Historic Figures in “Sound of Freedom”

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In B Street Theatre’s current Family Series production of Martin Luther King Jr. & The Sound of Freedom, many people who stood along Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement are highlighted. In this blog, we’ll go into detail these figure’s acts of bravery which changed our country forever

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Rosa Parks & Claudette Colvin 

Rosa Parks became a figure head for the Civil Rights movement on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She became known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement as her one decision started the Montgomery Bus Riots. But Rosa Parks was not the first person who refused to move.

At the age of 15, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on March 2, 1955. She told the bus driver who was attempting to remove her from the seat, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right.” Colvin was arrested on several charges, including violating the city’s segregation laws, but Claudette Colvin fought back through the legal system.  Along with four other plaintiffs, Colvin took the state of Alabama’s segregation laws to court in the Browder v. Gayle case. Colvin and the other plaintiffs won, and the federal government deemed that segregated buses were not constitutional.

Claudette Colvin moved to New York City in 1958, but continued to write about the unjust laws which kept African-Americans from advancing in society. In an interview with Newsweek, she said, “”I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat.” She, along with Rosa Parks, began the fight against segregation in Montgomery, Alabama.

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Fannie Lou Hamer 

Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer was a crop sharer for most of her life. She settled in Sunflower County, Mississippi with her husband ‘Pap Hamer’, who drove a tractor. On one fateful day, while walking by the Ruleville, Mississippi town center, Fannie Lou saw a sign posted by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and decided to investigate. She joined SNCC and worked as a field worker on the voter registration committee. The committee worked on preparing blacks to read and write so they could register to vote. Seventeen people tried to register and were turned back one day. When her boss was informed of the drive to register, he threatened Fannie Lou and her family with expulsion from the plantation. She left that night and stayed with friends but it wasn’t long before her location was discovered and she and her friends were shot at that night by the KKK.

She refused to back down. In 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed because no help from the Federal Government regarding the right to vote was apparently coming. The party registered 60, 000 new black voters across the state of Mississippi. Delegates from the party were sent to the 1964, Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey where they challenged the seating of the Mississippi delegation.

Fannie Lou took the opportunity to describe to the convention, and to the world, the horrific way she was treated after they left the voter registration workshop in Charleston, South Carolina in June 1963. She said that on the way home, they were hungry and wanted to stop at a Trailways bus terminal in Winona, Mississippi for food. Fannie Lou decided to stay on the bus while the others went into the terminal. They were not served but were arrested. She was also arrested. She was taken out of her jail cell and placed in another cell and, under the orders of a State Highway Patrol officer, was beaten by two black prisoners with a police blackjack—ordered to do so unless the prisoners wanted far worse punishment. The first prisoner beat her until he was exhausted. The law enforcement officer then ordered the second prisoner to beat her. It was three days before members of SNCC were allowed to take her to the hospital. Fannie Lou told the convention that as a result of this beating, she suffered permanent kidney damage, a blood clot in the artery of her left eye, and a limp when she walked. Her riveting testimony to the convention informed the country about the treatment blacks were receiving at the hands of whites in the state of Mississippi and the rest of the south.

Fannie Lou Hamer continued her activism, as she led the cotton picker’s rebellion in 1965 and was instrumental in helping to bring a Head Start program to her hometown of Ruleville, Mississippi and was involved in other programs throughout the state. Fannie Lou was a Democratic National Committee Representative from 1968-1971. She ran for the Mississippi State Senate in 1971 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972.

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James Reeb 

A minister from Boston, Massachusetts, James Reeb was one of many northern clergymen who heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s call on March 8, 1965 and headed down to Alabama to march for freedom. Reeb was known in Boston as a minister who challenged his congregations to acknowledge the injustice African-Americans faced in this country and to do something about it. He turned his words into actions when he ventured south to face these oppressors. He was a part of the group that began the march to Selma, only to turn back when violence faced them.

