A White in the White House

I recently made a trip down to D.C. for a final screening of The Loving Story at the White House. (Yes, that’s the White House as in Pennsylvania Avenue but more on that later).  The screening was facilitated by The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Bridging Cultures Through Law film series.

The Loving Story is a documentary about historic couple Richard and Mildred Loving who, through their marriage and struggle to keep their family together changed the laws of the nation. For the history and political buffs out there, the Lovings were at the center of landmark Civil Rights case Loving V. Virginia which deemed Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Here is a great NPR link to more info on the case.

In the film Mildred is spellbinding; composed, beautiful and light while Richard in his reservation possessed a steadfast commitment that was endearing and almost intimidating. Traumatic circumstances aside, it was their love at the heart of the film that drove the story for me. They simply leapt off the screen.

The screening was followed by a stellar panel featuring producer Nancy Buirski, Founder of the Documentary festival Full Frame in Durham NC, the current President and CEO of the NAACP Benjamin Todd Jealous, and Constitutional Law attorney Phillip Hirschkop who argued the case in the Supreme Court. I’m sure you can imagine how incredible it was to hear these people speak on such a great project.

My interest in film has grown exponentially, particularly since moving to NY so the opportunity to attend this screening came at a perfect time. Special thanks to my friend Dan who brought me to the event!

*Oh and as I swiped my little access card in the tunrstile and entered the White House grounds I thought two things: 1. I can’t believe they let me in here (the previous night I celebrated my birthday so I was mildly woozy to say the least) 2. I hope there are many more events like this to come 🙂

A birthday, a meeting, and the Eastern sea board

I have been traveling up and down the eastern sea board visiting (gulp) a few graduate programs, auditioning…. and wreaking general havoc upon theaters and Ivy League Schools alike.

Boston, Cambridge and Providence were all beautiful, artist friendly cities, each offering something unique.

Providence, home of the celebrated Trinity Rep, was very intimate and you got the feeling that everyone knew about the Rep’s work and ensemble. Their season explores new work and timeless classics.

In Cambridge I stopped by the beautiful American Repertory Theatre whose reworked production of Porgy and Bess adapted by Suzan- Lori Parks, starring Audra McDonald Norm Lewis, and David Allen Grier is currently running on Broadway.

I also saw the current Harvard-A.R.T. production Futurity (above), written by and starring Brooklyn based Folk Rock band The Lisps. Futurity featured a great original score and high energy performances from The Lisps and Second Year students. But what really stole the show was the intricate and contemporary set design. I would love to play on a set that interactive, tactile, and imaginative.

I did have time to celebrate my birthday with friends and catch up with photographer and Producer Joshua Sobel (above) whose current project, Graceland is premiering at Tribecca Film Fest April 20th.

My meeting with Josh was fruitful and came up by chance, which seems to happen more and more. He had a lot to say about his work, being a renaissance man, and navigating the arts and film scene in New York. Hopefully this next year will be full of more meetings like that, great projects, new collaborators, and a little more havoc 🙂

*Special thanks those who helped me celebrate my first birthday in the big apple.

W

PS1, My First Time

Be African American. Be Very African American.

This Sunday I ventured with Viv So to PS1, one of the multiple former public schools that have been transformed into art spaces, this one owned by MoMA. It was a fruitful visit; warm enough to enjoy the outdoor spaces, New-Yorkers lounging and milling about and time seemed to have slowed, the way it tends to in art spaces.

A naked man, some powder, and an unsolicited French Kiss

Lucky me, the African American Performance Artist Clifford Owens was performing live as a part of his exhibit, Anthology.

Through photography, audio, video and live performance, Anthology explores sexuality, space and identity.  The body of work was visceral and kinetic, and Owens himself was fearless.

In one live performance Owens searchingly roams the center of a white room, with audience scaling the walls as he challenges each attendee, inviting them (daring them) to a touch, an embrace, or a kiss.

Black and White

In another performance Owens, naked in the center of a white room remains motionless in strength as audience members reposition his body and move him about a space demarcated by a black rectangle.

I couldn’t help thinking about my own level of comfort with intimacy and confrontation. Living in NY so far has been all about negotiating crowds and I come into impersonal contact with so many people. But I am really bad at keeping my head down and giving the world dead eye. I can’t help responding when something outrageous happens and interacting with my surroundings. (The man who mooned us the 6 the other day… was I REALLY the only one who saw that? #realtalk)

Then there is the whole, “I like to do stuff on stage in front of lots of people” thing…. so in a small way I am willing to cross boundaries? In a small way I am an exhibitionist? And in a large way I want my work to express black issues? I therefore identified strongly with Owens’ work.

Tell Me What to Do With Myself

But the amount of bravery on display in Anthology is almost shocking. Hopefully Owens will inspire me to be more daring with my work and expressive with my body. Being new in town never ceases to be exhilarating, shocking, and frustrating so I am sure I’ll have a lot to share.

W

What’s a Sugar Daddy got to do with it?

Last weekend I went to New Haven, Connecticut for a third reading of “The Standard Upgrade” by Angie Montgomery and Howard Leader . This was our first public presentation and we were at the very hip Study Hotel on the Yale Campus (can we say YES to the penthouse?!) Check out this satellite of New Haven CT above.

