I’ve been off enjoying summer and biking and all the good stuff that comes with sunny days. But I’ve also completed two plays that I started and worked on many, many moons ago. “Masters of Spin“ is based on an incident that happened at Morgan State University back in 2001. I kept a newspaper clipping or two because I thought it’d be a fascinating event to dramatize. Essentially, it shows what happens when a black public relations firm gets accused of discrimination by a historically black university? I try to make arguments for and against what the firm tried to do, and I attempted to be a fly on the wall inside the PR firm. I see it as a very intimate story, and imagine how it may have all played out on a personal and social level. I think the smaller cast allows for a far more individual perspective, and hopefully an audience can “dive” into the issues by connecting with the characters instead of just the headlines. The essence of the play revolves around issues with black hair. This is no small issue, since black hair is such a humongous business. There are proponents of natural hairstyles, and there are those who have no problem with all varieties of hairstyles, fake or otherwise. If it had been a white PR firm, the drama would be much more stereotypical, and there’d be no controversy. But, things take a different tone when it’s your own people. You recognize the reflection in the mirror, and — surprise — it’s you.
It’s a four character, full-length play that turns things a bit topsy-turvy. It also looks at developments that an African-American public relations firm might have on their plate. Some of which are real events, others I invented, but I think that ultimately, nothing presented is THAT far from real life. We rarely get to see the backstage machinations behind local news stories, that are full of so many machiavellian twists and turns. Would any of us be surprised to see what a Royal Scam things actually are? My guess is “nyet”.
“A Momentary Lapse Of Comedy” started off in one direction, but has been through a complete overhaul. I’ve always loved the idea of people stuck on a plane, who have to come grips with something hard and real about themselves. Well, in this case a “closet” comedian went and performed at a comedy club but didn’t inform his wife about it. No biggie, you say? Ahhhhh, but what if it was indeed a biggie? And what if the comedian’s two other friends knew about it, but didn’t tell the wiffee. And what the other friends are close friends who are now stuck on a plane when all this “comedic” news breaks? There they are: the wife, her comedian husband and the other couple who knew. As domestic-in-nature as this situation may appear, there’s another story going on. The comedian’s friend, who pushed him into the performance, has another motive — he also fancies himself a performer and the play actually takes a dramatic turn centered around this motive. There’s an “ugly something” that enters the world of this play, and I think it escalates the level of “relationship,” to another plateau. What if your supposed BFF had certain beliefs that filled you with disgust. You’ve known them for many years, and never knew that this THING was living inside of them? Would they still be your friend? Could you overlook? Accept? We make these choices in real life all the time. Mentally, sometimes we clean house and some people don’t make the final cut. Maybe they’ve been there for us in a thousand ways. But now that a door to a new room opens, do we walk forward or walk away?
These plays are in my PLAYS BY ALONZO area. I intend to load a bunch more.
Next week, September 13th, Waxter Wisdom will be doing a profile I wrote about a month ago. I’m thrilled it’s finally coming about. In reading about Ray’s life, it was soooo much more complex than I knew about. D’uh.
Even though the movie does do him justice, imagining a blind, black man making his way as a musician is almost an unfathomable situation. But, if you know a little black history, you know that we’ve always walked in the footprints of trailblazing folks. And Ray didn’t just “make it,” he imparted such a grand style. He had so many hits, so many signature songs and took a very genuine leap into country music. I sit here at this moment and still marvel at the breath and scope of his impact. In writing these profiles I’m continually blown away at the magnitude of genius African-Americans have contributed to the world. If you’ve ever seen a picture (or film) of Dorothy Dandridge, Ray, Oscar Micheaux, Little Richard, Eartha Kitt —
— (Eartha, above) you’ll be struck by the appearance of someone who knew how special they were, and how special THEY thought they were. And they were dead on the money in knowing that.