Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Spotlight On...Laiona Michelle

Name: Laiona Michelle

Hometown: Springfield Ma.

Education: MFA- Brandeis University,  BA- Alabama State University  

Select Credits: Theater: First National Tour- The Book of Mormon. Nominated Best Lead Actress for the  Halen Hayes Awards in the Arena Stage production of Yellowman. Recipient of NAACP for the Regional Tour of Constant Star. TV/Film: "Law and Order" (SVU & Criminal Intent)

Why theater?: I've always enjoyed exploring within my imagination and I also always have been intrigued with culture and human behavior. I'm that girl that can people watch for hours. To me there is something very tangible about the theatre that I truly love. There is nothing like going to a live performance and becoming engulfed with the atmosphere and entire experience. I just love the process of making art.

Who do you play in Amazing Grace?: I play the principle role of Nanna, a house slave from Sierra Leone.

Tell us about Amazing Grace: Amazing Grace is the story behind the song based on the life of John Newton, a horrific slave trader from Great Britain that becomes enslaved in Sierra Leone. He is given a second chance and finds redemption.

What is it like being a part of Amazing Grace?: It is really thrilling to be a part of such an important piece of art. I'm so excited to be making my Broadway debut.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: All forms speak to me when the work is honest but I love working on dramas and the classics. I am inspired by both of my grandmothers, Bernice Smith who was a missionary and Anna Weaver who worked most of her life as a maid. I am also inspired by woman in the industry that are trail blazers creating their on paths: Tonea Stewart, Odetta, Viola Davis.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I love Shakespeare and I would love to someday play Lady Macbeth. I love the Greeks so I hope to someday play Electra, and I would love to have the honor of portraying Nina Simone and Odetta (The folk singer) on stage. Lastly if I had my way I would rule my own land in "The Game of Thrones". Everyone in my land would be a reflection of me with dark skin and bald heads. Yes!

What’s your favorite showtune?: “I'm Here” (Color Purple), “Defying Gravity” (Wicked).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Denzel Washington and Sean Penn.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The name of my bio pic would be called "My Conversations with God". The role of God would be played by Oprah. The role of myself would be played by Kimberly Elise and Cicily Tyson.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would have love to see Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original version of Raisin In the Sun.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Everyone MUST see Amazing Grace!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Jamaican style Oxtails, Red wine and black coffee.

What’s up next?: It's in God's hands.

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