’t know, that’s my theory of life.
I love that theory, because I did feel this change, even like a little bit before the pandemic, but especially in this year, where I’m like, something’s happening, like I because I think there’s a curiosity now that I have created during this pandemic where I haven’t been curious about art in a while. I’ve been doing this for a while. And so you know, like after a while, there’s nothing new under the sun. I think screenwriting and especially TV writing proves a different challenge. And I love to be challenged, like I love to not know how to do something. So then I can get frustrated, like, and do the whole thing and then suddenly fail or not fail and be like, Okay, great. And that’s kind of what my process is like, I gotta get frustrated and go through it in order to really learn it, because, you know, that was theater that was dance that was sung, or all the stuff that I know how to do. So now, I think there’s been a change when I think now I’m wanting to do a little bit more on the TV side. And I’m hoping what you said is right, like, I’m hoping all my all my experience, Lord is gonna prove itself. useful. That’s my hope. Um, I will say that, like, I think I’m good. I mean, I hope that’s not weird to say, but I think I’m good. I think I have something. And now I think it’s just my job to learn more and more, how to do it on purpose and not on accident.
I think it’s good that you think that you’re good. I think it’s important, you know what I mean? Like, if you can have the confidence to keep going, I mean, that that will will help. You know, so many people are held back by their own negative self talk, if you can, you know, put the kibosh on that and be in your own head being like, I’m great at this. And you know, I’m working towards this, maybe this thing I’m working on isn’t ready yet. But it will be right. And I’m great at this. And at the end of the day, movies and TV get made, not because they’re actually the best, most well written thing, but because a confident person swung in and was like, Hi, you know, when you want to buy my script, let me tell you,
yeah, no, it’s like, join it, like faking your way to the top, like, so called Dream Girls, I can’t wait to the top, you know, because just like, you know, we were saying this earlier, there’s so many people who really just don’t know what they’re doing. And I was under the impression that like, I had to go to film school, and I had to do this, and I have to do that. And what I’m learning is things are much more gray than I thought, you know, the things that I’m drawn to, those people didn’t necessarily go to school for that or that sensibility is not something that’s taught, that’s something that is instinctual that you can’t really replicate. So I’m hoping that like, I can still get to know versions of myself, as I’m learning this new medium.
You know, it’s interesting what you just said to your time, you said, some people haven’t taken, you know, don’t have the education, they haven’t put the investment in there. They’re just like, happened to be great. And then they like, show up and you’re like, Okay, it Yeah, you in this journey, like in the full life journey of being an artist. I think some people are just like that. They’ve never taken a class in their life. They walk in, they’re just amazing at it. And you can’t like hate that. You know, I mean, you can, but like you shouldn’t, because it’s like, it’s more about this person’s like magic lining up. You know, it just kind of all worked out. I’m a moment it’s not like, it’s not like, and here’s the other thing, too, I’ve taught a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of actors, sometimes the actors that are the best are not the actors that want to do this for a job.
Yeah, you know, exactly, like, usually most. And that’s the bad part is, I do try to like find as on the directing side, I do try to find those that are organic. And sometimes school can ruin you. Sometimes you go to these different arts institutions, and they are drilling the essence of what makes you a star out of you, because they’re like, you have to be this. And if you’re not that, then you’re going to do all you can to become that. And as much as I love Howard, like early on, I didn’t look like a lot of the other guys in my class. I was short and like stout, a little chubby when everyone else was like these tall slender s dancer types. And one of the professors made a comment like, I had a leading man’s talent in a supporting roles body. And I’ve just went, What, Uh huh. So what like I went through a lot. I did have a little bit of an eating disorder because I was trying to starve myself because I want to be smaller. I was like, only eat certain things. So I wouldn’t gain any weight all of this crazy stuff to try to be these other people. And after a while, I just got so tired and like not even like spiritually tired. Like I was literally not sleeping. So, after a while, I was like, ah, I can’t, I can’t be them, I gotta be me. And I took myself to Tibet, I took a nap. And I just kind of was like, Look, you’re either when you’re either with it or you’re not. And then turns out, then the professors really responded to that confidence. They responded to, like, my rebellion of not trying to fit in, to what everyone else looks like, and their ideas of a leading man. So it’s just so weird how, how this industry works, it sounds strange.
