Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spotlight On...Afrika Brown

Name: Afrika Brown

Hometown: Hillside, NJ

Education: Kean University

Favorite Credits: I’m a playwright and screenwriter so I’m not quite sure how to answer this.  I guess Strange Fruit Redux because it was the first time I took on the task of directing.

Why theater?: Theater gives the audience an intimate experience that brims with energy and emotion.  Each time it’s different because the audience is different.  I find it utterly amazing to share my work in a live environment.  Anything can happen and that knowledge creates its own type of magic.

Tell us about Strange Fruit Redux: Nathan Strange is a 25-year-old visual artist out of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn who is on the verge of becoming the latest sensation in the NYC art scene.  While working on his final painting, Nathan expresses his views about black culture and what it means to be black in the new millennium moments before a confrontation with NYPD.  Strange Fruit Redux is a series of poem monologues mixed with music and sio-political, pop culture sound bites geared to show the fears and frustrations of the modern day black man.

What inspired you to write Strange Fruit Redux?: Wow…that is such a complex answer.  The title began as an art exhibit I wanted to curate, which I still may do very soon.  The show itself was inspired by what almost seems to be an epidemic of black men and women dying by the hands of police or in police custody.  Eric Gardner’s death enraged me, but Freddie Gray’s death struck something deep inside of me.  I knew I had to do more than just march in the streets.  I knew I had to use my voice as an artist to create a work that could be thought-provoking and could inspire dialog and hopefully change.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am drawn to the kind of theatre that stirs the soul or creates a one-of-a kind experience.  I love the kind of theater provides a memory that you can carry with you for the rest of your life like a great meal at a five star restaurant. I have been inspired by lots of people, but my first and most indelible inspiration is my father.  I was born later in my dad’s life, when he was middle aged.  He was born in the depression era; people of that era were far more practical than we are.  People from that era grew up doing what they had to do instead of what they wanted to do.  My father was a great creator that never got to live out his true purpose in this life.  It is my vow to him and myself to live in my truth and do what I believe is my life purpose.  I owe him that, I am an artist because of him.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Spike Lee.  He is my idol.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  Fuerza Bruta: Look Up.  I thought it was an exciting, unique theater experience.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would either be Mary J. Blige or Angela Bassett and the movie would be called "Shenanigans" because that would be the title of my autobiography.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The original West Side Story, it’s my favorite musical bar none.  However, right behind that would be A Raisin In the Sun with the original cast.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Toll House chocolate chip cookies.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A lifetime patient in an insane asylum.

What’s up next?: I would like to take Strange Fruit Redux on a national college tour.  I have received great feedback from college students, and I think it is the best venue for the show.  Also, I’m working on a new show titled Slow Bullet, My Three Loves that will make its debut in Manhattan in May, along with shopping/pitching my movie scripts.  Maybe one day I’ll get to sleep.