That same night,  a group of ministers went out to dinner at a place called Walker’s, one of the few racially integrated restaurants in the area. While others departed by car after dinner, Reeb and two other Unitarian  ministers, Orloff Miller and Clark Olsen, left on foot. The three headed, side by side, to the chapel where Dr. King was to speak. James Reeb walked on the outside, nearest the street. They had not gone far when four or five white men came at them from across the street. Frightened, the three walked faster. They realized one of the men had a stick. When the attackers reached the three ministers, one swung his heavy stick and smashed the side of James Reeb’s head. Miller and Olsen were beaten and kicked on the sidewalk. When the attack was over, it was clear that Reeb was seriously hurt.

They called an ambulance, but because the driver of that ambulance was black, the police refused to help Reeb and it took several hours before he went into surgery. He would die on March 11, 1965.

The death of James Reeb caused nation-wide outcry over the violence in Selma. President Lyndon B. Johnson immediately sent the Civil Right’s Act to the Congress floor. Reeb’s sacrifice shed a light on the brutality which opposed the basic liberties that African Americans were fighting for. Dr. King, instead of appearing for the signing of the Civil Rights Act, went to Reeb’s funeral and gave a moving eulogy for the minister who gave up everything for the liberty of his fellow man.

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Martin Luther King Jr. & The Sound of Freedom closes with performances Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 PM. Get your tickets now and come see this important and moving play. 

 

 

 

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Jahi Kearse plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Company Member Jahi Kearse returns to the B Street Theatre to make his debut in the Family Series as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Martin Luther King Jr. and The Sound of Freedom. Kearse met with Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill to discuss the play and his close relationship with the B Street Theatre.

What is MLK & The Sound of Freedom about?

MLK & The Sound Of Freedom is a show that illustrates the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. It isn’t just about Martin Luther King Jr, but it is rather about the people and moments that inspired Dr. King and many others who answered the call to help usher the United States into a more inclusive way of existence during a troubled time.

Why is this an important story for kids?

This show is very important to kids because it shows just how powerful young people can be when they come together, in the hopes of challenging unjust circumstances & changing the hearts and minds of the world they are a part of.

How does putting this story in a theatrical experience emphasize the important lessons of the Civil Rights Movement?

Theater is an art form that helps us all remember how powerful human connection is in a time where virtual conversations and communications are at an all time high, we are reminded that we can all reach out to one another in real life! Person to person, face to face, hand in hand!

This is your debut in B Street Theatre’s Family Series. What makes you excited to do theatre for children?

This is my debut in the Family Series!!! YAAAAAY!!!!! Theatre for young audiences excites me because, I began my theater career in children’s theater. I have seen for many years how much of an impact this art form can be for young audiences! Young people soak in theater like it’s air!

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You’re about to perform in the Broadway production Ain’t Too Proud. With everything going on in your life, why do you make it a point to return to the B Street Theatre?

First off, B Street is my family! I am such a fan of the bravery, energy, passion, and joy in which B Street Theatre dives in to each and every show! That is what I look for in my theatrical work. I have worked very hard for a long time to be a part of work that matters to both me and the world and my upcoming Broadway show, Aint Too Proud… The Life & Times of The Temptations is in the same spirit of all the shows I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in here at B Street!

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What’s a story from Sound of Freedom that you did not know about before you went into rehearsal?

I was unaware of just how many young people were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. So many young people made a stance at a time when they honestly could have been, and maybe should have been, deathly afraid for their own safety. I hope to be remembered as a man who was even nearly as brave as they were.

You play Martin Luther King Jr in the play. What are some of your favorite MLK quotes?

I have a lot.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

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Come see Jahi in Martin Luther King Jr. & The Sound of Freedom, which opens this Saturday to the public. 

The Creation of B Street Theatre’s “House on Haunted Hill”

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When we announced our 2019 season in June of last year, among the exciting titles like Fun Home and A Doll’s House Part 2 was another familiar title with a vague playwright attached. Below House on Haunted Hill it simply read, “B Street Company.” With the play set to open Friday, it’s time we reveal some of the secrets to this premiere production based on a classic Vincent Price horror film from 1959. The following is an interview with Artistic Producer, playwright, and actor Dave Pierini on the process behind this new work.

