Thursday, 28 July 2016

Billie Holiday & Dramaturgy: Bonita @ Edfringe 2016

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) ​
 Aug 3-28 9.50pm

‘Whether you’re a Holiday fan or not, Bonita’s homage is a must-see!’ ( Lifetime member of The Actors Studio, Bonita has studied and worked with Academy Award winners Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Rydell and Al Pacino to respectfully name a few. Performing in over 70 plays, Bonita made her Broadway debut at Houseman Theater, starring with Charles Dutton in Unrefined. Her theatrical credits earned several NAACP Theater Awards, including a Helen Hayes Award nomination.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
When I was 12 years old, I snuck into a movie theater to see a film titled, Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross.  I was blown away by the whole experience!  It left an indelible mark on my life.  It was my rights of passage into my teen years. I talked about it so much, that my neighbor, Ms. Smith gave me my first Billie Holiday album.  I never ever imagined that that would be the beginning of my quest.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?   
That’s a long story!  Let me see if I can make it short.  I ran into a girlfriend (very talented actress/director) at the market, and she was crying.  I asked her why, and she told me that her television series had just been cancelled.  Cut to -- me telling her that I had written a script that I’ve been holding very close to my heart, waiting for the right moment to produce it.  I asked if she was interested in reading it to consider directing it.  During that time, I invited 6 other producer friends to lunch, told them what I was doing, and asked if they’d be interested in coming on board… for very little money!  The rest is history… or shall I say her-story!

How did you become interested in making performance?

At the beginning of my professional career as an actress, I had the fortune of portraying Ms. Dorothy Dandridge in a play called, Satch’s Place.  And then years later, I had another opportunity to audition for Dororthy Dandridge in a different theatrical production, North on South Central.  I didn’t get the role, instead I was cast as Billie Holiday.  At first, I was disappointed and considered passing on their offer.  The moment I began my research on Lady Day, I soon realized that this was a role of a lifetime.  A friend came to see the show, and afterwards, suggested that I pen my very own Billie Holiday story.  It was actually something that I had been thinking for quite some time.  And now was the time.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Ironically not!  This took years of research and development. Some channeling and purging!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
To be transported back in time to a place that seems familiar.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
It’s an interactive show where the audience can tangibly touch the artist. Vivid images displayed, with dancing, and singing to beautiful music played by award-winning local musicians.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Oppression, segregation and other atrocities befell on “Negroes” during the greatest jazz era of all time.
However, music was and still is the great equalizer.  

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