Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in London is calling!!

So a few years ago, two to be exact, I went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrance Howard and Anika Noni Rose! And ever since, I've been jonesing (no pun intended!) for the opportunity to see it again on London's West End this time with Mr. Jones and Ms. Rashad along with Sanaa Lathan and Adrian Lester! Well, I'm about ready to make that happen.. but it reminded me of the review I wrote when I saw it back in 2008! Check it out...

Broadway Shines Bright with HU Alums Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad

in Tennessee Williams’ Classic

To witness “Black theatre” royalty, live and in full color, on the main stage is always a touching experience; but to watch a stellar African-American cast on Broadway breathing life into the embittered characters of the Tennessee Williams classic, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, is to witness Black history unfold in real time. On Sunday March 2, 2008, the Howard University Alumni Club – NYC collectively witnessed the first ever all-African-American cast of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Broadhurst Theater. The historic performance casted incomparable thespians James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad as the larger-than-life tycoon, Big Daddy Pollitt, and the robust matriarch of the family, Big Momma. Film star Terrance Howard made his Broadway debut as their troubled alcoholic of a son, Brick, while Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose played his hot-blooded, gold-digging wife, Maggie The Cat. Directed by iconic entertainer, Debbie Allen, the production also included Giancarlo Espocito as the elder son, Gooper; Lisa Arrindell Anderson as his wife, Mae who is expecting for the sixth time; Lou Myers (known for his Mr. Gaines character in the hit television series A Different World) as the Reverend Tooker; and Count Stovall as Doctor Baugh. Also marking her Broadway debut was the daughter of Terrance Howard, Heaven, as ill-behaved Dixie, the eldest daughter of Gooper.

The play’s central theme is “mendacity”, a word Brick uses to describe his disgust with the world and thus validation for his worsening drinking condition. In that underlying mendacity, deceit is shown in intricate layers through the family’s decaying Southern traditions as each member spins rumors and lies into some form of truth in their own twisted reality. The play alludes to the presence of homosexuality in Southern society at a time when no such thing would be considered acceptable or justifiable, and puts a spotlight on the complicated rules of social conduct between male friendships in this culture. It is through this complex and emotionally charged setting that we’re able to bear witness to the seeming joys, gripping tragedy and overall longsuffering of this family.

A Stephen C. Byrd and Front Row Productions, in association with Alia M. Jones, Walk Tall Girl Productions and AKILA WORKSONGS, Inc., founded by HU alumnus April Silver, the cast was gracious enough entertain the HUAC NYC group with an exclusive Talk Back session hosted by Fine Arts alum Mo Beasley. During the lively discussion, Bison audience members delved into the serious themes of the play as it relates to today’s young women, as well as tolerance to homosexuality. All of the cast members along with Ms. Allen were fervent to shed light on the idea of tolerance and longsuffering as depicted by the patriarch of the Pollitt family to his son, Brick. Ms. Rashad poignantly added that serious character analyses would benefit the young women of the audience to help them understand that there is more to the measure of person than being a fragment of one’s self in the shadow of another. The actress, beloved for portraying Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, added that this is the first time she’s played such an emotionally fragile character as Big Momma Pollitt.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Well.. no one said making dreams come true would be a simple task...

In response to my inquiry of whether or not I'd be eligible to apply to the Maisha Screenplay Writers Lab:

Dear Maisha,

Thank you for your email.

At present Maisha only accepts applicants who hold a citizenship from an East African country. We are focusing our limited resources to ensure we can make a impact on the emerging film industry in East Africa.

Wishing you every success.



so.. what does that mean? I simply have to find another way....

yay, Life!


I mean, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried... (a total *416* moment!)

So the VERY day that I start emailing friends to ask if they could refer me to screenwriting classes and workshops... I happen across the most [seemingly] wonderfully destined opportunity that just may be made for me!!! The 3rd Annual Screenwriting Lab which takes place through the MAISHA FILM LAB partners with the 4 Regional East African Film festivals for an 8-day Screenwriting Lab IN EACH of the target countries.

For each Lab, Maisha's International Reading Committee selects 9 participants based on their submitted screenplays (5-10 pages). 3 professional screenwriters volunteer their time to mentor the participants. At the end of each lab, the mentors award a production grant of $2,000 to the best screenplay. These funds are contingent on the Maisha's administrative team's approval of the winning filmmaker's shooting script, budget, and production plan.

