When I was a Kid…

A Little Background

I’m from Gary, Indiana which, at the time was the start of my theater experience in so many ways. We couldn’t listen to any secular music, dance, watch cable or rated R movies (at the time, there weren’t any ratings, but stuff like Porky’s or National Lampoon was out of the question). I am the second child of six girls. No boys in the family. And don’t even ask…both of my parents had all of us! Anyway, as a kid, we used our imagination a lot. From our basement puppet shows in the doorway of our laundry room, singing in the fan (“Transformers, more than meets the eye”), watching old musicals (Bye, Bye, Birdie, and anything with Doris Day as the lead), karate flicks, homemade movies with such original classic theme songs like “Sit back and relax and eat your blood!” (Really, I’m not making this up.) We’ve learned how to play wood wind instruments to string, to even six…no five part harmony (Danielle really couldn’t sing, bless her heart!).

Follow the Leader

As a kid I remember wanting to be the the leader in everything we did. If were playing school, I wanted to be the teacher, actually i wanted to be the principal so that i could carry a paddle and smack people around. If we were playing doctor, I was the doctor, the lead cop in Cops and Robbers. I even formed my own presidency in 4th grade. I became president of my class and made paper desk tags with my name on it. I had a VP and other subordinates. You’d think that i was in charge, no thanks to the mean cousins Arlena and Norvella Smith but that’s a whole ‘nuther story, and this one is winning in length.

Dear Momma…

It was my momma who had her hand in getting us to do this stuff. My mom was great at coming up with ways to make our home more “artistic.” We didn’t have the means, to go to all of the plays, dances, or museums at all. As a matter of fact, I only remember one play that I actually went to as a child. And that was at eta Creative Arts in Chicago. I remember sitting in the front row, trying not to enjoy myself. Mainly because I was afraid that if I “got into it” then I’d get a big whooping when I got home.

High School & College Years

By the time I made it to high school, I became enthralled in chemistry. I had no intention of being on the stage. I was a quiet, smart alec nerdy, high school student. My first production in a play was The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe. When I got on that stage, something transformed. I was made anew, like being baptized in holy water!

In college, it began as an acting class here and there and turned into a major. I felt empowered, important and I had a voice. My freshman TA told me that I should consider directing. She said I had such natural instincts and if I channeled it right, I could be a brilliant director. I started a theater company while I was in school and went on to produce 5 plays while I was there. I lived on the 9th floor of the library because that’s where I could find all of the black plays.

My Calling…

I’m not the typical theater person. I didn’t go to any acting schools, summer camps or anything related to acting. I was a natural ham. I asked my mentor why do people do this “theater thing?” My mentor says that people fall into three categories; The Spiritual Enlightened “Called” Theater Artist, The “I’m-Actually-Good-at- Something,” Artist or lastly the “This is Just a Job!” Artist. This is my calling, it was written in my journey, long before I arrived.

What Can this Site Do For You?

I’ve envisioned this site as a place solely for DIRECTING! I don’t know if you know this, but there aren’t really any sites dedicated to the art of Stage Directing. This site will be a place for directors, artistic innovators, visual artist, actors, and designers to find out what really goes on in a directors’ head. There will be videos, interviews and podcasts. Thanks for reading my trip down memory lane and how I’ve made it here. Check back for daily information! The Boss has Spoken, see you soon!

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4 Comments

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  1. Very interesting blog. I’m looking forward to seeing more about the Circuit. Since I’m not a stage director I don’t know how much I can contribute (anything meaningful anyway). But you know me, I always have something to say.

    Oh I forgot….first!! lol

    Be Well…

  2. Can’t wait to read more!!

  3. Occasionally, when I go out to plays, I’m struck by how poorly terms like, “Ya’ll get out from roun’ heyah,” are often articulated. After a while, I began to realize that most of the Black actors cast in virtually any role at all are forced to sound out diction and vernacular that is totally foreign to their everyday speech. If you went to private school and then graduated from Columbia College, Juliard or NYU, you might not have spent enough time on a cotton plantation or steel mill to really pick up the appropriate lexicon. My sister Andi is a phenomenal actress and has long encouraged me to try my hand at writing parts for black actors that reflect everyday experiences and communicate with normal, American speech patterns. Hopefully, I will be able to use the TofuChitlin platform to work some ideas out.

  4. thetofuchitlincircuit July 30, 2008 — 12:44 am

    Thank you all for leaving your comments! Mr. Earles, I appreciate your comments. There are several things that you brought up that I would like to address.

    Speech?
    The vernacular of the plays that you’ve seen sound like a Tyler Perry type of play and are small portions of what makes up “Black Theatre.” Unfortunately, those are the ones that have great marketing strategies and tons of support. They “speak” to a large portion of the Black Community because the vernacular is familiar.

    Direction?
    Acting is transforming, many actors in general albeit, Black or White have to “transform” themselves into a character. Which might include a dialect of some sort. No actor is “forced” to speak a certain way. I believe the director plays a huge part in shaping a play based on the playwrights’ world.

    Playwriting?
    These plays wouldn’t exist without the playwright. They create the language, the setting, conflict, characters, and etc. What tends to happen in the Black community is that most of the plays aforementioned, are from writers, actors, and directors with no previous training. They think it’s “easy” to write something on paper and present it to an audience.

    What needs to happen are people like you and others that will challenge the audience, the actors and the community to hear works that articulate the other portion of the Black community that may not speak or experience things in that way.

    I appreciate you for finding ways to bring those experiences to the stage and I look forward to reading your work!

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