Dave, when did B Street Theatre decide to produce our own adaptation of House on Haunted Hill?

Last summer, when we were putting together the 2019 Season, we had selected six out of the seven plays we would produce, but couldn’t find the right play to start off the season right. So, Buck, Jerry and I began talking about stories in which we could adapt in the fashion of Around the World in 80 Days and The 39 Steps, fun theatrical adaptations of beloved stories, that our company of actors always performs well. So we began looking at pieces of literature and discussed some titles, and nothing was clicking. And then one day, I looked up movies that were in the public domain, and House on Haunted Hill was on that list. I mentioned it to Buck, and he pointed to it and said “I remember this movie. I watched this as a kid. It scared the hell out of me. We should adapt this.”

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How long did it take for the play to get written?

Well, I initially started around late June, early July of 2018, when we made the initial decision. I just watched the movie over and over again, and had found the original screenplay and looked to that for inspiration. The first draft took me about two months.

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How much does this adaptation take away from the original script and how much does of the story is new?

The basic story of the movie is still there. I mean, why mess with that? What we wanted to do with this adaptation is make it wildly entertaining while staying loyal to the original film. You can’t put—what Buck likes to call—the murderers row of comedy actors on our stage and do a straight-up adaptation. Our audiences want us to enhance the humor and enlarge the story. My job as the playwright was to provide a canvas for Buck to create all the creative bits and ideas which he is prone to do. We enlarged some of the personality traits of the character, and I limited the amount of locations. My job was to make a clear, simple story so that Buck could easily add his own creativity to the story.

How has it been like to be the playwright and also one of the actors in the play?

I don’t recommend it. It’s hard, because, in rehearsal, I’m constantly listening and thinking about the script, when I’m supposed to be focused on acting. That’s difficult. The fun thing is when stage management gives me a line note, I can just tell them, “Oh no, that’s a rewrite.”

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What’s this play gonna be like for our audiences?

They can expect a classic B Street comedy; similar to Around the World in 80 Days, The 39 Steps, Big Bang, the comedies that made B Street Theatre so popular in this area. A big grand story, with some incredible comedic talent onstage. And I hope they’re a little scared.

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B Street Theatre’s House on Haunted Hill opens Friday January 11 and runs until February 17. Come see Dave Pierini, along with Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly, Greg Alexander, Elisabeth Nunziato, John Lamb, and Jason Kuykendall in this hysterical adaptation of the classic 1959 horror film. 

Georgia McBride: In All Her Glory

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Jon Kovach is a talented actor from New York City and is playing the titular character in Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill met with the actor to discuss drag, reprisals, and Sacramento.

Where are you from? 

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, raised in the suburb of West Chester. I moved to NYC in 2015 and have happily lived there since.

What was your first experience with drag? 

My first experience with drag was during my senior year as a Lakota West Theatre student in high school. A recent graduate was returning home for the weekend, and it was rumored that he had been performing in drag. Everyone is a product of their own environment, right? I joined the theatre program late in high school, and before joining, my exposure to anything other than straight-white-conservative was limited. My friends laughed when I asked what “drag” meant, and that weekend said graduate showed me. He was in the bathroom when I arrived to my friend’s parent’s basement, and 25-30 minutes later she came out in full beat (drag make-up), a long blonde wig, womanly curves hidden under a stunning dress, lip-syncing to a bad-ass pop-diva of the time. I remember being confused; why is he doing this? I remember believing that said graduate must have gotten breast implants (I was wrong, it was padding). I remember being embarrassed for looking at her breasts. I remember her dancing close to me, and touching my face. I remember being uncomfortable, and shortly thereafter kindly excusing myself from the event. This opened up a great dialogue with my friends about learning from that discomfort, and growing to be more open-minded. A few summers later, after moving out of my hometown for college, touring the US with a rock-band, and exposing myself to much beyond West Chester, I was performing in Band Geeks! the musical at Human Race Theatre Co. in Dayton, Ohio. Remembering my experience from high school, I tentatively followed our ensemble to a drag show after one of our performances. Surely I had grown, right? Drag queens danced close to me, touched my face, and shoved my hand into their padded breasts when I offered a dollar bill. I still didn’t “get it” fully, at first; the spirit of drag, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was curious as opposed to confused. Using my theatre training at Miami University to discern performance choices I asked myself: why lip-syncing as opposed to just singing? Why so much make-up, and overly-bright clothing? Why am I enjoying this so much? Then it clicked. That joy is why. The freedom that drag brings to the audience, the performers, and to myself is why. A freedom from reality, singing without any limitations of what live bodies/voices allow. Freedom from societal gender norms, constraints, clothing trends, and practicalities. Freedom from the discomfort of a homogenous closed-minded upbringing.