Well, I mean, the world in general, I mean, how many people have when you like, meet somebody who’s rebellious, who like wants to do their own thing? It’s like, Oh, I’m drawn to that person. That’s fascinating and amazing, but in real life and the actual existence, you have to do a lot of rules. He’s just a lot of crap. You got to do that. Like, yeah, I don’t love this. This is not something I want to do. But I have to do it,
you know, like, survivor to whatever to change
their life. Like one thing that we’re constantly teaching, well, maybe not these days. But back, back when we could all be near each other. Yeah, when we were in long lines with my child, we’d be like, this is a line, you weighed in them a lot. You have to deal with it, and there’s no way to get out of it. So just be fine. And if you’re upset, that’s your problem. And no one else’s, like the waiting in a line eating patients. Yeah, usually, it’s
a different thing, too. Because I know that’s a generational thing, too. I have younger siblings that are like 16, and 18. And I remember waiting in line with them. And just the griping and complaining and I’m like, how are you going to be when you get to college, and when you’re in the registration line, and everyone has to register, or everyone has to pay a bill or whatever. This is part of life, like you’re gonna have lines, you’re gonna have traffic, you’re gonna go through stuff. And, you know, somehow in the arts, we’ve tried to make things simpler and simpler and simpler that I think sometimes we we shoot ourselves in the foot. We think we think that everything is going to be easy, and it’s going to be a cakewalk. And no, this this is not. I told you, I told my friend this. I was like, if I could be like a marketing person, or fricking day trader, or even the little people that work the toll at booth, like, I would do it, but I know that I literally cannot do anything else. It would want eat me alive. But two, I probably just wouldn’t be good at it. The one time I did try to have a regular job like it was it just didn’t go well.
I feel like you were about to tell me details. And then you were like thought better of it. And you’re like,
I really want it’s such a long story. But just know that like, I am not a salesman. I’m an actor. They are not wanting to say
Oh, yes. Oh my god, I can’t tell you the number of jobs I got where they were like, great. You’re in sales. And I was like, I don’t think that that’s the right thing. No, I’m
not in sales. I, I mean, I guess I sell you a story. But even then it’s not that transactional. Like, you’re you’re doing stuff for me too. I don’t know. It’s just, it never really works out. And now you know, as I’m teaching, because I teach here and there too. And I’m usually teaching like high school ages. So they’re just at the brink, where they’re trying to figure out like, what’s my purpose? What am I here for? And I’ve tried to say like, Look, if you work plan A, so hard, you don’t need a plan B. society tells you Oh, we’ll get a plan B do this. No. Like there’s always Plan A and there’s little like sub sections of plan a, you know, you want to be an actor. Okay, great. Well, what are you going to do to have a part time job? What are you gonna do to sustain that? Or how are you going to get to auditions? All of those things, as long as acting is your a, it’s always going to work out the universe, whatever you believe in, is always going to see to it that if you put the hard work in, it’s gonna pay off.
But I don’t understand why they don’t say that to everyone of all jobs. Like how are you gonna? How you gonna pay your rent? What what are you going to do? Just because he went to law school doesn’t mean he knows how to accomplish a task. Like
That is so true. They think that we don’t have like regular problems, all right.
I know the people
who I know we were talking before we started recording about how like during the pandemic and has really changed the way that theatre has Like, been done, because it’s not happening right now. And so a lot of people are quitting and a lot of people are, you know, shuttering their doors and stuff like that. But it’s like, Alright, guys, we’ve been ready for this all along. You’ve been telling us you didn’t like us forever.
So now when
the whole world is like, by the way, you can’t do it anymore. Like, yeah, I’ve been told that. No problem. Yeah,
you’re not gonna scare me away. Like, I can wait and amazing. I’m gonna use this time to train and get even more smarter and more intentional about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. So no.
Practice to being poor. So high,
right. Like, I’ve got the clothes for I got everything ready for my poor outfit. It’s in my moments. Yeah, so I am good. And what’s so funny at the beginning of this pandemic, everyone was like, calling me like, Oh, all right. I heard the arts are shutting down. I know your Theatre Company. Man, how are you in sankofa doing? And I’m like, I mean, it’s gonna be hard. But we’ll, we’ll be back. And if we won’t, we won’t. But that doesn’t mean like I individually will not stop that, that I individually will stop working. I know that, you know, I’m going to tell stories. Even if I’m just like, that little homeless guy with a cup and a piece of paper, it’s going to be like The Ballad of the tin cup. Because it’s what I’m here to do. And you’re not going to scare me away from it as much as you try. Because what I often find out is those are just people who wanted to do what you did, and didn’t have the courage or the resources or whatever. Oh, yeah, they’re like, they’re like usually doing their own way of, if I bring you down about your thing, I’m gonna feel better about my thing. thing. Yeah, totally. All
the people posting about how theatre was non essential. are 100% sad and their own jobs. Like Yeah, yeah. You don’t like me? Like, right?
