“Hello, Denzel” has become a greeting for the epitome of sexy, smooth-natured manhood – in honor of actor Denzel Washington. On Sept. 17, fans of the 60-year-old star will be greeted with insightful stories and anecdotes about his work on stage and on screen for “An Evening with Denzel Washington” – the kick-off to the 2015-2016 season at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California. The public can register for the free livestream online HERE! The event will be at 7:30pm (PST)
The two-time Academy Award and Golden Globe winner and winner of a Tony Award – was one of five artists named as artistic advisors for the Wallis season. The event, now sold-out and set to be streamed lived, is the first in a series of “Arts & Ideas: Conversations at The Wallis” and will feature Washington in conversation with “Notorious Ph.D” Todd Boyd.
The Am I Black Enough For You? author will have a spectrum of topics from which to choose. Noted for this pioneering work on media, race, cinema, Hiphop culture and sports, Dr. Boyd is professor of cinema and media studies at USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Katherine and Frank Price endowed chair for the university’s Study of Race and Popular Culture. His course “Race, Class and Gender in American Film” has been listed as one of the Top 10 classes at USC.
http://kevonstage.com http://vimeo.com/ondemand/fatherhood https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/growing-up-black-the-movie/x/3751094
The evening with Washington at The Wallis will demonstrate just how “sexy” his career his been since his Hollywood start in the 1981 Carbon Copy. The Fordham University graduate, who majored in drama and journalism, has acted in more than 54 films and portrayed several real-life personalities, including: drug boss Frank Lucas (American Gangster, 2007); poet and educator Melvin B. Tolson (The Great Debaters, 2007); football coach Herman Boone (Remember The Titans, 2000); boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Hurricane, 1999); Muslim minister and activist Malcolm X (Malcolm X, 1992); and South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (Cry Freedom, 1987).
His slave-soldier role in the 1989 drama Glory earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while he took home a Best Actor award as a corrupt cop in the 2001 Training Day. Washington became the second African American to win the Best Actor category, following Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field, 1964).
Washington is set to direct the film version of August Wilson’s Fences in which he starred on Broadway opposite Viola Davis during 2010. His other stage appearances have been in Julius Caesar (2005); Public Theater’s Richard III (1990); and an Off-Broadway Negro Ensemble Company production of Charles Fuller’s A Solider’s Play (1981). For the latter, he won a 1982 Distinguished Ensemble Performance Obie Award for his role “Private First Class Melvin Peterson.”
Basically, Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of all time. If there is any doubt, comedians and “Denzealots” W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery host a podcast via Wolfpop called… “Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of all Time Period.” Since the first episode – “Getting into the Denzelishness” – in November 2014, the show has the mission to prove that statement while featuring guests, “Denzel News” and review his films. All Wolfpop shows are available for free listening and download.
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle. Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.
Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days. I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan. The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.
Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream. But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself? Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire. What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.
Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend. There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity. Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.
Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows. Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.
Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed. Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.
This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.
Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.
Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed. We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked. We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.
It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy. Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family. The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.
Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions. I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice. I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted. I left changed.
For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth. For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative. For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.
We thank you Mfoniso. We thank you.
Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.
Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.
As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!
Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th!
Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.