Director Shirley Jo Finney shares her vision for ‘The Brothers Size’.
The design and production team for our upcoming Los Angeles Premiere of The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraneygathered this week to discuss the many design elements needed for the production. It’s going to be a beautiful and powerful production with a fluid, quick-moving mixture of set, lights, music, movement and sound supporting three talented actors.
Director Shirley Jo Finney spoke to the designers and shared her vision for the play. Producers Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor led the meeting with Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, Associate Producer James Bennett and Technical Director Scott Tuomey. Adding their artistic contributions were set designer Hana S. Kim (via speaker phone!), lighting designer Pablo Santiago, costume designer Naila Aladdin-Sanders, choreographer Ameenah Kaplan, composer/sound designer Peter Bayne, music director Brenda Lee Eager, and production stage manager Terri Roberts.
Award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney returns to direct The Brothers Size, the second play in McCraney’s Trilogy, following our acclaimed and award-winning In the Red and Brown Water. The Brothers Size is a hot-blooded, music-filled drama from one of the country’s most exciting new voices. After a homecoming in the bayous of Louisiana, the Size brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi, try to start fresh. This haunting, funny, and heartbreaking tour de force probes sexuality, coming of age, and the bonds of family as the brothers struggle to discover identity and to unearth a new sense of freedom.
The Los Angeles Premiere at the Fountain theatre stars Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock and Theo Perkins.
Dorian Baucum and Diarra Kilpatrick and company in “In the Red and Brown Water”
If you’ve had the unforgettable experience of seeing the Fountain Theatre’s critically-acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water, you can see by his heartfelt performance of Ogun Size that Dorian Baucum is a talented actor. What you may not know is that he is also a gifted singer/songwriter.
Where are you from? How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
I grew up in Washington, D.C. I came to Los Angeles in 2008 after taking a risk and leaving Boston, Massachusetts. I decided to get my MFA in Acting from UC San Diego and came on up to LA to begin working in film and television.
What was it like auditioning for Red/Brown?
By the time I auditioned, I’d been in L.A. for four years. After hundreds of auditions, and landing some great guest star roles on television, by that time I’d made the decision that I wasn’t going to pretend I was somebody else to try to impress the Director or Producers like I did when I first came to L.A. I was going to just show what my instincts were for the role and if they liked what I brought into the room, great. If they didn’t? Well, I’d have to figure out a way to be okay with that. This art thing is sensitive. So, in being true to myself and my actor instincts, I can just let them decide if I’m right or wrong for the piece.
I celebrated when I got the role in Red/Brown. Then panic set in. Who am I fooling? I’m no actor! I’m going to ruin the whole show! (laughs) That’s the cycle I go through.
How would you describe your character of Ogun?
Ogun is a man that comes from the heart center. He’s a warrior of love. To walk through the world with an open heart can be frightening. It’s like when you’re a little kid and all you want to do is love and then somebody comes along and shakes you into the harsh realities of life. I think this is why he stutters as a young man: he is so open and vulnerable. As an older man, he turns his open heart into his strength, when he realizes that love is his gift. He realizes that his love can save people. His love is so strong that it pulls Oya from the depths of depression, for a while.
Playing him is terrifying. Vulnerability, extreme sensitivity, insecurity. All the parts of myself I’d like to pretend aren’t there were necessary to play him. It’s also taught me that it’s okay to be a peaceful warrior. It’s okay to live from the heart. People like Ogun are warriors, but they are warriors in a different way. Their gift is to bring love to the planet. It’s hard to do that when you are living on a planet with so much turmoil. You have to protect yourself, too. I think he realizes this in the end. It’s a tough balance. I think he sees that in giving his greatest gift, love, to Oya, he has to also remember that loving himself is the most important thing that he will ever do. Most people think that loving others first is the way it works, but I think it starts within, first and radiates outward.
What has the Red/Brown experience been like for you?
Challenging. In order to play Ogun, I had to open up my heart center and that meant dealing with all of the experiences in my life that made me close it off to the world in the first place. Director Shirley Jo Finney made it even harder because she was relentless in insisting that I go there. She is kind of a vortex, an oracle for the ancestors in the way that she works. When she gives directions, it’s not just coming from her. It’s coming directly from the ancestors and their mission is to open you up so that you can become who you were meant to be on your journey.
Tell us about your music career.
I’ve been singing since I was a kid. But, as an adult, music saved my life. I started creating lyrics and melodies and singing them as therapy to get me through the day. Now I volunteer at Cedars Sinai Hospital and sing to patients at bedside as a part of their music for healing program.
The influences of the all the artists I listened to growing up like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire comes through my music in a powerful way. India Arie, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and Michael Franti are all great influences.
I write acoustic and neo soul. But the lyrics – conscious lyrics meant to uplift, inspire and heal me when I need it – are really what makes my music something that the world needs to hear right now. It is very encouraging when you create a piece of art and there are people out there who say, “Yeah, I feel you!”
I’m doing it all myself as an indie artist. Connecting with as many people as possible who like my music to help me build a strong support-base. I’ve made sales in little pockets throughout the U.S., Japan, South Africa, South America, Italy and Germany. (laughs) Somebody in Japan is grooving to my music, right now! Blows my mind!
And getting a chance to work with a living legend like Brenda Lee Eager on this show opened my voice in ways that blow my mind, too. She knows where music comes from and where it needs to go. To the HEART!
What are the rewards of being an actor versus being a singer/musician? What do you get from each, as an artist?
That’s a tough one. With music, it comes straight from the heart and I get to connect with people as me, totally and completely. In acting, I connect with people, too, but it’s me playing within the confines of the realty being created, so it’s not all of me full force like it would be in music, you know? I think that there is freedom in acting, but I think there is even more freedom in music.