The deadlines for 2010 start approaching next month and extend through August... Could this BE more meant for me??? :)

Check out all they have to offer:

Zanzibar International Film Festival
Dates of Lab: Early June 2010 (dates TBD) in Zanzibar Town
Due date of Application: Friday, March 26th, 2010
This will be a residential workshop; Maisha will cover the cost of the hotel and food for all participants. Participants must make their own way to Zanzibar.

Rwanda International Film Festival:
Dates of Lab: May 15th to 21st in Kigali, Rwanda.
Due date of Application: Friday, March 19th, 2010
This will be a non-residential workshop; Maisha will cover the cost of food for the participants. Participants will be expected to arrive at the workshop location by 8:00am and stay until early evening.

Kenya International Film Festival
Dates of Lab: Oct 16th to 23rd in Nairobi.
Due date of Application: Monday, August 2nd, 2010.
This will be a non-residential workshop; Maisha will cover the cost of food for the participants. Participants will be expected to arrive at the workshop location by 8:00am and stay until early evening.

Amakula Kampala International Film Festival
Dates of Lab: Early November 2010 (dates TBD) in Kampala.
Due date of Application: Monday, August 2nd, 2010.
This will be a residential workshop; Maisha will cover the cost of the hotel, and food for all participants. Participants must make their own way to Kampala.

Dates of Lab: Early October 2010 (Dates TBD)
Maisha presents this 10-day intensive workshop on the fundamentals of non-narrative filmmaking. 12 students are selected to participate. The first four days of the program focus on watching and analyzing documentary films and familiarizing the students with the equipment. The second half of the Lab is devoted to 3 groups of students shooting and editing their own short documentary projects.

Maisha offers production grants to local filmmakers who are making feature films. Recipients of this grant are required to take on Maisha alums as apprentices in the areas of development, production, or post production. The first director to receive this grant is Donald Mugisha, a Ugandan director working on his second feature film (his first, DIVISIONZ screened widely all over Africa and was featured in several European film festivals).


Details to be confirmed by January 15th, 2010.

So......................... I am officially planning to make myself available for one of these screenwriting labs!!! It's got to happen.. It's going to happen!!! Africa has been calling me for quite some time, and this is the perfect opportunity to make her acquaintance!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two Maishas, Two Continents, One Sweet Adventure of LIFE!

So, instead of continuing to, perhaps, daydream, plot, envision owning a house that is valued at half-a-million-dollars, which is a bit more than I can afford at any given moment, I've spent the better part of this day in communication with two dear friends of my youth from LA, Monica, who is currently in Houston, and Maisha, who is currently teaching in South Korea*. While I appreciate Monica for her pragmatism in relating to my lofty desires of owning a half-a-million-dollar property as a potential FIRST TIME homeowner, I am positively soaring on the complementary words of Maisha. Her thoughts and revelations during our email exchange were so poignantly encouraging and dynamic, I sought her consent to repost what she shared with me today.

It began with her expressing how "dreamy" I portrayed my current neighborhood to be :) and her desire to one day feel as comfortable in a place in which she resides. Having owned two homes already in her young 32 years, she's never felt the way about her adopted neighborhoods in the Inland Empire of Southern California as I've felt about my adopted home of Brooklyn, NYC. She completely understands my desire to want a place here to call my own. I responded that, yes, I am in love with my hood, but after talking at length with Monica I am reminded of the realities that I already know: that I currently don't make a whole lot annually by any stretch of the imagination as an adjunct professor, that I have educational and credit card debt that needs to be paid down, and that, perhaps, there is no need to rush into homeownership because patience always leads to the best opportunities AND clarity of choosing what opportunities you want to pursue. I also reminded myself that by continuing to pay low rent, I can be in a position to take a language immersion class in the south of France or Costa Rica for three weeks.. or take a screenplay writing workshop to develop the myriad ideas I have... or self publish, if necessary, if not definitely submit to literary competitions that have admission fees I've never been inclined to pay.. or go into the studio and record some more things musically that I have in mind, and/or QUICKLY pay off my credit card debt in a few lump some installments! All things I've thought of doing on a daily basis (for the better part of five years)....

