Friday, May 7, 2010

Parable of the Wannabe Actor

Parable of the Wannabe Actor

in memory of Quentin Easter,
co-founder of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre

Kill yourself, everything in you that has nothing to do with the character you are portraying. Kill the way you talk, walk, shit, drink, fuck, laugh, dress. Kill all the reflects you. And even before this murder of the self, you must be sure you know who you are! Are you even aware of how you talk, walk, shit, drink, eat, dress, fuck, shout?

Are you aware of whom you are? How can an actor play Plato Negro when he doesn't know his own true self? He may think he does, but in reality he doesn't because he's living a lie. He is not true to himself. All or most of his life he's been wearing the persona of some sucker he thinks he is or wants to be, even though his true self may be of higher quality than the sucker he's been claiming all his life.

So I ask the actor portraying Plato Negro, why don't you first get to the real you rather than that phony sucker you've been all your life? How can you get to the real me when you have never been to the real you? You may have convinced yourself you're a hustler, playboy, romantic or whatever, when in reality you are an intellectual, a nerd, but you refuse to admit this to yourself because you want to be accepted, though in reality you are being rejected because others can see a deeper you than you can see yourself. And you wonder why you are rejected by those with greater insight into your soul.

The sad truth is that you can't kill yourself because you don't recognize who you are. You can't get to the first step of acting: look in the mirror! Look at photos of yourself. Ask yo mama who you are. Ask your woman or the women you like but don't like you. Ask them why they don't like you, why you turn them off.

Maybe then you will want to kill your old fake self that is not only preventing you from becoming a stage actor but keeping you from acting on the stage called life!

My ancestor John Douimbia, founder of the Black Men's Conference, told me, "Marvin, you write great plays and you've been involved in theatre, but you don't know how to act in real life." I thought about what John D. said and decided to make a few changes in my life.

During my dope addiction, my changed attitude made me a better hustler. I was able to hustle the tourists in San Francisco. I sold them the homeless paper for twenty dollars per copy, or any other paper when I ran out of the homeless paper. I could sell them a roll of toilet paper for twenty dollars! People gave me money simply because they liked my smile. They passed me and made the block to give me bags of money--literally. I told the other brothers hustling with me to do the same and their luck changed immediately. They stopped coming on the street looking mean and evil at the white people.

Once the actor kills himself completely and totally, he is ready to don the persona of the character he wants to portray. Now some actors are under the grand illusion they can give their version of a character. No! Fuck "You." Your version is essentially you. It has nothing to do with the character. If you are going to portray a character, you must absolutely and totally transcend yourself, becoming 100% the character: you talk, walk, eat, drink, dress, laugh, cry, sing, dance, fuck, love, hate, as he does. You are no longer you, you are him, down to the minutest detail, if you are claiming to be an actor and striving to be a great actor.
--Marvin X

Marvin X began his actor career as a child at the recreation center in West Oakland, later in high school in the play Dino, made famous by Sal Mineo. His co-star was poet/critic Shereley A. Williams (rip).

His first play Flowers for the Trashman was produced by the drama department at San Francisco State University, 1965. Before founding the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale was the leader actor in Marvin's second play Come Next Summer. Marvin performed the role of Clay in Amiri Baraka's The Dutchman. His co-star was Hurriyah Asar as Lula (in white face, as per the BAM tradition). The Dutchman was performed at Fresno State University, circa 1967.

Along with playwright Ed Bullins, he established Black Arts West Theatre in San Francisco's Fillmore District, 1966, (actor Danny Glover performed there) later worked with Ed at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, New York. Marvin, Ed Bullins, Eldridge Cleaver and Hurriyah Asar established the Black House in San Francisco, a political cultural center that became the center of poetry, drama and political activity in San Francisco during 1967. Associates of the Black House included Amiri and Amina Baraka, Askia Toure, Sarah Webster Fabio, Avotcja, Sonia Sanchez, Emory Douglas, Samuel Napier, Little Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. Black House later became the San Francisco headquarters of the Black Panther Party.

He taught drama at Fresno State University, University of California, Berkeley, Mills (Woman--Man's Best Friend, musical) and Laney College (In the Name of Love, musical).

He established Black Educational Theatre in San Francisco's Fillmore, 1972, working with San Ra's Arkestra and choreographer Raymond Sawyer (Resurrection of the Dead, a myth-ritual musical with Babatunde Lea and Plunky).

Sun Ra arranged music for Take Care of Business, the musical version of Flowers for the Trashman. Recovery Theatre was established in 1996, after producing his play One Day in the Life nationwide, in New York at Sista's Place and the Brecht Forum, in Newark at Baraka's Kimako's. On the west coast it was performed at the Malonga Center, the Lorraine Hansberry theatre and Recovery Theatre in San Francisco's Tenderloin. One Day in the Life is the docudrama of his addiction and recovery.

He is presently formulating Academy of Da Corner Reader's Theatre. The world premier of the Reader's Theatre will be at the Benefit for Black Bird Press, Saturday, May 15, 2pm, at the African American Museum Library, 14th and Martin Luther King, Jr., downtown Oakland.
Seating limited. RSVP 510-637-0200. The event celebrates the release of Marvin's latest book The Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables and Fables, 311 pages, $100.00. If you can't make the event, please order the book from Black Bird Press, 1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley CA 94702.
Advance the cultural revolution. Support one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement.

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