Friday, July 21, 2017

The Penis Is The Focus Of 'The Johnson Chronicles'




By Darlene Donloe

“A hard dick has no conscience. Says it all, don’t it?”

Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t.  The answer may be revealed in Peter J. Harris’ play, The Johnson Chronicles: Truth & Tall Tales About My Penis, set to open tonight at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood.

A week ago, at an empty Matrix Theatre, I caught up with Harris and Terrell Tilford, the star of the play, as they were waxing lyrical about the show and about their friendship. The two of them together are hilarious. Their priceless banter and quick repartee is that of two old friends who have a loving, familiar and respectful acquaintance.

Tilford, casually dressed in a striped shirt and shorts, is straddling a bench on the stage, while he goes over his script. A bespectacled Harris, donned in a green flak jacket, black t-shirt, jeans and sandals, 
is pacing back and forth with a confident energy.

They are literally on the same page when it comes to presenting an updated version of Harris’s classic tome. At one time Tilford directed Harris in the Johnson Chronicles. Now it’s Harris’s turn to reciprocate. For Harris there was only one man who could bring the strength, sensibilities and skills to this one-man show and that’s Tilford.  Previous incarnations of the show had several males presenting the material as a reading.  This time it’s being presented as a solo production.

In the Johnson Chronicles, Tilford plays My Man, a character who speaks on the Truth and Tall Tales about the pleasure and pain of living with Johnson, the all-purpose African American euphemism for his penis.

Nothing is held back in this show. Harris has constructed a heady presentation that “confronts My Man’s personal, political and mythological Johnson in bold, funny, sensual, historical vignettes, intellectual dozens, vows, and affirmations about first sex, size, fatherhood, intimacy and intimate violence, vasectomy, and the impact of racism on his humanity and sexuality.”

The Johnson Chronicles has been described as a poetic, conversational, 'body memoir' about the black penis.
 
Harris says he got his inspiration for the show after a friend invited him to see Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

Please note: this show is FOR GROWN FOLKS ONLY!

Following is a brief discussion I had with both Harris (PJH) and Tilford (TT).

Playwright Peter J. Harris
DD:  Men are so connected to their penises. What is it about the penis?

PJH: It’s conditioning. We get slighted. Conditioning at its worse reduces us to our penises. You are seen as that thing that can have someone make money for themselves.  Johnson and the reproduction system is what made money in tandem with the women’s reproductive system. It’s also about our own internal cultural dynamics. If we’re not careful we will pass on the worse of things.  There is nothing funnier than a big black Johnson joke. It’s like a “Yo mama joke,” ya know? This is about every man being named My Man.  If you hit the right tones that guy can symbolize a number of other men. I’m in my 60s now. I should be wiser now. I am wiser now. To go through divorce, custody battles and heartbreak, you get seasoned. For me, if you are surrounded by the community of men. If you get the right connection with the right dudes, the Johnson just becomes a part of your body, except when it grows in power with a particular person who is your partner.

DD: What is it that a woman could NEVER understand about the penis?

PJH:  I don't know. There is nothing mysterious about it. If you are a heterosexual - you want his dick to work. Taking care of my body is a lifelong thing to do. Isolating my Johnson is not going to keep me alive. I don't’ like to mystify it.  We have to keep generating work like The Johnson Chronicles. I’m a distinctive writer. My idea is to contribute to a body of work. I’m striving for a simple humanity. History eliminated our humanity.

DD: How has the show evolved?

PJH: I cut out some chronicles that were in the earlier readings. I refined some of the other chronicles. We have found a new core to it. There is something about the solo form that demands that you don’t kill your actor - because we have a show on paper that was easily 90 minutes or more. When you’re investing one person in the show, you want to make sure that person is a worker. I work harder to edit myself -  harder than anyone else could. That’s how it’s changed in the most fundamental way. I’ve given Terrell more room to absorb the pieces.

DD: Why did you choose to direct?

PJH:  I’m directing this to get some basics in place. The collaboration and the fearlessness to collaborate has kept us on the balls of our feet.

Terrell Tilford 
DD: Terrell, at one point you directed this show, now you’re starring in the show.  Talk about each experience and what each does for you?

TT: Having been in the biz a long time, as you get older you know more things, it gets to a point when you know you have a stronger point of view, which is why I wanted to direct the previous version. This has been a collaborative process in terms of him (Harris) being open to us being open and candid with each other the entire time. He likes creative conflict. It’s out of that conflict that has gotten us to where we are today. We are in a good opening position.