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Jon Kovach in Hippodrome Theatre’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride

You’ve done this show before. What is it like to return to play this role again? 

This is my first time reprising a role, and I am enjoying it more than I thought that I would. Typically, I am cast in a role 1-2 months in advance, then 3-4 weeks of rehearsal, then 3-4 weeks of performances. On this schedule, I am given enough time to form a solid character by opening night, and to be confident in my choices by closing. When the show closes, I may stop working on the story, but the story continues working on me. Meaning, problems/goals will happen in my life that imitate what happens in the script and on stage, and I am able to use what I’ve learned from working on the play in order to solve a problem/achieve a goal in my own life. So I return to Casey at B Street with a much better understanding of the character and the story than I ever could have been able to the last time I performed the role at The Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, FL last year (a performance I am also very proud of). And, funny enough, this is the second time that I am playing Casey, but the third time that I have gotten an offer for the role. I was offered the part in Fall of 2016, but turned it down at the opportunity to work at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA in Abigail/1702. So, Casey and The Legend of Georgia McBride have been sitting with me since I read the play the first time in Fall 2016, and I’ve never rolled into an opening night feeling more confident in understanding a character, a story than I am for this performance.

Are you enjoying working at B Street Theatre? 

I have thoroughly enjoyed working at B Street Theatre. What a treat to perform in such a beautiful brand-new facility. The staff is so dedicated and passionate to balance so much programming at the quality they produce. This is the hardest-working and most-diversely-skilled intern company that I’ve seen in a regional theatre. Our director, Jerry Montoya, said early in our rehearsal process that B Street focuses mainly on finding strong actors, and that has shown. Between the performance that I caught in Ironbound and the actors that I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with in The Legend of Georgia McBride, this theatre knows how to pick actors.

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What are your impressions of Sacramento? 

My time outside of rehearsal has been limited. This show is physically and emotionally draining for me, Casey goes through quite the journey. What I have seen I’ve really enjoyed. I caught a drag show at Capitol Garage, and had great vegan food during vegan chef challenge month. The bicycle costume parade on Halloween sure was fun. I went for a hike through the river access at Watt Avenue which was fantastic. The weather this time of year is to die for, 80’s around noon and 50’s at night is supreme. Also the variety of plant life if stunning, how can one climate foster evergreens and palm trees?

Why is this show relevant in 2018? 

To briefly echo some points I brought up earlier: it is always important to encourage open-mindedness, to express joy, and celebrate freedom. One of my main concerns in 2018 is the continued push-back against civil rights. Why has the White House chosen to remove any/all LGBTQ terminology from their website/database? Why has the White House recently refused to recognize trans persons’ gender identity? Why does the Republican party continue to endorse a candidate proudly claiming nationalism (rhetoric strongly used by members of the KKK, Neo-Nazis, & white supremacists; groups known for oppressing, beating, and murdering LGBTQ persons)? Drag is different than LGBTQ, straight people perform in drag all of the time, but drag is closely connected to the LGBTQ community, and providing exposure to the LGBTQ community in any way is positive for society. We must continue to fight for LGBTQ rights and representation.