You have a new CD out, “Everyday Warrior”. How would you describe it?
My debut album, EVERYDAY WARRIOR: ACOUSTIC – NEO SOUL FOR YOUR SOUL is conscious uplifting music that you can kick-back and groove to, but it is also meant to help folks get through the day in a better way. I’m a music healer, urban yogi and a strong believer in the fact that music can change people’s lives for the better. So, that kind of energetic intention is behind my music.
My producer a – multi-instrumentalist San Francisco born sister, Joy Julks – is a baaaaaaaaad ass – she’s played with many of the greats like Pharoah Sanders, Angela Bofil, Marcus Miller, Sheila E., Macy Gray and many others.
What are your plans after Red/Brown closes?
I’m going to really get my music to as many hearts as possible and as always…find my next great acting project to work on. Or, let it find me!
In the Red and Brown Water Final Weeks! Must End Feb 24! (323) 663-1525 More Info
Proceeds from Dorian’s CD go to Run For Her 2013, an annual run and friendship run/walk to benefit Women’s Ovarian Cancer Research and Awareness.
Our Los Angeles Premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water officially opened Saturday, October 20th. A full house, a dazzling performance, followed by a catered reception upstairs in the cafe. The cast, company and audience members enjoyed the wine and delicious food served at the post-show party, including (because of the Louisiana setting of the play) a huge tray of homemade creole jambalaya.
Enjoy the photos!
In the Red and Brown Water Now – Dec 16 (323) 663-1525More
Oya can run faster than anyone—but not fast enough to escape her destiny. Shirley Jo Finney directs the long-awaited Los Angeles premiere of In the Red and Brown Water. Lyrically weaving together elements of urban contemporary realism with West African mysticism, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s lusciously theatrical and boldly original new play opens at The Fountain Theatre on October 20.
How far will fast, beautiful Oya go to make a mark in the world? The first of McCraney’s acclaimed “The Brother/Sister Plays,” In the Red and Brown Water is an intoxicating story that charts a young girl’s thrust into womanhood, her family struggle, the two men vying for her heart, and her subsequent fall into the murky waters of life. McCraney mixes the mundane with the mythic, drawing on Yoruban influences while setting the play in a modern urban context—a housing project in the fictional Bayou city of San Pere, Louisiana.
“This production was three years in the making,” says Fountain Theatre artistic director Stephen Sachs. “When ‘The Brother/Sister Plays’ exploded onto the theatrical scene in 2009, it was clear that Tarell was an important and rising new voice. We immediately began our fight for the rights to do this play and refused to give up. The Fountain Theatre is a theater of the heart—and this is where we want the play to live in Los Angeles.”
“I began to investigate how to use ancient myths, stories, to tell urban ones,” McCraney wrote. “I began taking old stories from the canon of the Yoruba and splicing them, placing them down in a mythological housing project in the south. This made the stories feel both old and new, as if they stood on an ancient history but were exploring the here and now.”
Tarrell Alvin McCraney
Lauded by The New York Times as “something rare in the theater, a new, authentically original voice,” and by the Chicago Tribune as “without question, the hottest young playwright in America,” 32-year-old Tarell Alvin McCraney has won numerous awards, including the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Whiting Writing Award, London’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and the National Endowment for the Arts Outstanding New American Play Selection. His plays include Wig Out! (developed at Sundance Theatre Lab, produced in New York by the Vineyard Theatre and in London by the Royal Court) and the trilogy entitled The Brother/Sister Plays, including: The Brothers Size (simultaneously premiered in New York at the Public Theater, in association with the Foundry Theatre, and in London at the Young Vic, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award); In the Red and Brown Water; and Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet. His other plays include Without/Sin and Run, Mourner, Run (adapted from Randall Kenan’s short story), both of which premiered at Yale Cabaret. He holds a B.F.A. in acting from DePaul University, and he graduated from the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama. He is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s international writer in residence and is currently under commission at Manhattan Theatre Club and Berkeley Rep. His new play, Head of Passes, will have its world premiere in April at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, directed by Tina Landau.
In the Red and Brown Water stars Dorian Christian Baucum, Peggy A. Blow, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Justin Chu Cary, Diarra Kilpatrick, Stephen Marshall, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, Theodore Perkins and Maya Lynne Robinson. Set design is by Frederica Nascimento; lighting design is byJosé Lopez; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop design is by Misty Carlisle; choreography is by Ameenah Kaplan; vocal coach is Brenda Lee Eager; dialect coach is JB Blanc; assistant director is Erinn Anova; production stage manager is Shawna Voragen; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor produce.
Shirley Jo Finney with NAACP Theater Award
Shirley Jo Finney previously directed award-winning productions of From the Mississippi Delta, Central Avenue, Yellowman and The Ballad of Emmett Till at the Fountain Theatre. Her work has been seen at the McCarter Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, LA Theater Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and, most recently, the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa, where she helmed a critically acclaimed production of the South African opera, Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. Ms. Finney has been honored with Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Back Stage Garland, LA Weekly and NAACP awards. For television, she directed several episodes of Moesha,and she garnered the International Black Filmmakers ‘Best Director’ Award for her short film, Remember Me. In 2007 she received the African American Film Marketplace Award of Achievement for Outstanding Performance and Achievement and leader in Entertainment.
Don’t miss this extraordinary new play at the Fountain. From the director of our unforgettable smash hit The Ballad of Emmett Till.
In the Red and Brown Water Oct 20 – Dec 16 (323) 663-1525 More