It’s a Sunday matinee of Passing Strange at Mixed Blood Theatre, the greatest theatre in the history of the galaxy (don’t my word, it says so on founding artistic director Jack Reuler’s phonemail greeting). Hanging with Reggie Prim, fellow writer and co-resident at Garage Mahal which he playfully dubbed the rooming house we call home. When the guy moved in, it was a breath of fresh air to finally bump into a kindred spirit of sorts (he’s crazy as a shit-house rat). So, anyway, we’re at Mixed Blood digging hell out a show that starts out like Sly & The Family Stone meets Hair. And turns out to reveal itself as a rite of passage for a middle class African American adolescent desperately seeking blackness. Which, for my money, is a richly compelling subject that has all kind of aspects to it that don’t get explored nearly enough. At half-time, I check in with Jack’s right-hand man Charlie Moore as to the run time and learn that contrary to last I heard from Reuler, when he had etched in stone the edict that no MB show will be more than 90 minutes, this bad boy won’t be over until I’ll already be late for work, ushering downtown at Def Comedy Jam, Comedy Def Jam, whatever the hell they call it. My boss didn’t hire me on CPT and don’t expect me to show up on CPT (Colored People’s Time: whenever you happen mosey through the door). Which means, have to cut Reggie loose, go on back to the crib and get ready to boogie at the j-o-b. Shit. I just knew I was gon’ catch up to cast member Brittany “Do Homegirl Got Range Or What!” Bradford who, the other time I saw her, also at Jack’s shop, played a naive, Polyanna-ish school girl. This time around, she’s a singing, hip-swinging superfox. Also was going to have Lipica Shah a/k/a “Ms. Kick Ass and Take Names Chops” scribble on a playbill. Damn. This is the second time I’ve gone out for intermission at a Tom Jones II-directed production. The last time, it was ’cause I hated Birth of the Boom (the man is a viable actor and pretty savvy a director as you’re apt to come by in the Twin Cities since Claude Purdy passed away Lou Bellamy, acumen long-failing, finally threw in towel, but playwriting is not his strongest suit). This time, I truly rued my habit of, when not reviewing, going to closing show of a run. Otherwise, would be able to call up, get a seat and go back. Fuck. Kick my own ass every step of the way.
It’s today. Brenda Bell Brown (Reggie calls homegirl B3) has lifted a press gag order: I can now noise it up that I’m in her film, Sing Blues, Thank You for which I showed up on location at some ungodly, barely post dawn hour with about two minutes sleep, having performed the night before to officially launch (shameless plug) Something I Said (Kindle/Amazon.com), which, if I say so, myself, didn’t do half bad in hard copy. As in sold the Papyrus Publishing, Inc. printing completely out.
That was April 26. Hungover like a bitch, eyes red as Dracula’s soul brother, arrive at airport looking like something the cat wouldn’t bother drag in. Called myself being in character as a street musician cum near-bum. Called it wrong. Brenda’s gracious. Has the wardrobe pro straighten me out (tucking my laundry-challenged Negro Baseball Leagues jersey under the sleeves of my black sweatshirt), has the makeup pro clip my raggedy mustache and powder my mug. Whereupon, I can’t resist quipping, “Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Nobody so much as chuckles. Oh, well. Decide to go sit down somewhere and behave myself. Which gives me the golden opportunity to hang with two professionals I’ll always admire. A bright-eyed, admirably apt, student intern with a warmly glowing attitude, Marshunna Clark. Whom Brenda dispatches to go get me a cup of strong coffee. The kid is maybe a third my age but can teach a whole lot of folk I know in the world of arts a thing or two. True professionalism ain’t something you get taught. I’ve said it before, say it now and will go to my grave saying, “It’s your attitude, even more than aptitude, which the end decides your altitude.” May don’t be an Old Chinese Proverb, but, sure as hell should be. And, accordingly, the kid has a promising future ahead of her. The other person is film’s lead Masanari Kawahara. You’d never know from how he simply sits around with a calm, friendly disposition, shooting proverbial shit – talking shop, joking about this, recollecting that – he’s profoundly accomplished and has chops to die for. He’s just that cool and down to earth. And, when Brenda calls him to his mark, the cat effortlessly shifts into character, making a tough job look easy as falling off a log. I’d be content – not to mention honored – just to be in the same space as Marshunna and Masanari. But, at length, Brenda has me earn my keep. I grab my guitar, go to my mark and do the old Rev. Gary Davis classic “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” as backdrop for Masanari’s entrance. Frankly, not bad for a film debut.
Get back to the Garage Mahal. Roll in and Butch & Sundance, for a change, yowl for catfood soon as I step in the room. “Y’all need to go get a job doin’ Friskies commercials.” Feed them, fire up the computer, tap a few keys, get nowhere fast on my deadlines, then figure, “Fuck it”. Lay down and sleep like the dead. Wake up, roll over and take a nap.
Still today. Wes, formerly of Minnesota Hott Radio, now of Chicago Hott Radio has consented to interview me on his, ahem, syndicated Internet radio program Smooth Jazz Radio. Which is going to be, trust me, interestin’ listenin’: ain’t neither one of us got the first bit of sense. He was, by the way, at the Something I Said launch, along with my girl Pearll Warren, her daughter Cheryl and Vickie Evans-Nash and Jerry Freeman from Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and my two favoritest editors (along with Adrianne Hamilton-Butler) in the whole universe. That’s gon’ be Monday, the 19th, 7:30PM at www.chicagohottradio.com. Got it?
Okay. Let’s see. What else? Brenda’s in post production (you can catch the trailer at http://www.ifpmn.org/sponsored-project/sing-blues-thank-you) and, while you’re at it, pitch in and help with expenses for the indie project – no donation too small. That’s about it for now. – dh