Like, let me be happy. Yes, I’m sometimes four. But I’m good. Like, I am happy. There are like a number of people who have made sure that I’m okay. As far as food, clothing and shelter. So, all of that stuff. I’m good. That’s really essential to me. Getting back to the basics of what do I need to succeed and like, thrive? I don’t need all that stuff. I don’t need all that stuff. What are the basics? And so this is how with that,
plus what is theater? provide? If not community right here? Absolutely. All right. My people, the people who we’ve helped each other, we’ve checked up on each other during all this, all theater people, like all my people who are, you know, just working on stuff, like, known them for many years. It’s funny, too. It’s like, it’s like after college, you all of a sudden become friends with somebody that like went to your college, but like you never really knew them. And then you’re like, oh, man, how are we best friends? All of a sudden? Why didn’t we? Why don’t we best friends then. And I feel like pandemic has done the same, like the people that I’ve ended up being like connected with and talking with the most I’m like, man, why didn’t we talk more before this? Like, yeah,
you know, yeah,
this is so weird. You know, so I don’t know.
And you realize that you give, you’ve given some attention to people who like, should not get it. I’ve had to cut someone off to literally at the beginning of this, I had to cut someone from our friends article, because I was like, hold on, you’re not a good person. And something about like me now no longer being busy and no longer just ripping and running all the time, really made me realize that I did not like my friend. And if that were the case, why are they always around me? Why? Why did I do that to myself? And I found myself making myself smaller for them and around them. And that’s why would I want anyone like that. So this pandemic has also been disruptive in a good way to it really, really has. Yeah, I
mean, even you, you mentioned that you hadn’t had time to work on your own projects. And now Yeah, been able to write a ton of stuff. Tell me more about the theater that you’re working on. That sounds like sadly is on hiatus like all live theater? Yeah, like what was keeping you busy.
So I started the theatre company. It was started as the biu Theatre Company. And then we’ve since changed our name to the San Coco collective, and it’s a nonprofit Theatre Company, sankofa is a West African word that means go back and get it. So the word itself means to return to the roots of why we do theatre. For us, that’s about community. And that’s about, you know, being grilles, oral storytellers. So I’m preserving history and telling history through these stories. And we like art that starts conversation. Sometimes it’s disruptive. Sometimes it’s really funny and kooky, whatever. But what I like to do is the art that like you talk about for weeks on not something like you just chew up and spit out. So we were 17, me and my two best friends. And we noticed that all of the like, great, risky work that high schoolers could get away with the Houston theaters, we’re not doing like at large, it was mainly like fluff musicals, big blockbuster hits, and like touring shows, at that time, you know, this was 2013. So there wasn’t a lot of cutting edge biting work, and especially for younger audiences, and then even more so for people of color. So we were like, let’s start a theatre company. We banded with a lot of our parents, our friends, as parents, we’ve researched all this stuff about nonprofits, and 501, c threes and all this. And we started doing shows, and our first show was fences. By August Wilson, I directed it, and I wrote a play called gems. And we did that. And since then, we’ve just kind of done maybe two or three shows a year. And it’s been eight years now. And what I like about that is a lot of the people we’ve worked with, have been empowered enough to start their own companies, or go and start film or move to Atlanta, or go to DePaul, or Howard or Cal Arts or wherever. And it’s great for us. That’s what it’s about. It’s telling people that like, you can have a career in this, because that’s something that I didn’t know, I really didn’t know, I could have a career in the arts because from I was when I was born, you know, everyone’s like, well, just make sure you have that. Make sure you know, and I’m trying to say, Well, if I’m a dentist, and then maybe I can do this on the side. And then I was nine years old. And I saw the Lion King. And like, I just remember being in the audience being like, I never want to do anything else in my life. Other than this, I have to do this specific thing. Because it was, it was transformative. It was spiritual, it needed the audience, just like we needed the performers. And I love that kind of reciprocal energy about it. So you know, since then, I’ve kind of been creating experiences, whether I’m directing or writing or producing or even sometimes acting in it. And now I’m kind of like, because of the pandemic, we’re doing a few COVID concerts, like, we’ll do a concert virtually. We did a one woman show, and next year, we’re doing the show. So it’s like we’re sort of testing out a new medium of blending Theatre and Film together. And finding ways to make that accessible, while still creating like something that’s high quality. And it’s not something that’s really done often. Because usually it’s either super expensive, and like the production is amazing or not. So we’re trying to find a medium and continue to grow. So that’s what’s keeping me busy. Also, individually like I’m, you know, I’m working on my screenwriting. So I’ve really been empowered during this time by leaning into my own voice as far as writing goes and being confident and not knowing like what I’m doing. It’s okay not to be the best at everything once you start.