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Drag Queen Anita Cocktail

Who are some drag queens that inspire you? 

Anita Cocktail in Provincetown, MA, is incredible. I worked with Anita’s creator Mike Steers at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theatre. She’s quite the queen, and hosts a benefit drag show every year for the AIDS foundation. I am recently quite the fan of Mercury Rising, right here in Sacramento, CA. She is endlessly charismatic, witty, has fabulous costumes, and can perform the best death drop (a well-known and incredibly difficult drag dance move) I’ve ever seen.

If you created your own drag persona, what would she be named? 

Miss Tracy Mills from Georgia McBride says to make a drag name on-the-fly use your mother’s birthplace (Sharonville, OH) and the name of the first girl you’ve ever kissed (Brittany Leeland), so I’d start with: Sharon Leeland. That would probably develop into a play on the name Sharon and the word “sharing” to something clever like: Sharon Secrets, Sharon Abed, or Sharon Undies.

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The Legend of Georgia McBride continues on the Mainstage this week and runs until December 9. Come see Jon and the rest of the cast find their inner queen. 

Miss Rexy: Rival of “Georgia McBride”

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In their debut with the B Street Theatre, Kevin Kantor plays Miss Anorexia Nervosa, a talented young drag queen who challenges Georgia McBride. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill met with Kevin to talk about the show, drag queens and more. 

Where are you from?

I am from Denver by way of Chicago, but I’m currently based in New York.

What’s the earliest time you can recall drag or drag queens?

I, like many a young queer boy, wore out the VHS tape of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin in the titular role. I’d say that was probably my earliest memory of and definitive precursor to my affinity for challenging the notion of what gender should or can be. My first experience with watching live drag as performance was growing up going to the bars in Boystown in Chicago.

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You’ve done this show at other theatres? What’s it like to perform the play again?

It’s been a wonderful experience to rediscover this character with a new family and in a new space. So much of a drag persona can be built around their fabulous wardrobe, so I must tip my wig cap to Gina, our costume designer, who has me feeling simply beautiful. And I truly love playing this character. I’m always excited to be playing queer characters, complex, three-dimensional queer characters who get to survive their own stories and celebrate their existence. She has hard-fought battle scars, and I love being able to showcase that you can be resilient but not at the cost of your humanity.

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Kevin Kantor in Hippodrome’s Theatre production of The Legend of Georgia McBride 

What are your impressions of the city of Sacramento?

I can’t wait until we’re open and I can actually do some exploring, but thus far I’ve had a wonderful time at my four main hangs: the theatre, Urban Fitness, the Safeway at Alhambra, and the Starbucks on N and 26th. (Maybe don’t run this answer haha.)

Why is this show relevant in 2018?

This show is truly for everyone and it is a celebration of joy—more specifically, I believe, an invitation for everyone to celebrate queer joy and chosen family. The Legend of Georgia McBride is a show so full of love and light and it actively welcomes people who may not consider themselves part of or initiated in the queer community, and says ‘We love you. We want you here. We want you to celebrate with us,’ while also realizing and paying respect to the hardships that the queer community had to overcome to earn this space, and at time, fight for our lives.”

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Drag Queen Sasha Velour

Who are some of your favorite drag queens working today?

Sasha Velour is one of my top queer icons, hands down. She’s a culturally-conscious, politically-engaged, wears gag-worthy fashion. She’s a queen we need in times like these.

If you personally had a drag persona, what would be her name?

Ana Tevka, a slutty Jewish shtetl bubbe that lip syncs to Jewish Holiday standard and smells like Werther’s Originals hard candies.

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Come see Kevin play Miss Rexy in The Legend of Georgia McBride, running now until December 9. Tickets available at B Street Theatre

Miss Tracy Mills: The Teacher of “Georgia McBride”

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Cameron Folmar has had a substantial career on Broadway and the best regional theatres in the country. Now, he’s making his debut at the B Street Theatre playing Miss Tracy Mills in The Legend of Georgia McBride, a role he played earlier this year at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill met with the actor to discuss the play, Sacramento, and drag queens. 