Her response lit*trally blew my mind (!):

I know that hopping into homeownership BEFORE you have a savings and winging it can be chaotic after a while (talking more to my 27 year old self than you). I juggled balls the whole time I was a homeowner. I couldn't shop, stressed a bit, but I loved EVERY MOMENT of having my own space and being a homeowner until...well, until I didn't love it. When the stress outweighed the joy, it was time to roll. I'm more and more convinced that to live a life less ordinary, we must do things non-traditionally. Travel. Explore. Plunge. Live. There will always be rent/house notes, maintenance fees, housing taxes, association dues, etc. There will not always be France! I guess I did all the things I should have (finish college, get a job, buy a condo, buy a house) in the hopes of getting all the things I desired (the spouse, the kids, the happy life). Somewhere along the road, I realized that IF those things never happened for me, I still wanted (and was worthy of) a life filled with meaningful memories and a lil' adventure, dammit! Working 3 jobs to cover the overhead of a $380K mortgage was not the stuff memories are made of ;-)

I firmly believe - scratch that - I know that God is in control. He granted me favor to buy those places with ZERO money down and He will continue to make ways for me - whether it be in Asia, America, or Zimbabwe... Girl, if by 2011 you still want to travel, then GO! I will be right with you. If you decide you want to stay and create a little something wonderful on your quaint little block in Brooklyn, then stay. But I must tell you, the scariest moment for me in my 1,800 square foot house, was walking through it one day and wondering, "What if 10 years from now, I still have not been found by "the one." Will I be happy in this house - alone and away from friends and family? (At that time, 60 miles from LA felt like AWAY). Will I regret NOT going away to college, NOT living outside of California? And the answer was clear. GO!

I think you have an advantage because you have done "this" before. You have upped and moved thousands of miles away from "home," survived (and thrived) on your own, met interesting people on the subway, performed with celebrities on random stages, danced in the middle of a crowd, let your hair down. You are currently, though in your state of flux, living the LIFE some girls are somewhere DREAMING of!

Now, our stories, our paths, our trajectories are certainly distinct in nature, which is the way it's supposed to be. But I am soooo encouraged by her wherewithal to remind me that there is a beautiful life to be lived outside of the unconventional. (Something I very well know and ascribe to! Or at least would like to!) Say I don't buy a house while I'm young, and I do choose to continent hop for a while in the next few years as a single woman, isn't that the kind of adventure that dreams are TRULY made of? Just as relevant as settling down in a home with the love of your life, a great dane and a child or three? I've always, ALWAYS thought so. Even in loving Stuyvesant Avenue and not necessarily wanting to leave its comfortable stoop, I've always ascribed to the truth that the world is bigger than the city I'm in (be it LA, BK or DC- though I know neither BK nor DC are actually cities!) and it would be in my best interest to get out in it and play... build... work.. grow.. LIVE. Here, there, or where ever and with whomever that may be.

And so, I find it most enchanting that I am reminded of such things from a dear sister who carries OUR name of "LIFE" (according to the East African KiSwahili and Arabic Languages). More specifically I've read that it means, "ZEST for LIFE!" and this is really what we're both taking charge of! This is what we are living. So...






*For the record, I take GREAT pride in the fact that I was one of, if not THEE first person Maisha confided in her dream/goal to leave all she's known in Southern California behind and move to the continent of Asia for a year.. I was all for it! "Girl, you better GO!" I said without hesitation! And so, I am warmed at the thought that I played a small part in her overall journey to skip around the globe, and encouraged in her playing an integral part in mine! VIVA MAISHA! Live Life!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm all too consumed with

wanting to buy the property next door to my current residence on this charming little block of Stuyvesant Avenue. It is (at the very least, or is it very most) questionable as to whether I'd be eligible to prove being able to afford it at its current price, which, though seemingly high for the current buyer's market, I've been told by a realtor friend that the price is a steal for THIS particular goldmine block. The historic Stuyvesant Heights is what I've come to call home over the past five years. The only place I've lived by myself and the type of home I'd like to remain at for an indefinite amount of time. (i.e. the next 30 years!) I've always intimated that I would like to stay in my current apartment until it was time to move into a house of my own, that I OWN. Lord knows I hate moving.. Every year, when the semester came to an end at Howard, I dreaded moving out of the Towers into summer housing or storage at my cousin's house in Maryland. When I moved to Harlem from Los Angeles, I just knew I would stay on 144th and Hamilton Terrace forever and ever and always... But that last one year. Which led to the whimsical Stuyvesant Ave. (I like to tell the story about how my birthday is one digit more than my Stuyvesant Avenue address and one digit less than my Harlem address. Godwink? I think so!!)

