Director Russell Andrews Talks Diary of Black Men: How to Love a Black Woman
"Yeah, I bet I disgust some of you black women out there, but every boy out there on them streets wants to be just like me. A player. An entrepreneur of bodies." That's a line from the pimp character in theDiary Of Black Men: How to Love a Black Woman.
The classic underground-hit play won the first ever NAACP theater award and has toured everywhere from New York to LA, and London for the past 25 years. It was supposed to open at the Gusman this Friday, but the theater says it's been canceled. Still, it's an interesting piece of theater so we'll run our Q&A with director Russell Andrews, and hope they reschedule a Miami stop soon.
Andrew says, "The play deals with male and female relationships from a black
man's perspective through six different black stereotypes. It's the
precursor to all these men runnin' round in dresses and shit -- Madea stuff. I ain't mad at them, but that's not where we're coming from."
play is known to elicit strong emotional reaction from its audiences. In an early scene, a frustrated, out-of-work character slap his woman to
the ground. Andrews says "Flawed as the characters may be, they all
have the potential for change. Each comes from a place in the black
human conversation. The black family is in a state of crisis. We piss
people off, but at the end what we put on stage is love, honor, dignity,
responsibility, integrity, values that never change, and that's why the
play has sustaining power."
New Times: What's the play's origin?
Russell Andrews: It was originally a poem that author Thomas Meloncon wrote for his wife years ago that he performed for her as six blacks stereotypes: the black muslim, the militant, the throwback player pimp, the young club hopper, the worker, and the professional. Each of them present their vision of how to love a black woman.
What's the show like?
Unlike anything you've ever seen. This thing is riveting. Call and response
happens spontaneously, our audience gets engaged in the spiritual element. The audience is not always 100 percent black, but we do very grassroots marketing at barbershops, churches, restaurants...South Florida has always been very good to us. There's a big wonderful finalee performed all in African garb with crowns as we recite the poem called "How Do You Love A Black Woman." Everybody likes it, but it's not that it doesn't piss people off.
There's a line (about Oprah) that says "Ms. Winfrey, you...shook your ass on national television in front of millions, yet you blame me for your problems." It's like, here's reality, you allow that shit to happen to you.
What's another good line?
Well it's starts out like this, "I'm the most talked about animal in America. The Black Man." This thing so cold, matter fact, people will hear things being said on stage they only wish they could say. It's profound but it's not profane. Cats wish they could walk up to their woman and say some of this shit, at least attempt to say it, have some kind of accountability.
What do you think about all that Tyler Perry type stuff?
I ain't mad at them. This is a business to get money. I know and work with some of those people. But we don't put infidelity up on the stage for people to judge. There's nobody cheating here, no broken heart, no grandmamas and stuff, no punk up there taking off his shirt. I can't see how people buy into that. But I guess when there's a lack of entertainment....Man, one time we had a producer, brother with money, who wanted to invest, but hadn't seen the work. He asks me to explain it to him, we're having a conversation, he says, "These women don't wanna hear tha ol' serious shit." He didn't invest. We're trying to move this kind of information in our social consciousness man. They don't
wanna hear that serious stuff? Y'all go on and laugh. Feed that shit to
your kids. Pour sugar down their mouth.
Look, it's a tough economy, nobody necessarily needs to go see a show, but when they get fed this information...this is as significant as anything out there. That's why London, New York, Dubai, Houston, and Miami are all on the schedule and why we're negotiating to go to Ghana, West Africa.
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