It’s also okay not to have everything figured out by 25 i right.
Now learning, right, I really do. I do. I was like, oh god, I literally almost had a panic attack. The morning I woke up and was 25. Because I I’ve just always been that type of person that I have to have things organized. That has to be this it has to be that and I guess it’s because of my my grandma, she was a substitute teacher. And so we used to drill vocabulary words and and read books until like 10pm. And we were just super like scholarly in that way. And she would always tell me you have to be the best in the room, white, black and otherwise you have to be the best in the room. Good, better, best. Never let it rest until you’re good. It’s better and your better is best. That was like my mantra growing up. So see you see I can spit it out because I literally had to say, like five times a day.
Oh my god. But
yeah, what that did is like, it gave me a great work ethic and a great discipline to my art. But in that sometimes I get so caught up in the routine, that I lose my heart. So I think the pandemic has helped me go back to those roots of like, why do I like to do this? What do I want to say? Like who? Who cares what I have to say? Oh, me? Oh, that’s a that’s good enough. Okay, great. So I’m also writing the rock album, musician, or like, yeah, so I’m like, so I was in a band in high end, Carver at Howard. Sorry, my university. And we did like r&b, rock, you know, I would write the songs and sing. But I’ve never really just done anything that’s like a solo work for music myself. I’ve always done musicals or play different characters. And I found myself like, in this pandemic, I’ve been learning a lot of like meditation techniques and journaling. And I have so much to say, that’s like, angsty and vulnerable in like, deep, then I’ve just been holding in, and I’m like, I’m gonna make music. So then I’ve been singing and writing songs that are rock songs. And I’m like, Am I making a rock album? So in the last, like, six weeks, I’ve been preparing to start writing and working on a rock EP, that I’m going to release sometime, probably next summer.
Whoa, do you have like, Yeah, do you like play all the instruments,
and like I said, I sing and write. And then I have friends who play the instruments. So they have, you know, they, they painfully, like, volunteer their time, as well as my uncle. He was a former musician, so he can do all of the things. And I have like an ear where I can record certain melodies and harmonies in my phone, and like, Hey, hey, play this. And then I write that down, whatever they say. Or I’m like, Hey, is this in the right key? Or does it sound good? You know, so I’m usually writing things from my ear, and then building stuff off of that. So I plan to just do like a small self project, something next summer where I’m just like, going for, like, balls to the wall, breaking the box of what Auric is, you know, and just doing it. Yeah.
It makes me think of when you first said, I’m a rock band, I thought rock musical, like, really, because of the we’ve been talking about. But like, Oh, yeah, you know, like a musical, but like, the music isn’t like musical stuff, like go home, right? It’s like, Oh, this is a rock song. Now, you know, like, like, yeah, it was sort of the first one of those, but like, a exam, but like, you know, hey, maybe it could be you write the whole album, and then you could turn it into the story of the guy,
which could very well be a thing. I, I kind of write from that storytelling perspective. Anyway, I also have a background in slam poetry. So I load a lot of like, slam poetry in that I teach that motion classes. And a lot of these poems are like, angsty and like dark. And I was like, Where is this coming from? Is this inside of me? So I was like, I gotta do something with this stuff. And I was talking to my friend and she’s like, You are always playing these characters, but you’ve never played yourself. And when she said that, I was like, Oh, she’s kind of reading me for feels like she’s right. Like, I’m, you know, always in musicals, or I’m always doing someone else’s thing. But it takes a different level of vulnerability to to put out a solo project and to be an artist and to tell my story. And that excites me even more because it’s scary. It’s something that I haven’t done yet. So yeah, I mean, why not? Like, again? Like there’s this thing in the back of your head that weights on this? You should do you know, and I’m just no longer gonna listen and wait for that thing. I’m just gonna go for it.
No, there’s no thing. Like there’s nothing there’s no one who’s gonna send you a box that says hey, you can do it now. There’s no right right call you and say it’s okay. You just have to come wait on
the Amazon delivery from like, No, God, I used to have dreams about it when I was little where like, God would write me a letter and I would like open the letter and it would like drop you know, on the action. TVs, like the Looney Tunes or something. They open the squirrel and it’s so long. That’s what I would think my letter of like how to run life would be. And I think during this time I learned like, that’s how it works. You just just go for it. You try to be the best person you can be try to be the best artist you can be and just, you know, go for it.