DD:   Tell me about the first time you heard about and saw this show?

TT:  I heard about it when he did some excerpts.  It was a different voice. Upon hearing the first audio of it, you go, “Shit, this guy is on a different trip.” I thought he was crazy. Listen to what’s being said. There is a vibration within the tone of the work that it was honest and sincere. If we allow ourselves to get to that point then we’ll find the dichotomy in it. And the stuff we relate to and that which has no connection to us. But that wasn’t the experience. The first reading I thought he was on to something.
  
DD: Why did you want to do this show?

TT: I didn’t think I was interesting enough to do the show. I didn't think I had the right temperament to be in the show. I didn’t want to do it at all. I only wanted to be the director. I didn’t want it to be about me. I didn’t want Peter to do it either because writers have a particular connection to their work that they’re not open to in terms of the criticism while they are in the piece. But, this brother was humble. We fought. Creative tension is good when it’s about the work. Our egos was never involved in the work.

DD: What are some truths and some tall tales about the penis?

TT:  I don’t know where and how to delve into my own truths. The voice within this in demystifying what the black penis is all about. The myth is that we are Mandingo slinging apes that have no connection to our humanity or any sensitivity. That we can’t have a logical or sensible conversation with our partners and that we are incapable of having sit down with each other and have a grown ass conversation. It’s about saying, I’m not in the mood today. I’m just not. I’m stressed out. I’m thinking about bills. Black men are dying at the hands of cops. Where and how can I celebrate life or engage in this in the midst of that.” It takes two grown ass people to have that discussion. It’s introspection of yourself.

DD:  I saw a reading of this show a while back. There were several men. This is a single male. It’s a solo show. What impact does one guy bring to the show?  Is it more impactful.

PJH: The impetus for this run of the Johnson Chronicles is to bring in an actor I trust. He (Terrell) says I’m ready to go back. If we’re going to do it, I don’t want to stop. It’s a lot of work.   Joe Stern the owner of the Matrix Theatre was very supportive.

DD: But, why solo?

PJH: The first reason to go solo was budgetary. For this run and given the work we’ve done on the script. This is a seamless version. It seems natural. I can’t imagine an ensemble now. It’s written by the prospective of one black heterosexual male.

DD:  Terrell, he chose you.

TT: I’m humbled.  This is not a vanity project. I love what I do. I love honoring the work. The rest of it is the universe. It’s going to do what it’s going to do. I don't have control over it. When I get up on the stage, that's all its about.  It’s about leaving it on the dance floor.

Peter J. Harris
(YouTube screenshot)
DD: Peter, explain your process of bringing this show to life.

PJH:  If I could characterize it, it would be quietness. Trying to listen. Listening to what I’m actually saying and trying to find the rhythm and the intonation. It’s about bringing the resonance of the depth of the circumstances and then trying to let it go and repeat. I’m looking for some version of that.   There is no one formula. Every piece of art requires something different.

DD: Terrell, you and Peter have been inhaling this show for a while.

TT:  For this particular piece, Peter and I have been at it longer than a normal process. We started four months ago. We were trying to get ready to go to Washington, D.C. I still wasn't tapped into the understanding. I didn’t understand the piece at that time, not what I think I needed to understand for the piece. When we got into the regular process here, I asked if Peter and I could just meet at my house and just talk and listen, and find the heartbeat and the through line.  I feel like we’ve weaved together a symphony. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

DD: What does theater do for you?

TT: Television is my mortgage. Film is happenstance and theater is my bloodline. Theater is my greatest gift to myself. It’s because of the immediacy of the connection. I wish the stage was as narrow as a tightrope. It's the highest vibration.

Terrell Tilford in Take Me Out

Terrell Tilford (foreground) in Stick Fly with Chris Butler

DD: Peter, why is Terrell the right person for this one-man show?

PJH: That's the irony to me. I met Terrell at World Stage in the 90s before he went to grad school. He was an around the way dude. I know how serious he was. I remember him pulling me aside and saying, “I m going to grad school to get my MFA.” I knew he would have the chops. I’m a fan. I saw him in Take Me Out and Stick Fly. I also saw his Shakespeare stuff. I like working with people who are serious.  He and his wife, Victoria [Platt], are good people. What I do know is that he “gets” a lot of stuff. I knew he would work hard. I wanted someone who took seriously that they are professional actors.   I’m not an actor. I know the work he has put in for his craft.   He has a great presence as a dude. He’s not just handsome - he has a presence. That's the dude I saw stalking a stage. He was always my first choice. I saw him chewing it up and chanting it up.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I haven’t been disappointed. I’m about the culture. I’m about the work. He stands for integrity. This guy is a contemporary curator of African American art. This dude loves this culture. We are in association. We talk about everything. I’m quick to think, “What do you think?”  Lets set the highest standards we can set.