I know there are most likely other magical places in New York City to live, and perhaps it is actually my own existence filtered through my own special rose-colored glasses that allow my living environments to seem so fanciful and full of whimsy; that is the reality in which I daily operate. But still, Stuyvesant Avenue. I love it here. I love the locale; it's just close enough yet far away from "The City" to where I can get their quickly if/when necessary, yet I can feel like I'm in a quaint neighborhood away from the hubbub if I never leave the block. And speaking of going to the City, I live directly across the street from the subway entrance... an EXPRESS subway entrance, Utica Avenue, which there is nothing I can say to express how significant that is. Inside the station are the most cheerful images of lively community in mosiac form. (The first time I entered the Utica Avenue station to come up and view my current apartment, I knew that I was going to live here simply based on those murals. They literally were a sign. I could see myself in those murals.) When you exit the subway you are directly inside of a park, Fulton Park; now it's not the largest park in Brooklyn by any stretch of the imagination, but things HAPPEN in this park that I love being around for...! Every summer into early fall there are shows, live music and djs, and a film festival that screens independent positive films on the Black experience, and then The Wiz every last Friday of August!! There are guys who play chess at the far end of the park during the warm months, and children ride their bikes up and down the path and cross the street to go to the playground on the Stuyvesant side. I like to watch the dog owners run up and down the park as well, and you really can just sit and read a book on the bench and feel totally at home if you please.

And speaking of home, this little block here has really become home away from home. The other households on the block have totally become my little five home community. Getting to know them over the years has yielded very warm familial relationships that I am not quite ready to walk away from. I enjoy Sunday dinners, birthdays, special occassions and holidays with them. We borrow from one another, ask for and receive help, babysit, bar-b-cue, watch movies, shovel each others snow, plant flowers and sit out on our stoops for hours in the summer sipping wine and greeting the other residents of Stuyvesant Heights with a smile as they come up from the subway after work! They are always reminding me that if I need ANYTHING to let them know, and if there is an emergency to please call. They called to check on me in California when word got out that my grandmothers had passed away and were concerned that I was not coming back when I'd been gone for a month. I love my neighborhood and I wouldn't want to leave it to go and rent another apartment elsewhere with the chance that MY quality of living may suffer. Of course you never really know. I had no idea when I moved here this was what I was coming to. I just knew THIS was *IT*. Like I said, I didn't want to leave Hamilton Terrace, especially with the care and concern I had in my super, Phillip Joseph. But it was time to leave, and then he actually died shortly after I moved away, so it was all in God's timing ending up here.

So, the same can be said about where I end up next. I can confidently reiterate that I don't desire to leave this block between Chauncey and Fulton Avenue at all. But you never know what is waiting for you if you don't move forward. That's not to say I'm considering moving off the block just yet, but I do realize both sides of the equation. If by chance the man I love asked me to leave Stuyvesant Avenue, I'd just as soon start packing.... Anyway, the residence for sale next door is a beaut, from what I can tell. I've been inside only once and audaciously thought, "This place is for me!" When it was for sale at $800k, the listing mentioned:

"...tastefully renovated to retain original details that include pocket doors, skylights, pier mirrors, magnificent floors and 10 foot ceilings, the upper floor houses a 3 bedroom apartment and the lower duplex is a 2 bedroom apartment with a finished basement. In move-in condition, this home is architecturally and historically amazing, hence its landmark status..."

So, again... I have no idea how I WOULD be able to get in this place.... but Lord knows I want it. And I've been daydreaming about who I could move in there with me to help pay the mortgage! I'm thinking about five or six other people! Or a family on one level and a couple of borders on the next, and me and Marcus in the basement... Who knows! This is the vision; I'm writing it and making it plain.

So, I'll talk to God about it and see what we can come up with.... because I really believe THIS could work!


(the next afternoon)

I do believe reality is setting in and I'm more apt to understanding that it takes more than a potential downpayment to buy, maintain and KEEP a house. A half a million dollars is lot of a struggling, single 30 year old, any way you look at it. Perhaps my next post will encompass the things I'd like to accomplish that I now may be able to instead of dreaming about buying a house I can't currently afford.

I still hold on to my dreams though, because more often than not I wake up and find that they are reality.