Yeah, I mean, you just, you just have to do it. At the end of the day artists are the people who do it. Whether or not you’re good or not, it doesn’t matter. That’s
Yeah, exactly. Or even if for now, like, for instance, yeah, think about like, Vincent van Gogh, bro. legitimate. Once in his life. Did anyone say stuff he did was great. They were like, this is crap. Any What are you doing? He dies. And they’re like, Oh, my God, did you know that? Beans, like Brexit happened. So he never got to know. He doesn’t know that he’s like, the biggest name that like, yeah, hundreds of years in the future. And I know about him. He doesn’t Yeah, some people are like that. Sometimes the work that you do has to take time. Sometimes it’s words, and sometimes it’s painting music. Sometimes it takes a while. And then people like, Hey, did you guys see this?
Right? Have you heard of this guy? In this? The thing is, I want to think about legacy. And, and be more intentional about. If I were to leave this earth, you know, because we don’t we don’t know how long we have. I mean, I’m not to be bleak. But seriously, and I want to leave something that I would be proud of. And I just been noticing and in our seasons that I’m planning and like all these things I’m doing. On the producer side, I was doing a few things that it was a little safe. And I was like, wait, okay, let’s go back to stuff that scares me. Let’s go back to stuff that excites me in the way that why we started this company, and why I individually wanted to start writing or directing or whatever it may be. And then I feel like you need to
find somebody who doesn’t like what you do. Somebody who really thinks it’s a bad idea. And ideas and if they gasp that’s the one you do
we you know what I mean? That’s, I should do it. I need a tester of like, an old crotchety uncle. I probably have cerebral, who I’m like, Hey, I’m doing this. And I’m like, yep, that means I should do it.
For someone who’s like, how dare you people like that you shouldn’t have and you’re like, Oh, well, we’re gonna have 12. Now, yeah.
When I directed midsummer at Rice, someone made the comment of like, oh, why is he directing Shakespeare when he’s young? He doesn’t know what he’s doing. First, you do you? You don’t know me. You’ve never even seen this because at the time, we had just opened so like no one had seen the show yet. And the community it was a few people in the community. Were just saying that I was too young and I did not deserve to direct something as sacred as midsummers from Shakespeare. Oh my god.
Kidding me right now. Right? Like
a bro doing like dick and poop jokes. And we’ve added him to like to, like amaze you. It’s like,
are you let’s not forget, Shakespeare was the original reality show. I love reality TV. That’s one of my escapes. I’m not proud of it, but it’s my thing. And I I have a taste for high art and I have a taste for reality TV. And in that I know that like, it’s just as epic as Shakespeare like, it’s the same thing. He wrote it for those tomato throwers in the front, not the super upper crust people at the top who like to barely hear the shit. Yo, you know? Yeah, it’s just weird that I’m that I’m considered disruptive. Total. Total sidebar.
Reality TV. Is theater on television.
Absolutely. And that’s probably why I love it. It is so large, like it’s
just the only way to figure things out as it comes. Right?
Yeah, it’s built
out of what the audience thinks of it because like, say, like a bachelorette kind of show, right? They fill in like 100 hours and show us to write which means somebody went through and picked and created a story from information that they were given write, that write that idea is the most fascinating
light and it’s something for us to know that like on top of that. It’s how we feel about the camera. actors, that’s part of what makes reality TV is like, Oh, I don’t like her, but I love her. I don’t like him, but I like them. And that’s kind of what we do to theater. We always as we’re seeing the show in the theater, we’re already like, we choose our player like we pick the person we’re going to relate to, and follow through the story. Even if you don’t know you’re doing it.
No, but that’s what I’m saying about the whole Shakespeare is reality TV thing is that the editor tells you what to think. Right? Reality TV, there is an editor there’s a person who chooses to put these clips together to make you think Tina’s a bitch, right? Oh my god, I can’t believe Tina is going to do it. Oh, she’s been telling us she was gonna do it for weeks. And now she’s gonna do it. Right. Same with Shakespeare. Shakespeare sets it up. He has like six guys up top or he is all like, Hey, have you seen this beautiful lady? Man? It’s gonna be crazy when she falls in love. Hey, have you seen this lady? Yeah. Nobody wants her to fall in love. But she’s gonna Oh my god. Girl, look at her. She’s about to walk in and fall in love. Like, they’re telling you what’s up like, direct like silly. Like, yeah, whenever people hold Shakespeare to this, like ridiculous high standard. I mean, I went to a college, where it was so obsessive, that they like did not want us to, like do anything like, like, they don’t want us to do anything but Shakespeare and it was like, I need to learn other things. Like I am not going to, I didn’t come to college to become a Shakespeare scholar. I wanted to do theater, and I’m interested in doing active alive theater, not this, like old school stuff in this old school way. If we want to do it in a real way, like, like Shakespeare should be done by like Seth Rogen. You know, like, like,
I want what is the new thinking and like, what’s fresh?