The Johnson Chronicles: Truth & Tall Tales About My Penis stars Terrell Tilford and is written and directed by Peter J. Harris.  Thomas A. Gordon Ph.D/TAGA Consulving is the associate producer. Inspiration House PopsnAde/Restorative Notions, in association with YardBird Media.

The Johnson Chronicles: Truth & Tall Tales About My Penis, The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave.  Los Angeles, CA 90046, 8 p.m., Fri., Sat., Mon. through Aug. 7; tickets @:



Celebs Attend Opening Of Musical 'Born For This'



By Darlene Donloe


Last night's opening of BeBe Winans’ Born For This: The Musical was a star-studded affair with celebs from the world of music, theater, television and film in attendance.

In Born For This, Detroit teenagers BeBe and CeCe Winans experience the ultimate in culture shock when they are invited to join Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord network in Pineville, North Carolina. The Bakkers become an unlikely surrogate family as BeBe and CeCe rapidly become the hottest stars in televangical America. Eventually crossing over to mainstream fame, BeBe must learn to reconcile the temptations of fame and fortune with the things he values more.


Born For This, book by Randolph-Wright and BeBe Winans, featuring music and lyrics by BeBe Winans, is choreographed by Warren Adams and plays at the Broad through August 6. The show, directed and co-written by Charles Randolph Wright (Motown: The Musical) premiered last year at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

(l-r) Charles Randolph Wright, Berry Gordy and BeBe Winans

Loretta Devine (The Carmichael Show)
Freda Payne

Greenleaf's Jason Dirden
Suzanne de Passe

Garcelle Beauvais

Debbie Allen

BeBe Winans and Reginald Hudlin

Actress Starletta DuPois

Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo

Isaiah Washington
Marvin Winans, Freda Payne and BeBe Winans

BeBe Winans addresses the star-studded audience which included
Sidney Poitier,  Stevie Wonder, James Pickens and Robert Townsend

**all photos by Darlene Donloe

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ro Brooks Joins The Cast Of Sci-Fi's 'Medinah'


(Los Angeles) --- Actor Ro Brooks, joins the cast of “Medinah”, the highly anticipated Sci-Fi/drama TV series from the Middle East, will make its World Premiere at Comic Con in San Diego on July 20-23, 2017.

Ro Brooks plays a CIA agent (Malik Jackson) from the states, sent to investigate the disappearance of his partner. The talented cast is lead by Academy Award Nominee, Eric Roberts at the helm. 

Created by Ahmed Al Baker, Medinah was filmed in Doha, Qatar. Medinah is a story that tells when a rocket launch goes awry, a group of strangers stuck in a cave in the desert trying to survive, while the corporation that launched the rocket attempts to figure out what went wrong. 

MEDINAH TRAILER:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

'Cagney' Set To Open At El Portal In October

 
 
In honor of Hollywood’s “tough guy in tap shoes” James Cagney, who would have turned 118 today, producer Riki Kane Larimer (On The Town, Gigi, West End’s Memphis) announced the West Coast Premiere of the hit musical CAGNEY. The critically-acclaimed production features a book by Peter Colley (The Donnelly) and music & lyrics by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern (Fame, First Wives Club). Bill Castellino (Storyville, Jolson) will direct, with choreography by Tony Award-nominee Joshua Bergasse (On The Town, Gigi, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), the exclusive engagement starring Creighton and the original New York cast. Performances play October 5 – 29, 2017, with the official press opening on Sunday, October 8, at the El Portal Theatre on the Debbie Reynolds Mainstage (5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood).
 
“This is the first show I have ever produced and I fell into a winner with CAGNEY – great story, wonderful score, amazing tap dancing! We just came off a spectacular 14-month run at New York’s Westside Theater and now we’re on our way to Los Angeles with our incredibly talented original New York cast,” said Riki Kane Larimer, Producer of CAGNEY. “We are thrilled that the El Portal’s Debbie Reynolds Mainstage has given us the opportunity to bring our hit show to the West Coast.”
 
"The two most important places I always wanted this story of James Cagney to be told were New York City, where he grew up and where his character was forged, and Hollywood where his talent and on-screen magnetism made him one of the greatest film legends of all time,” said Robert Creighton. “It's an honor to get to tell Mr. Cagney's story and I am thrilled that this dream-come-true project is having its day in the California sun!"
 
