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David Alan Grier Gives A “Massa Class”

Malia West

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The cowardly lion has shed his mane! Last week, David Alan Grier stopped by A&E’s Black & White to share some pro-acting tips. The actor stopped by the show to highlight the night with a little humor and reflect on the days of acting past. When asked about opportunities for people of color at the start of his career he said, “I’ve been acting over thirty years…There were nine hundred fifty thousand black folks fighting for all those Roots roles and all that kinda stuff.”

Grier, who most recently starred in NBC’s The Wiz, is a veteran of the acting community. He is no stranger to shedding light on social issues. He’s graced the Broadway stage in both Race and Porgy & Bess; two Broadway classics that highlight issues of social justice and race. When asked to give aspiring actors some adivice Grier took the road less traveled and introduced us to David Alan Grier’s MassaClass. Grier promised to prepare actors to depict slaves worthy of the Chiwetel stamp of approval.

Whether you need to lift newborns into the high heavens or stand up to the white man, Grier’s got you covered. He nailed each and every stereotype that saturates Hollywood today. His comedic timing is made even more relevant when compared to the trifling decisions made in casting meetings every day. (I’m looking at you, Prince of Egypt).

Grier, as an actor, boasts a diverse career. He’s known for playing an array of characters on his variety show In Living Color, his rich contributions to dramatic acting and hilarious celebrity impressions. Although his career has been plentiful, Grier acknowledges the limited opportunities that are being offered to performers of color. “I feel like we have more opportunity across the board.” he responded when asked about diversity in acting, “We’re not where we should be, but we’re halfway there.”

His segment was pointed and honest in its depiction of the acting world. His outspokenness shows us that there is more work to be done, and there is no better time than now. Brilliance doesn’t stop at the end of a white page, there are stories about black people, for black people, that go far beyond slavery. Let us tell them.

This segment aired during the 2nd episode of Black & White on A&E Aug 03, 2016. The series aired 3 episodes total. You can watch them all HERE.

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TV Land

Cynthia Erivo Visits The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Tristan Halstead

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Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo was all smiles when she paid a visit to “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on July 28th.

The comedian and host of the satirical news show on Comedy Central spent a portion of the interview fanboying over Erivo’s stunning portrayal of Celie in The Color Purple.

They continued to discuss the audiences’ reactions to the show, Erivo’s nerves on Tony night, and her many interactions with Oprah Winfrey, the musical’s producer, and original onscreen-Celie Whoopi Goldberg.

Having already seen the musical in January, Noah confessed that her acting was so convincing he didn’t realize she was a UK girl coming over to the US “to play a Southern girl,” thus prompting Erivo to sample some Southern twang.

Rumor has it Erivo wished to play one of the male roles in the Broadway smash Hamilton, a leap she isn’t opposed to. In addition, she’d like to see Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr until July 9th, as Celie.

They discussed the culture shock of the disparity of roles in the US vs. UK, with Erivo revealing there’s more of an opportunity to try new things than in London. “Brexit will help with that,” quipped Noah.

They went into depth about Brexit, and Erivo described her Nigerian-born parents, her mother’s move to the UK, as well as her childhood.

Noah wrapped up the interview by asking Erivo, “Are you crazy?” in awe of her ability to run a half-marathon, perform two shows, and her intense workout schedule.

Erivo challenged Noah to an arm-wrestling contest — naturally, she obliterated him.

Watch the entire interview here.

“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” airs weeknights on Comedy Central at 11 PM ET.

The Color Purple currently plays at the Jacobs Theatre.

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Inspiration

Jenifer Lewis Sings #InTheseStreets, Shares Life Lessons With The Cast of Shuffle Along

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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I will start this off by saying, CAN SOMEONE WRITE JENIFER LEWIS HER OWN BROADWAY SHOW?

We are lucky to be in a Broadway season that is filled with diverse stories, and a time where social media reigns. Without the two of these things, we might have blocked our blessing by missing Jenifer Lewis sing and slay #InTheseStreets with the cast of Shuffle Along.