like crazy, like drunk guys and cars that she has? Like,
like, they used to tell us in high school and you know, going, I guess, again, going to a black school. They’re like, Oh, no, Shakespeare is not for you. You can’t watch that. You can find it and I’m like school? Yes. And I’m like, okay, but it’s for me an English class. So why isn’t it for me in theater? And then I get to Howard? And they’re like, oh, why are you not trying to Shakespeare? And I’m like, what, what is? Texas? It’s weird. So, you know, I think overall, there’s a fear of it, especially with people of color, because it’s like, oh, well, I’m not quote unquote smart enough to deal with some of these concepts or to reckon with some of these stories. Like we don’t feel the same things, if not more, because of the disparities, that we’re usually at brutalized by
show cuz he needed cash. He
literally, all of that stuff, like you cannot tell me Julius Caesar is not as like, epic as a reality reality TV showdown, you know. And we, we did midsummer and I said it in like, the jazz era in Harlem. And I added, like, modern songs that were redone in these jazz interpretations. So stuff like genuine wines, your hon. Let’s do it, Pat. And my pony brought in like these jazzy little tunes. And people kept like leaning in, like, What can he do that? We did Drake’s Hotline Bling. And they were like, Huh, they were looking at the program, like, Oh, my God, and I’m like, yeah, it’s, you know, like, Who cares? Like, you can you can do that. And after they got off the like, initial tension, it was a, like, a great experience. And they loved it and clapped and cheered and laughed. And I was like, yeah, you just have to suspend your disbelief, because at the end of the day, none of this stuff is real anyway.
Yeah. And, and, you know, you have to, it’s almost like we were talking about earlier about how, like, in movies, they’re trying to make it like McDonald’s, where it’s like, yeah, they’re trying to make it for everybody. Shakespeare right. That’s why that’s why they think Shakespeare is the King. Because everybody went to go see it. So they think oh, no, that in the globe, everybody from all all socio economic status. Were there and they were hanging out with each other. So this must actually be because of the art It was like No, there was no other thing to look at. They will
go anywhere else.
I have to I’m either gonna sit at home or I can go watch a bunch of people do a show for me a moon go right and so rich people were there the poor people were there didn’t matter. Like everyone was there but not because it was high art, but because it were the art. Like right, you know, I don’t know, I I love Shakespeare and all but I really just think that they hold him to a way to highest standards. Right. It’s almost similar to her talking about where it was like the Vincent van Gogh thing, like, except for opposite because Shakespeare was alive during some of his. Okay, yeah,
famous he was aware of right. So I’m sure later plays were influenced by what people wanted. You know what I mean? It gets created based out of that, right? As opposed to, here are just some basic stories, or here are stories that we all know that I’m going to retell. That’s the other thing that people like, act like he made up every story in the world and like Disney to use it, like 90% of early Disney movies are like old
Because, yes, they were public domain, like,
and royalty free public domain stuff. Yeah. Or like folk tales that no one really ever knows who wrote it. So that’s where the essence of that stuff comes from. And yet we put it to these like elitist. This, hold it to this higher standard, and say that, Oh, well, you’re not allowed to direct this or touch this or engage with this. When, honestly, it’s just, if I can live, if I can live it, I can do it. So if I can live this heartache and this death and this, you know, whatever it is, then I can do it on stage or off or wherever, what have you. It’s so weird people, people have to, there’s a group, like, I think it’s decolonize Shakespeare or something like that. And they focus on putting Shakespeare like more in the mouths of people and all of that stuff. And I like that kind of work again, because it demystifies who, what belongs to who? And do I deserve to be in the room and all that kind of stuff?
I just really It breaks my heart so deeply that anyone would have told you that Shakespeare wasn’t for you. Shakespeare’s forever Yes. Even Billy shakes himself would say that. And, and like, just the
of holding back any art from anyone? I’m sorry, we right human beings. Like why after Merchant of Venice, you like come on? The same? Like eyes to look at the beauty. We all have the same ears to hear the music like, like, yeah, say that any playwright is not for anybody. Because it Yes. And in fact, most of the playwrights that as they wrote stuff. I mean, I’m sure there’s a handful of people that were like, Well, I certainly hope this group of people doesn’t like this, but I, you know, they’re not around anymore. So whatever. Right. And also, like, I just really dislike like I’ve just since you said it, I just keep thinking about this idea of a teacher telling anyone that art was not for them or you feeling like yours, were close to you. And and the conversation that we’ve been having about how you know, you, you’re expecting there to be some sort of like someone to give you permission to do it, guys, people who are listening right now I want you to know, no one’s going to give you permission, and you know why cuz you don’t need it. You can do whatever you want. You can create whatever you want, you can say whatever words that you would like, as long as you know, legality stuff. Sure, absolutely. Right. Play pay for the rights done.
