When I wrote my first play, I’m An Actor, They Don’t Get It, I challenged the audience with answering a question: How do you live in LA, pay the rent, and still audition?
After living in LA for a while I quickly learned that my college degree was not going to help me in terms of securing a job that would pay me for my level of education and offer the flexibility I needed to be able to audition. It’s impossible to be two places at the same time and audition notices usually come through last minute giving you minimal time to prepare or ask for time off of work.
One can only get sick so often. Family members can only ‘die’ so often.
Artists often find themselves on a constant job hunt and teetering with being able to pay the bills and creating freely.
I spent so much time worried and heart-broken because I chased my dream and had virtually nothing to show for it. I would write and produce plays and catch rides with cast members to rehearsals. I have slept at my job and even had a short bout with homelessness in LA. Five years after putting pen to paper and hitting the stage to perform in I’m An Actor, They Don’t Get It, and traveling 3k miles to live in Atlanta, GA, I think I finally found the answers. I have put some of them in my FREE ebook that I encourage you to download and share with everyone you know who many need it: 5 Ways to Make Money as a Starving Artist. This is my gift to the artist community. I pray that 2015 leads to a prosperous year for you all.
Today was a special day for me because it marked the day I officially released my first published book, I’M AN ACTOR, THEY DON’T GET IT, a stageplay I wrote five years ago and over time became my ‘brand.’ I invite you to experience the written word because I’m not sure when I will produce another run now that I’m not living in Los Angeles. The book is available on Amazon, Kindle, and this website if you want the ebook. Below are my acknowledgements:
This play was an experiment of energy placement. The idea began over lunch with a friend after I was cast in a rickety play in Hollywood right after acting school. I was frustrated with the director’s ability to make money despite the lack of showmanship and effort put into the production. We could barely call it a production. During an intermission, I challenged myself with writing a better show. I knew it couldn’t be any worse than what I was already experiencing. I had a concept in mind before I went back on stage but by the time the run of show ended, my relationship with my friend had unraveled. I was crushed and felt abandoned. We pledged to takeover Hollywood together and now I had to tough it alone.
To keep my mind off my loneliness and heartache, I vowed to write every time I started feeling down on myself. I deliberately focused on placing my energy in a positive place. I finished the entire play in two weeks. I didn’t own a computer at the time so I wrote at work, on receipts, and on friends’ laptops until I flushed out every thought. I’d like to thank my boss at the time and fellow actor, Fred Fate along with my Los Angeles family, Alaisha, Shoniqua, and Niana. You all supported me through the first draft and all three runs of this play.
When I finished the play, my pain wasn’t cured so I figured I needed something else to channel my energy towards. I started looking for theatres. I ended up at a small theatre on La Brea that was in worse condition than the one in which I’d first performed. The owner didn’t care what we performed as long as he got half of the ticket sales. I signed a contract and immediately held auditions. The casting process was fascinating. I met so many actors who inspired me to command rooms and roles. I was impressed with the talent. I pretty much collected everybody I wanted to be around. Because the show is devised of monologues and vignettes, I didn’t have a set number of actors in mind. I just kept I fell in love with. We started with 16 actors and ended up with 12. If you’ve never done theatre you know, that’s a lot of people in one cast!
We set out to produce a great show. I wanted it to be so entertaining that the audience would not have time to look at their programs. We had a diverse, talented group of singers and dancers. Going to rehearsal was exciting even though I had no idea what I was doing. I just remember wanting the production to tell a story that no one would forget. I wanted to give my family a reason to visit L.A. and be proud of me. I wanted this story to speak to every actor in Los Angeles who was finding their way. I wanted my actors to speak words they liked. I realized putting together a show was more than writing a play. I knew nothing about stage design. Luckily, I worked for a theatre program so I was on the hunt for students who were studying exactly what I needed. I’d like to thank Ismael Corona for making the heavy props. I recruited Brande Crockett to be my Stage Manager. She was young, reliable, smart and also had a car, something I didn’t have. She was committed to the play and I was lucky to have her. Alaisha, who I affectionately refer to as Mamalaisha, became my Assistant Director. She did everything I needed her to do and more. We rehearsed for six weeks and before we knew it, it was showtime. I was nervous so I walked to the theatre, which was less than two miles from my house. I couldn’t risk waiting for the 212 bus and being late. Mamalaisha and Renee collected and sold tickets at the door so I could pace the hallway in peace. I didn’t cast myself in the first show because I didn’t want my acting or directing to suffer. At the time, I wasn’t too sure I was good at either. As a favor to my cast, I decided to focus on directing and producing.
