Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. My mom was always really dedicated to nurturing the artist in me as I was growing up. She put me in every arts or literature program she could find and I thrived in them, so there was no way I was gonna grow up and become an accountant. And thank God for that. And my dad has the best sense of humor of anyone in the whole world. So if my mom gave me the gift of art, my dad gave me the gift of laughter.
How would you describe Oya, the character you play in In the Red and Brown Water?
At this point in the process its a little hard to delineate where she ends and I begin honestly. She’s a track star, so she’s alot faster than I am, that’s for sure. My track and cross country coach from high school would probably chuckle if she saw this play because aside from the horizontally challenged members of the team, I was the worst one. And I had the longest legs. But I went to this painfully conservative college prep school and the rule was everyone had to play a sport. And if you were on scholarship you had to play TWO sports. I thought that was completely racist because nearly all the scholarship kids were black. So I think the angry little militant in me didn’t want to excel in sports cause as a black girl on scholarship was expected to. I was like whatever, somebody point me towards the stage please. But I regret it now. I’ve grown up and found that I actually do like to run. I probably could have been better if I had applied myself. So I’m getting a chance to feel what that might have been like through Oya.
What themes in the play resonate for you?
The play for me is about Oya’s growth. She has a hell of a time getting over the hump, from one version of herself to the next. She’s special and she knows she’s special so there’s quite a bit of frustration that comes in when she has such a difficult time asserting herself in the world.
The language of the play
Yes the language of the piece is poetic. Black folks speak in poems to me anyway. McCraney definitely highlights the lyricism in the black vernacular. It informs me as an actress. I know exactly who these people are by the way they speak. There’s no vagueness in there. I know who they are.
How does mythology weave its way through the story?
My favorite thing about the piece is the presence of the mythology throughout. These characters are black and poor and living in the projects. Seems like the makings of a sad sack 90s movie that we’ve all seen before. But by reminding us that at the very center, at the core of these characters, is the spirit of a god or goddess, it somehow more fully reveals their humanity. The playwright is showing these characters so much respect in that way. It somehow manages to both elevate the piece and pull us closer to it.
This is your first project at the Fountain. Are you having a good time?
I’m really enjoying working with Shirley Jo and the whole cast. There’s a closeness that happened pretty organically. I’m excited to get to rehearsal everyday. This is the only ensemble I’ve been in where people balk about taking a day off. Everyone is very excited by the work. And everyone is bringing so much of themselves to their performances.
In the Red and Brown Water Oct 20 – Dec 16 (323) 663-1525 More