Broadway premiere directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
With Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon J. Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson
Only one of the plays in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s masterful The American Century Cycle has never been seen on Broadway – until now. Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. MTC has a long history of co-producing works by this legendary playwright: King Hedley II, Seven Guitars and The Piano Lesson, and is proud to produce this Broadway debut.
“What if I don’t get from the audience what I want?” the stage actor John Douglas Thompson asked.
“It’s because you didn’t bring it,” Christopher Bayes, an instructor at the Yale School of Drama, said. “It’s never the audience’s fault. You have to love that thing you brought. Otherwise, you brought an abstraction. You try. You sing badly, but you try.”
Stage Secret by Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker, May 21, 2012
Below are few exchanges from a profile of classical actor John Douglas Thompson, who’s learning clowning from Yale Drama School professor Christopher Bayes. This profile – along with Broadway Sizzle, which is documentary-like in its faithfulness to musical theater workshops – remind me of the work, sacrifice, and fabulous diva drama that can come along with acting:
“You have to start singing little songs about things as you do them,” Bayes said. “A washing-the-dishes song, or It’s recycling day. Be open to the possibility of lyricism…When you run to the subway, and you just make it, and the doors go bing-bong, you need to say, ‘Sweet!’ so everyone can hear you in the car. And when you miss it, say–” “Fuck.” Bayes shrugged. “I liked to say, 'Aw, nuts!’”
…“What if I don’t get from the audience what I want?” Thompson asked. “It’s because you didn’t bring it,” Bayes said. “It’s never the audience’s fault. You have to love that thing you brought. Otherwise, you brought an abstraction. You try. You sing badly, but you try.” “And failure?” “The more you love something, the greater the possibility of tragedy,” Bayes said. “I’ve brought something that isn’t understood, it fails, then there is the effort to reestablish it. Or you begin to cry.”
…“Find a sense of play,” Bayes said. Thompson seemed unsure. “There’s certain parts of your talent that you have confidence in,” Bayes said. “Right,” Thompson said, brightening. “That’s not what I’m interested in,” Bayes replied.