I secretly cried when the first run was over. We managed to get some reviews and even performed at the NAACP Theatre Festival. We all became really close to one another and I didn’t want it to end. I graciously thank my first cast: Marc, Tyler, Kyoko, Jasmine, Rebekah, Rachel, Nicole, Jillian, Mandela, Everett, Danette, Parnia, Alvin. Thank you Shoniqua for giving the singers vocal direction and Ashlee Katrice for the choreography. Thank you Kristian Steel for all of your help with the technical details and the LACC Theatre Academy for being an incredible resource. Thank you Jasmine Greene for producing the soundtrack for the play. Thank you Kevin Chaney, JaLisa Sample, Jey Holman, and Makeva Jenkins. Georges Etienne, thank you for donating graphics. Drico, you never wanted to be mentioned but you always supported me and I thank you for giving me everything I needed to make this play a reality. I’d also like to thank Teresa Dowell-Vest. I learned so much from you being my director during my last semester of acting school. You are incredibly talented and it changed the way I viewed the stage.
2009 was a magical year for me. During the time between the first and second run, I was introduced to a woman who would become one of my mentors, Joy Bryant. I want to thank you for telling me repeatedly that I am DOPE. And I thank my sorority sister, Asia, for believing in my craziness and introducing me to Joy. Thank you for taking a chance on me, Emil. You’ll never know what my Essence column meant to me. My column was appropriately named: I’m An Actor, They Don’t Get It. Mamalaisha was there to proofread my articles along with so many others. Katie, Ashley Blaine, Reggie Reagor, my sisters, Kiana and Kesha, Jemier, Guerline and everybody else I have tricked into proofreading my Essence blogs - thank you!!!
I maintained the same cast through the first and second runs, but decided to deliver an all-black cast for the third run. We secured The Stella Adler theatre on Hollywood Blvd and the experience was one of the most challenging things I have ever endured. I joined this show as a performer and maintained as the Director and Producer. Needless to say, this show was my entire life. The third cast was strong and tolerated things no cast should ever have to. For your patience and commitment, I thank Jermaine, Owen, Tristan, Alex, Whitney, Dayna, and Raquel. Stan Harrington, you were amazing to work with. Thank you Danielle Hobbs, our choreographer. Pegah, Tami, and Ursula, thank you for all of your help! I also thank the Beverly Hills Chapter of the NAACP for all of your support over the years.
Ultimately, I think this show became a huge business card for everybody. I cast the actors but we all did a bit of everything to make the show a success. It allowed me to be able to show all of the wonderful things I wanted to do in my career. I had the chance to grow and work with some of the most talented people I have ever met and before it was all over, I got that friend back and so much more. De’Garryan, you were never able to see a run of the show, but thank you being at my first play in Hollywood and sticking around even though it wasn’t great. Thank you for formally introducing me to acting that day in Bills Bookstore, you give me confidence. To my family, thank you for always supporting me. I know y’all still don’t get it but you love me anyway and that’s all that matters. I know I have a lot of people loving me from St. Pete, Florida! Thank you Justin Hires for being my friend and always looking out for me in Cali. I humbly thank everyone who supported this show in any form or fashion. Because of this play, I got the chance to be pulled in a million creative directions. I found love and support in places I thought I’d never find them. As I look back on the woman I was in 2009, I make myself proud. I was daringly ambitious and possessed the audacity of hope. As actors, we need both ambition and hope so badly. I hope this play gives a spark of fire to every actor who reads or performs it. I hope this play lends some empathy to those who are not performers. In the end, I hope you get it.
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