Yes, you heard me correctly, Jennifer Lewis and the cast of Shuffle Along SLAYING the hilarious impromptu #InTheseStreets. A song that was originally sung with Brandy and Roz Ryan.

The visit doesn’t just end with Ms. Lewis sharing stories of how the song originated or showing off her dancing skills. Lewis also spent time backstage to offer words of wisdom.

After singing their praises she asked if the cast was happy, which they all replied enthusiastically yes. “Do me a favor,” she says. “This is nice and all, but take care of each other.” Simple, yet important advice I think can be applied to anything really.

While Broadway is known for its great spectacle underneath it all is a family.  A community that needs every single person to be doing their job to the best of their ability. It’s not a one-person show, it’s a collaborative effort to ensure they are putting on the best possible show out there.

Jenifer Lewis got her start on Broadway fresh out of college in the production of Eubie! It means even more to her, we’re sure, to see a show that, in part, pays tribute to the rise of Eubie Blake. She also saw Book of Mormon this same day. Lewis was last seen as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray on the Broadway stage.

Check out the videos courtesy of Shuffle Along powerhouse Amber Iman below.

Sidenote: Auntie Jenifer STILL GOT IT.

 

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Celebrity Takeover

Lupita Nyong’o Wins April Fool’s Day With Prank On Eclipsed Broadway Cast

Andrew Shade

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I am still crying tears of laughter as I write this. You have to watch this new video of Lupita Nyong’o, currently starring on Broadway in Eclipsed, as she pranks her castmates. I would never have guessed that she was this funny! It takes a special kind of person to be able to pull off an unexpected April Fool’s prank and Lupita proves once again just how special she really is. This is HE-LARRY-US! Watch the entire video we found posted to her Facebook below as she allows each cast member (and a stage manager) try her specially made truffles. You’ll never guess what’s inside. HAHAHAHAHAHA!

You win April Fool’s Day, Lupita! Thank you for this!

Lupita Nyong’o, Saycon Sengbloh, Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, and Zainab Jah play the roles written by playwright and actress Danai Gurira. Zombiephiles may know Gurira from her groundbreaking role as the sword-wielding Michonne on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” series.

The play, set in 2003 near the end of the civil war in Liberia, is about the survival and resilience of a group of women who are captives of rebels fighting the government. Nyong’o, who made her Academy Award-winning screen debut in “12 Years a Slave,” stars in the role of “Girl,” the youngest of four captive wives of a rebel commander.

Eclipsed seeks to promote empowerment through telling the true story of African women in the midst of struggle— the Liberian civil war. Experience the power of women exposed. Experience the joy within a struggle. Experience the reality that war is real and desperately needs to be stopped. Experience the power of women. Get your tickets now HERE

 

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Broadway Black TV

Renee Elise Goldsberry talks Hamilton on Late Night With Seth Meyers

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Last Monday night talk shows were filled with #Blackgirlmagic and #BroadwayBlack magic. Not only were we treated to Audra McDonald talking Shuffle Along on Fallon, right after on NBC the dynamic Renee Elise Goldsberry made an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler in the Broadway smash hit Hamilton  visited Late Night with Seth Meyers to talk about the show and its recent performance on the Grammy Awards, among other things.  In the clip below, Goldsberry hilariously explains how she didn’t even know that she also won a Grammy until a few days after the telecast.

In the next clip  she tells how she almost didn’t audition for the show (I’m so glad she did, I can’t imagine another Angelica!) and how it was the first demo for her song “Satisfied” from creator Lin-Manuel Miranda that made her go for it:

In this last clip she tells how it feels to be accepted by the hip-hop community as a rapper (a woman acutally stopped her on the train to ask her if she was a rapper!), especially after the cast participated in the BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher last year:

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A Must See

We We There: DOT At Vineyard Theatre

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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New York City might have been extremely cold the night Broadway Black went to see Colman Domingo’s Dot, but inside the Vineyard Theatre was a story that was sure to warm your heart.