You did it.
Right, who got it.
Like there’s and you don’t have to be
good at it. Like it’s okay to be bad, or like, okay, or good. Like, I used to think I had to be the greatest at every single thing The first time I tried it. Because, you know, that’s what society does. It’s and especially now with the social media, culture and everything like that. There’s so much pressure riding on you to be great. And to show the picture perfect version of everything you do. We have made my friends have this thing where like, I’m proud to announce, so we make fun of people who say like, I am so proud to announce, because usually that’s like their own social media version of a press release. So we’re like, Did you check the product analysis today? They’re like, No, I didn’t check the product announced today. Because it’s, you know, now it’s become this thing that’s inauthentic. And it’s, it’s more about the buzz and the excitement of the project than the actual project itself. And I don’t want it to be that anymore. Like let’s fail, let’s fail really, epically. It’s okay to take a big swing. And you know, as long as we’re playing the game, so that’s that’s what this pandemic saw me even more than anything, and to that person to hit those comments about me directing the show. I see you in the show. So I’m just thinking. I’m just say everyone else loved it and laugh and one lady came back and brought her husband. So, you know, I think Mission accomplished.
That husband was like, What? What am I going to see? Oh, Shakespeare,
what Miss midsummer was saw, he was like, my wife brought me back out clearly she likes it. He enjoyed it, he tapped his foot along. You know, he’s probably not a theater theater guy. But she was like, Hey,
I just had to tell you, you did your thing with
this. And I was like, thank you, you know, cuz, again, when people feel like they’re having a good time, or they’re feel feeling seen or whatever, you whatever, that lets, you know, I did my job. Like, even if I just did just that. That’s okay. You know, I don’t I don’t have to get the the Tony or the, the all of that. You know, it’s it’s about reaching actual people, flesh and blood people.
Yeah. It’s about that lady being so excited that she wanted to share with her husband who maybe didn’t want to share it. But she brought him anyway. And he loved her enough to go. Like,
right, and they had an evening together. Yeah, you know? Yeah. Oh, man, you had a lot of little testimonials like that, that remind me of like, why love to do this?
Yeah. I’m so glad that you’ve gotten good feedback. But it to what you were saying like, just because a show gets a lot of people, you know, like all the people trying to promote this show, oh, sell a lot of tickets doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad, right? I think at the end of the day, the thing that makes something good is the heart, the brain, if the people care if they really want to do it, you know, maybe it sounds a lot of tickets, maybe it doesn’t. And in the harsh capitalistic world that we live in doing theater, you know, how many tickets it sells, and how much money it makes does make final decisions, but it doesn’t actually preclude it from being good art or from affecting a human being who watched it, you know, like, and, and changing their life. They could have been completely like, I’d never seen Shakespeare before. But now I’ve read everything. I mean, who knows? Yeah,
we’ve had so many stories like that, you know, we’re, we’re typically making our prices lower, so that if you’re coming to a sankofa collective show, you can afford to like you can afford to see theater because usually, theater ticket prices are so expensive. And what that does is we get so many people who saying I’ve never seen a play before, but I now I’m going to see more theater. Or when we did the mountaintop, we had one kid who was like, I watched this show and I realized Martin Luther King made so much of a sacrifice that like I should do a better job in my math class. And I just, I was like, yeah, that’s why we do this. Yes, we do next to normal, a play about, you know, musical about bipolar disorder. And one of the women comes to me and is like, you put this off for me. And now I’m going to start seeing a therapist. I to me, that lets me know that we’re doing the thing we need to do. So we may not be like overflowing in the big budgets. No, we’re not Alli with the Tony No. But like, the reason why we keep chugging on in have been for these little bitty eight years is because of those things, those voices from the universe that come to you that’s like, Hey, keep going, keep pursuing this trail, whatever it is, wherever it leads, keep going. Because there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.