Where are you originally from? 

I was born and raised in the South, but I’ve lived all my adult life, since I was 23, in New York City.

What is your first memory of drag?

My first memory of drag: When I was five or six a second cousin (or some relation) of my dad’s came to visit us in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember he was gorgeous. At the time, it was common for women to wear wigs and my mom, who was in her early 30’s, had a couple. I remember coming down the stairs wearing a brunette wig with a flip and a knee length powder blue dress which, of course, was floor length on me. I sat next to the cousin (or whoever) and asked if he was married. I think I had a leather pocket book over my wrist, as well. He said, “No”, he wasn’t married. And I replied, “Well, I’ll marry you.” Nobody laughed. Everyone was very uncomfortable, including me. And I don’t think I was joking. As absurd as it was, given I was five or six, I think I actually proposed to this man I never met before or since. And I was in drag when I did it… in front of my parents.

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Cameron Folmar playing Miss Tracy Mills in The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis

You’ve done this show at another theatre. What is it like to do this play a second time? 

Ms. Tracy Mills is one of the finest written characters in any play that I have read or seen in a very long time. I played her this past Summer in Minneapolis and I’m so happy to be with her again now. My cast mates here are very different than the actors I played with before and I love them all. It’s a testament to the integrity of the writing that these characters can be personalized in different ways and still work so perfectly. I confess I was worried that I would cling to the way we staged it in the last production, but that has not proved true. The characters are vivid. They are put in specific places with specific tasks and needs… from that point, it’s a paradox, but the variations are infinite.

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What’s your initial impression of Sacramento? 

My first impression of Sacramento… my hosts. I am staying at the beautiful home of Chris and Julie Smith. They have allowed me to stay here while they are on vacation. The caveat was that I had to feed the cat. Well, the cat’s name is Gracie and we love each other. She cuddles with me every night and she sits on the couch with me every day. I couldn’t have been happier here with her sunning on the doorstep while I water the plants on a Sunday. She is my pal and I shall have to ask if I can visit after I move out. Also, I was and am enchanted with the trees! I was stunned to see palm trees next to Sycamores… Cypress next to Maples… everything grows here! And there hasn’t been a drop of rain since I got here on October 15. How can it be so lush?!

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Sacramento, City of Trees

Why is this show relevant in 2018? 

This play, at its heart, is universal. It’s about personas. Some are integrated very fluidly… and some spend all their time changing desperately from one to the other. It’s about embracing identity. The hope of crossing over.

Who are some of your drag queen inspirations? 

Lipsynka is my very favorite. Incredible. I copy her….

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Drag Queen Lypsinka

Tonight is the night The Legend of Georgia McBride officially opens. Come see Cameron and the rest of this amazing cast serve some fierce performances. Tickets on sale now.

The Return of Danielle Moné Truitt

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Danielle Moné Truitt was a prominent member of B Street Theatre’s acting company in the early 2000’s. Since her departure to Los Angeles, she’s had a prolific career which has included a starring role in the BET series Rebel. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill met with the actress to talk about her early days with B Street Theatre, her time in LA, and her return to the B Street Theatre stage as Jo in The Legend of Georgia McBride. 

Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA!

How’d you find theatre? 

My first experience with theatre was in 6th grade when I played Belle in Beauty and the Beast. We just lip synced to the movie soundtrack, but it was a full on production and was a lot of fun. I didn’t do a play again until my senior year in high school, but I have to say I officially caught the theatre bug at CSU Sacramento. I took a theatre class just for fun and my professor encouraged me to make theatre my major. The rest is history!

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Danielle Moné Truitt in B Street Theatre’s The Beggars’ Strike 

When did you first hear about B Street Theatre? 

I first heard about the B Street Theatre in 2005. One night I was driving home, and my phone rang. When I answered it, a guy named Buck Busfield was on the other line and he asked me to come  audition for one of their productions. I had never heard of or been to B Street Theatre before then.