From the start of the show, you can tell there is something not quite right with Dotty (Marjorie Johnson), the spunky matriarch of a black, middle-class West Philadelphia family. At first glance, it seems like her oldest daughter Shelly (Sharon Washington) is being overdramatic and being short with her mother for no reason, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a good reason for her stressed-out behavior. Dotty shifts from being mildly entertaining and funny to slightly forgetful and upset. She repeatedly asks her daughter what time it is, retells stories to their visitor, and it’s clear to the audience she’s showing increasing signs of Alzheimer’s.

To make matters worse, Shelly can’t get in contact with her two other siblings Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore) and Averie (Libya V. Puch) to help bear the burden of keeping tabs on their mother. It isn’t until Shelly’s breaking point that Donnie finally arrives with his husband, in the midst of their marital issues. Moore truly brings Donnie to life, as we see him struggle with what he wants out of his relationship with Adam. There’s also a heartbreaking moment with Johnson, that requires Donnie to literally put himself in Dotty’s shoes, and the results are some of the strongest acting moments on stage. Averie soon comes after, her diva-like presence certainly brightens up the mood of the show and her character offers some of the plays most hilarious lines. Puch could easily over-do the extravagance of the character, but she plays her with humor, truth, and vulnerability. I’m sure everybody has an Averie in their family.

The standout performances have to be from Washington and Johnson alike. For me they were the most relatable, it was like seeing my family on that stage. Johnson’s Dotty was funny, lucid, mean, warm, loving, vulnerable and Johnson was able to play all of those emotions with such truth. It never felt like you were feeling sorry for Dotty, but you were able to empathize with how she felt about the situation. I think often times when dealing with dementia, the caretakers are so caught up with how they feel about the situation they don’t consider the perspective of the person who is actually dealing with the situation. That’s the case for Shelly. Washington played the part of the overstressed and micromanaging oldest daughter who still lives by the “I know what’s best,” mentality. There is a moment where her headstrong character indeed gets a crack in her armor and Washington plays it with such a natural child-like vulnerability.

Dot also features Colin Hanlon as the likable Adam, Finnerty Steeves and the neighborhood friend Jackie, and Michael Rosen as Dotty’s home-care provider Fidel.

I never would have thought I would use the word hilarious to describe a play where the lead character struggles with dementia, but it only seems like an appropriate adjective for this show. I’m reminded of a quote I was told by my grandmother once, “you laugh to keep from crying,” and with Dot I admit I actually did both. Even through the comedic moments, Dot never felt like it was tackling the issue lightly or making fun of the seriousness of dementia. In fact through the humor of the show it felt more real. Dot was funny, messy, rude, heart-wrenching, and all too familiar if you’ve ever had to deal with the deteriorating health of the family matriarch. And like any family, even though there are problems, the love you share for one another trumps all else, and by sticking together you’ll get through it.

Dot is playing at the Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street New York, NY) until March 20th, tickets can be purchased here.

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Broadway Black TV

Audra McDonald Sings Yahoo! Answers On Jimmy Fallon + Talks Shuffle Along Broadway

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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I just knew when I saw the tweet. Jimmy Fallon couldn’t have the remarkable Audra McDonald as a guest and not do a Yahoo! Answers. As usual, I was right. On Monday night’s “Tonight Show,” Jimmy had the six-time Tony Award-winner sing replies to real Yahoo! Answers to questions like, “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” and “Whatever happened to Ja Rule?” Quite honestly, it’s one of the most brilliant things the show has given us, as searching through Yahoo! Answers is one of my favorite pastimes, having Audra and Jimmy make a cabaret act out of them is even better.

Later, McDonald sat down to talk about the highly-anticipated new musical Shuffle Along, and explained the historical significance of the show (it broke many barriers including being first to feature jazz in musicals, feature black actors, and even have black audience members in the orchestra seats). She also talked about what it’s like learning choreography from tap phenomenon  Savion Glover (she swears she’ll have it together by the first preview).

As a bonus, The Tonight Show blessed us with another clip where McDonald recalls some of her tales from backstage while doing Porgy and Bess and 110 In The Shade, which includes dog poop and ladybug tattoos.

Check out the videos below and if you haven’t already, get your Shuffle Along tickets here. Previews start at The Music Box on March 15th, and officially opens April 28th. Trust us, it’s a show you definitely don’t want to miss.

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