Plus, like we’re talking about with the pandemic, people need this. People need storytelling, more than anything that we’ve needed before. Now we need to figure out how to process and storytelling is how we process and if we don’t, like, figure it out, in our own way, then we’re just not gonna figure it out. And it’s gonna fester and, and go terribly wrong. But it won’t, because all of the artists have been given this like clean slate of creation. And it’s like whatever you’re working on before Well, it’s over now. So try something else. And this, you know, you are now going to see who your audience is live and in real time, all the time, right? When an ally for
me a little bit more who who what is the community need? Who is really like a real supporter and who are moved by certain stories that we’re making. And it was the community that pulled me out of that depression and anxiety at the beginning of this. We had four shells scheduled that I was broke. I mean, I plan that stuff for years and this isn’t this and this budget and this person was coming out of town and all this and now all that was gone and So I was so hurt and depressed and in a funk. And it was the community, people that have worked with us or come to our shows, who were like, hey, it’s uncalled for doing something. And I’m like, what do you what they’re like? Yeah. So, you know, I know you’re probably going through a lot. But you know, when’s the show? And it just the way she asked me was, so like, matter of fact, it was like she knew that I was going to continue, like before I did. And I was like, Oh, this means we all got to keep going. Because for people like that, they’re they’re waiting on the when they’re waiting on something. So we did a concert, where people just submitted their self tapes of singing songs, and inspirational things, Disney things, just silly stuff. And we raised money to give back to for charities that like impacted, you know, people for COVID. And that was the first show that kind of got us back going at the beginning of this year. In May, so who has her debt?
I have no,
right. Like, I’m like, yeah, pandemic timing calendars. But after that, it kind of let me know. No, we there are people who do care about us. And there are people who really need us to exist. So as long as I’m still feeling bad, and as long as that voice is still there, we’re gonna keep going.
Absolutely. I feel like that is like a great idea. To to end on this idea of staying strong, and continuing to work on your art. It’s just, it’s important for all of us to do but I’m, I’m glad that you’re confident and like working on your skill set. You’re like developing so much during this time.
I am Yes, it’s weird. I probably would have never been bold enough to work on solo projects like this, had I not been in this pandemic. So in a way, you know, I am thankful I am happy for it. Because it is allowed me to be a little more free. So, you know, shout out to anyone who’s listening to this, like, please still make art, whether that’s just posting silly stuff on your social media, even Tick Tock can be art, depending on what you’re doing on it. Like, keep yourself creatively busy. Because, you know, that’s a muscle and you don’t you don’t want to lose it.
Yeah, totally. For I bought myself a Christmas present. Sorry. It’s what happens when you get Oh, what
do you buy? I
bought myself this book. That’s like 365 creative prompts. Right? Oh, and they’re just little they’re not, they’re nothing huge. It’s not like writer’s scream. Like it’s like, here’s two sentences of the beginning of a story, right? The rest of the story. And it’s just like one page, right? Or it’s like, draw this, draw the nearest fruit, you know, and you draw whatever. Like, it’s just different things every day. And my goal is to do one a day, just to sharpen up a little bit. You know, I spent a lot of time with a toddler, there’s creativity, and then there’s the creativity that I need. And I need to work on this. So I got that to get jumpstart myself to get myself going and doing it. Yeah. And I feel like a lot of times when you when we say like make art do stuff, it feels overwhelming to people. They’re like, I don’t know how to do it. Why, you know, and especially listening to you like, Oh my god, you’re amazing. Like, you got so much going on. It’s so many different talents like this is Yeah, you’re amazing, you know, I can’t be you, right? And anyone listening, you don’t have to be alright. That’s not who you need to be. You need to be you you need
I use prompts to like I literally one of the things if I’m like getting writer’s block or whatever, if I’m in a funk, I’ll go to middle school writing prompts on Google. And it’s like the cutest little shit that just gets me going like the other one the other day was write a scene about two lovers picking apples. And I was like, oh, or the other one was write a scene about a bird migrating to the north from the for the winter or something like that. So I wrote a whole slam poem, and then I worked back on my screenplay. So you know, it can be small things, but you want to be able to be free and channel all of that energy, whatever you’re feeling, even if it’s negative thoughts, because like I said, I’m working on a rock album. A lot of stuff that I found out I got it, I got to purge all of this. So you got to you know, write in a journal or in a song or write a letter and burn it within you know, safety measures. Make sure that you yeah not in Cali cuz you know I want you to get in trouble put in notion
Yeah Do what you can cuz you got to get that out because if you don’t it’s gonna eat you alive
oh my god all right thank you so much for being on the podcast and chatting with me about so many amazing I feel like we just went into just like such a wild rabbit hole of like we probably have so many different tangents so into it
absolutely thank you for having me this has been amazing I love artistic deep dive so this was a pleasure.
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