As the story goes, “The Standard Upgrade” follows three white lawyers who, in an effort to jump-start their lives, get involved with young women of color. There are plenty of juicy and racy moments, along with a real love story in the mix.

*Outside the hotel

The piece was very well received, but let’s just say there were a few moments when the audience was audibly and visually shocked by the playwrights’ upfront sense of humor. I was not surprised given that topics ranging from the middle-aged sugar daddy and the escort, the desperate rich guy going through a midlife crises, a missing condom, and a coked out lawyer insensitive to his wife’s cancer were all on the table.

I feel very connected to my character right now, as we are both two educated sistah’s on the hustle in the Big Apple. Looking forward to exploring her more.

Oh and here I am at Grand Central on my way out, excited as ever 🙂

We should be doing another staged reading in April so, more to come!

W

We sold out?

This Monday was my theatrical debut in the Big Apple with the staged reading of Yes! The Musical. The ensemble featured many black-tresses and black-tors who were so fab I wanted to take over their lives. There was also a very familiar face in the audience.

Yes! was performed at the Nagelberg Theater at the Baruch Performing Arts Center  to a sold out house (that’s a mouth-full but it was in a cute part of town). Not a bad start, hopefully there will be many more to come!

Check out the Broadway World Release.

Louie Louie Louie

As it turns out, I am booked for an episode of the FX original comedy series Louie. The opportunity could not have come at a better time having just relocated to Brooklyn. (Shout out BK!)

Louie is the HIGHlarious brainchild of stand up comedian Louis C.K., who is the star, main writer, editor and producer of the show. The show is follows his life and chance encounters in New York, relationship with his daughters, and each episode weaves observational stand up sets in and out of the developing story.

Louie headquarters, West Village

We are set to shoot soon, so there will be more to come!

W

Say Yes

    The past two weeks I have been in rehearsals for my first staged reading in NYC Yes! The Musical written by New York composer and Lyricist Earl Wilson Jr., and Eugene Gwozdz whose credits include The Princess and the Frog, Thrill Me, and the upcoming musical with Anika Noni Rose, Morgan Street.

Yes! is directed by the beautiful choreographer and educator Mercedes Ellington (above), granddaughter of Jazz legend Duke Ellington, and produced by the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts. The piece is centered around an imaginary meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King and Barack Obama and features music in the styles of Gospel, Contemporary, and Country. When I first saw the breakdown Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, which explores a meeting between Dr. King and a maid the night of his shooting, was going into its closing weekend, so I was inspired to audition.

You never know what to expect when going into a reading as the piece is in a constant state of revision. Overall, it has been a process of listening; discovering who I can learn from in the room, where I fit in, and when I can really shine.

More coming soon,

W

Me and Mr. Jones

Over the past few weeks, I have had the immense fortune of auditioning for Bill T Jones’ upcoming production, Super Fly, based of the 1972 Blaxploitation classic of the same name.

The original film was directed by Gordon Parks Jr. (Son of Shaft director Gordon Parks Sr.) and starred Ron O’Neal, Carl Lee and Sheila Frazier.

It’s a standard example of the genre, that deals with sex, drugs, taking down the man, street life, and above all features an amazing soundtrack done by the great Curtis Mayfield.

You got the feeling that people really cared about this call. People were excited, and ready to fight to the bitter end. Given the material and creative team, it is the type of project you really want to involved with

The Tony Award winning Mr. Jones is the creator of Fela! and choreographer of Spring Awakening. He has done a lot for the industry over the years, and from my brief time in his presence I can say that he is an artist of great integrity and ferocity.

I think my stomach fell through the floor when he shook my hand. Hopefully he didn’t notice. 🙂

Fingers Crossed,

W

Eyes on: Rogan

On a little break from the hustle of auditioning and coaching, we stopped by Rogan to visit friend and fellow wildcat Vivienne So who works for the company.

Rogan, founded in 2001 by Rogan Gregory and Scott Mackinlay-Hahn and is located in Soho.  The space is great, open with simple design.

Likewise their current collection is all about simplicity and functionality. Wonderful textures, modern shapes, clean lines, very sexy, and well adapted to urban living.

The leather ware, bags and accessories were all top of the line, some made by local designers. I noticed a lot of earthy browns, silky greys, and beautiful cremes.

Two of my favorite pieces were actually the same dress, but each in a different pattern; a knee-length knit dress with long sleeves, boat neck front and scoop in the back. Very comfortable, easy to wear and feminine.

I would say that Rogan’s clothing is a great representative of what is hot on the street in Manhattan right now. You see a lot of women in similar shapes and hues.

Vivienne in flight 🙂

When asked about what she was looking forward to most out of Rogan’s Spring collection, Vivienne replied:

“Colors, textures, new shapes and fun. We are getting some great dresses in corals, blues, organic cotton and hemp. There is this desert storm, Mad Max feeling with the collection.”

At least we know where our spare money will be going!

#addiction #fashion #don’tjudge!

Vivienne is a New Yorker via Hong Kong, Toronto, and Chicago.

W