CAGNEY, a dramatic new musical, follows the life of the legendary James Cagney from the streets of New York to his rise from a vaudeville song-and-dance man to one of the brightest stars of Hollywood as the original tough guy. Broadway’s Robert Creighton, who plays the title role, leads a cast of six that tap dance through a score that blends original music with classic George M. Cohan favorites: Give My Regards To BroadwayYou’re A Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
 
A hit with audiences and critics alike, CAGNEY has been described as “exhilarating” (Time Out New York), “rousing” (The New York Times), “stupendous” (NY1 News), “nothing but joy” (New York Observer), “extraordinary” (WOR Radio) and “explosive! Something for the whole family!” (PIX 11 News). The production was also praised for “some of the best dancing I have seen in my entire life” (WNBC TV), “Joshua Bergasse’s choreography could sell tap shoes to Tibetan monks” (The New York Times), and “a dream come true for lovers of tap dance” (TheaterMania). And, The New York Times raves, “Robert Creighton is born for the role.”
 
In addition to Broadway veteran and hoofer Robert Creighton (Upcoming Broadway musical Disney’s Frozen, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Anything Goes, The Lion King) as the legendary James Cagney, CAGNEY also features original New York cast members Jeremy Benton as Bob Hope / others (42nd Street, White Christmas)Danette Holden as Ma Cagney / Jane / others (Annie)Bruce Sabath as Jack Warner / others (Company)Josh Walden as Bill Cagney / others (Ragtime), and Ellen Zolezzi as Willie Cagney / others (Seussical). Standbys include: Jeffry Denman, Tim Falter, Karen Hyland, and Freddie Kimmel.
 
The creative team includes James Morgan (set), Martha Bromelmeier (costumes), Michael Gilliam (lights), Janie Bullard (sound), Mark Pirolo (projections), music coordination by Larry Lelli and fight direction by Christian Kelly-Sordelet and Rick Sordelet. The Production Stage Manager is Rhonda PicouCarol Hanzel is the Casting Director and Brierpatch Productions provides General Management. 
 
CAGNEY is produced by Riki Kane Larimer in association with Mary Cossette, Kate Edelman Johnson, Michael Kane, Joel B. Grossman and The Cagney Company LLC.
 
CAGNEY originally had its New York premiere at The York Theatre Company in May 2015, where it played a limited five-week sold out engagement. The musical, presented by Riki Kane Larimer, moved to New York’s Westside Theatre and played a sensational 14-month run from March 16, 2016 – May 28, 2017 for a total of 502 performances.
 
CAGNEY will perform a strictly limited engagement from October 5 – 29, 2017, with the official press opening on Sunday, October 8 at 3:00 p.m., at the El Portal Theatre’s Debbie Reynolds Mainstage, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Performance schedule is Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Schedule notes: There will be no performances on Saturday, October 14. There will be a performance on Friday, October 13 at 2:00 p.m. and on Sunday, October 15 at 8:00 p.m. Please also note that the Sunday, October 15 matinee will begin at 2:00 p.m., not the regular matinee time of 3:00 p.m.
 
Tickets range from $25 - $75 with Premium Seating at $89. Premium tickets include complimentary valet parking. Single tickets are now on sale and available online at CagneyTheMusical.com or by phone at 866-811-4111. For groups of 10 or more call 818-508-4200. For additional information about CAGNEY visit CagneyTheMusical.com.

Trailer Revealed For Disney's 'A Wrinkle In Time'


The teaser trailer and teaser poster for Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” debuted at the D23 EXPO in Anaheim. The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examines the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love.

Directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee based upon the beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time” is produced by Jim Whitaker and Catherine Hand with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. The film stars: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peňa, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard with Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine and introduces Storm Reid.

A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters on March 9, 2018!


Tyler Perry's 'Boo 2! A Madea Halloween' Set For An October 20 Nationwide Release


Lionsgate brings Tyler Perry's BOO 2! A MADEA HALLOWEEN to theaters October 20, 2017. 

In BOO 2!, Madea, Bam, and Hattie are back for the sequel.  The gang heads to a haunted campground and the group must literally run for their lives when monsters, goblins and the bogeyman are unleashed. 