Did that phone conversation lead to your first job at B Street Theatre? 

It did! Buck said that a guy named Anthony D’Juan had recommended me. So I went in, I met Buck, and I did a monologue that I’m sure was pretty terrible. But Buck thought I was charming and offered me the role. I became equity and shortly after that he made me a Company Member.

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Danielle in B Street’s Safe at Home: The Jackie Robinson Story

What were those initial years at B Street like? 

My first play at B Street Theatre was The Beggars’ Strike in the Family Series. It was fun and a great learning experience for me. I knew nothing about professional theatre. I also immediately felt like a part of the family. I knew the B Street would be a place that I could grow as an actor and where I could do great creative work and make relationships that would last for a lifetime.

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Danielle and the cast of B Street Theatre’s Go Dog Go

When and why did you decide to move to LA? 

It was always a goal of mine to move a pursue my career in an environment where there were many opportunities, but I just hadn’t made a decision on when or where. Since I started acting “late,” I felt like I was still learning. After working at B Street, I started doing theatre at all of the Equity theaters in town. I ended up doing A Raisin in the Sun in 2005 at Sacramento Theatre Company, and an agent from L.A came to see their client in the show. Afterwards, he invited me to LA for a meeting. He didn’t end up signing me but it sparked the thought that maybe if I moved to LA, I could have a shot at a career in TV and Film. Plus a sistah wasn’t getting any younger, okay?! So, I made the leap. No job, no agent, no manager. I had about three months of rent (I thought $3,500 would last me at least six months but I had no idea how expensive living in LA LA Land would be). It was probably the bravest thing I did at that time in my life, and definitely the best decision I ever made.

How has your life been since making that big leap? 

Well I moved out there to become a “famous actress” and little did I know that the attempt would take a lifetime. In the meantime, I married the man of my dreams and became a mommy, which is the most incredible role I will ever play in my life. I have two amazing sons.

Moving to LA to be an actress has given me a whole entire grown up life. I had to challenge myself creatively. I created and produced my own one woman play, 3 Black Girl Blues, with the help of my now long time friend Anthony D’Juan. I created a solo concert entitled Overnight Success. One thing I learned about navigating the industry is that you cannot wait around for people to give you opportunities. You have to define who you are as an artist and remain true to that. Over time, I got a great agent, and then managers and then a couple of more agents. I helped create the first African American Princess, Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog by performing her body movements and facial expressions for Disney Animation. I booked a guest spot on an ABC show and another role on a FOX show.

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Princess Tiana in Disney’s Princess and the Frog

And then a couple of years ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to star in my own TV show on BET called Rebel, and work with the legendary John Singleton and acting greats like Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson. Now I am signed with one of the top three agents in the industry and getting opportunities to audition for some incredible projects.

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Danielle in BET’s Rebel 

So, I’m still on the journey and I’m grateful for every triumph. I also have a life that is committed to serving others through me and my husband’s ministry, The Livingroom, plus other community events I’ve created and organized such as More Than a Hashtag and Be Eternal: The Thriving Artist.

Why was this the right time to return to B Street Theatre? 

Honestly, I have wanted to come back to do a show at the B Street for some time but it just didn’t work with my shooting schedule. Luckily, during the holidays, things are slow in L.A. Everyone is getting ready for the holidays. Plus, this is such a fun piece of theatre! I’m really glad to be a part of it.

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What has it been like to be in The Legend of Georgia McBride? 

It’s been a blast! I love working with Jerry Montoya. He has so much fun and is so passionate about creating real moments for us actors on stage. It’s also been pretty cool being the only girl in the cast. Watching Cameron (Folmar), Kevin (Kantor), and Jon (Kovach) strutting around in heels while I’m in a pair of flats  is awesome.

Why is this a good show for people to see? 

It celebrates inclusion. It celebrates life and new and wonderful discoveries. This world is big enough for all of us… and we all have a place in it.

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Come see Danielle in The Legend of Georgia McBride, previewing all this week and opening on Friday November 9. Tickets are available online.