TYLER PERRY’S BOO 2! A MADEA HALLOWEEN
View the Teaser Trailer


Monday, July 17, 2017

Long Beach Indie International Film, Media & Film Festival Set for August 30-September 3


5-day event takes place Wed., Aug. 30 - Sun., Sept. 3 at Cinemark 
at the Pike Theatres and Hilton Long Beach

Long Beach, CA -- Named one of FilmFreeway’s Top 100 best reviewed film festivals, Long Beach Indie International Film, Media & Music Festival returns to Long Beach Wed., Aug. 30 - Sun., Sept. 3, delivering five days of screenings, plus workshops for educators, students, entertainment industry professionals, and more.

Founded by Dr. Daniel Walker in 2014, the festival celebrates diverse content and creators. "I created Long Beach Indie because I wanted to bring true diversity to every facet of the media and entertainment ecosystem,” he says. “It's about more than just names on the closing credits and recognition during awards season. It's about economic empowerment, self definition, and using the power of media and entertainment to shape the perceptions that individuals and systems have of women and people of color."

The event produced and hosted by Perfect Works and BLU Educational Foundation fosters international dialogue between scholars and the entertainment industry, and bridges the gap between urban communities and careers in arts, entertainment, fashion and digital media via distinct conference and expo clusters.

The Long Beach Indie International Film Festival screenings take place Wed., Aug. 30 – Sun., Sept. 3 at Cinemark at the Pike Theaters, 99 Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90892. More than 180 films, TV pilots, web series and music videos are in this year’s spotlight—including 90 Days, a love story executive-produced by Empire star Jussie Smollett, directed by Nathan Hale Williams and Jennia Fredrique Aponte, and featuring stars Teyonah Parris, Nic Few, Pauletta Washington, Rodney Chester, Emmett Short, Collin Lee Ellis, and V Bozeman.

The festival conference and expo segments will be held at the Hilton Long Beach Hotel, 701 Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90831.

International Entertainment Business Summit and Expo convening Thurs., Aug. 31 - Sat., Sept. 2, is produced in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) Global Media & Entertainment Team. This segment will connect diverse film, television, music and digital media creation companies to international economic opportunities and introduce Virtual and Augmented Reality developers to the multi-billion US education sector.

Career Pathways in Arts, Digital and Entertainment Conference to be presented Wed., Aug. 30 - Fri., Sept. 1, unites K-14 educators, parent advocacy groups, counselors and administrators to knowledge, trends and individuals driving career advancement in the creative sector. 

Long Beach Indie Film Media and Music Conference taking place Fri., Sept. 1 - Sat., Sept. 2 will encompass workshops and panels conducted by international scholars and entertainment industry leaders offering insight on social media, independent label operation and talent management.

Long Beach Indie College and Career Fair on Sat., Sept. 2 provides free workshops and college exhibits displaying trends and leaders in fashion, digital media and music.

Step to the Mic running Fri., Sept. 1 - Sun., Sept. 3 is a talent competition educating youth vocalists on the entertainment industry, honing their skills and performing for industry leaders.

Long Beach Indie 2017 sponsors are The California Endowment, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and KCETLink.

Festival Collaborators: California Black Media, Black Voice News, Hollywood Post, BlackTreeTV, Cafe Sevilla, Media & Repertoire, the Believe Foundation and Dakar Foundation.

For Long Beach Indie registration options visit LongBeachIndie.com.

About Long Beach Indie: 

Since its inception in 2014 the festival has screened more than 450 films from 50+ countries, drawn over 8000 attendees, received coverage from more than 300 international media outlets, and drawn Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, Emmy, Directors Guild of America, ALMA, and NAACP Image Award winners and nominees as presenters. 

The 2014 winner for Best Animated Short (The Dam Keeper) was nominated for an Academy Award and more than half of the features screened have gained national or international distribution.

More Than Just A Film Festival
A five-day entertainment experience Long Beach Indie includes the LBI International Film Festival, the LBI Film, Digital Media, and Music Conference, the LBI International Film Market, and the LBI College and Career Fair exposing urban communities to careers in arts, entertainment, and digital media.
Attesting to the draw of Long Beach Indie, recent industry presenters include; Oscar nominee Margaret Avery (The Color Purple), Emmy winners Mark Kirkland (The Simpsons), Charles Ragins (The Simpsons), and P. Frank Williams (Unsung, American Gangster), two-time DGA winner Jesus Salvador Trevino, multiple Grammy winner David Porter, Grammy winner Jeff Weber, Grammy nominee Xocoyotzin Herrera, 4-time NAACP Image Award winner Terri J. Vaughn, and YouTube icon Tay Zonday.

Connect With Long Beach Indie:
#LongBeachIndie