Sunday, October 30, 2011

Father/Son Angst Fuels 'Pity The Proud Ones'


The Robey Theatre Company (RTC) got ambitious with its world premiere of Kurt Maxey’s Pity the Proud Ones, a drama set in 1915 about an Irish father and his half-Black son.

The play, directed by Ben Guillory, who is also the artistic director and co-founder of RTC, takes place in St. Augustine, Fla.  Mulatto James Perez  (Dorian C. Baucum) is searching for his Irish father Martin O’Grady (Darrell Philip) at the town’s leading bordello run by Elizabeth (Caroline Morahan). Perez’s father owes him $3,000 and he wants it now so he can pay off some of his debts and start a new life with his love, Ella (Staci Mitchell).

O’Grady has been promising to pay back his son for a while, but, for some reason, has been stalling. He hopes to obtain some of it via America’s possible entry into World War I.


Also part of the proceedings is Pettigrew (Ben Jurand), a mysterious man who runs the local bar and has an equally secretive relationship with Elizabeth.

'Pity the Proud Ones' speaks to people being so consumed with pride and resentment that they get in their own way and thereby stunt their own growth.

Guillory’s staging is unique, impressive and engaging. The audience, which is raised above the stage, actually looks down on the actors, sans one scene that is elevated above the crowd. He makes good use of the small space by flying furniture in and out from strategically placed curtains. It makes for an interesting and effective presentation.

For some scenes audience members, bathed in blue light, are made to feel like flies on the walls of a whore house.


On occasion some sight lines are obstructed for audience members in the second row, who need to sit forward in order to view some scenes. However, most of the direction works.

'Pity the Proud Ones', directed by Guillory, stars Morahan, Mitchell, Baucum, Jurand and Philip.

Kudos to Miguel Montalvo for an extraordinary set, to Kimberly M. Wilson for excellent sound, Naila Aladdin Sanders for period pleasing costumes and Alex Cohen for his emotional lighting design.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theater 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA; Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m.; $20-$30; a special dinner and show package option in available on Nov. 4, 5, 11, and 12 for $40; For information 866 811-4111 or Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. There is no intermission.

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Pity the Proud Ones” gets an L (likable).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hollywood Black Film Festival Has Colourful Opening

The 11th Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) kicked off in high style last night as stars, directors producers and fans of film all converged at the LA Film School in Hollywood to view the opening night film, “A Million Colours.”

Last night was the American premiere of the film, which will open in South Africa and be released in the U.S. early next year, according to the film’s director Peter Bishai.

Tanya Kersey, HBFF founder and executive director, sparkled on the red carpet in a gold shimmery mini dress, as she greeted the festival’s participants, which included the stars and director of the opening night’s film.


“I am so happy that the audience will get a chance to see this remarkable film,” said Kersey. “And, I’m also happy that the film’s stars and director were able to make the trip – all the way from South Africa.”

“A Million Colours” is a sweeping romantic drama of South Africa’s once most famous teen black movie star Muntu Ndebele, who fell from grace after the early 1970’s blockbuster “e’Lollipop” made him South Africa’s most beloved childhood star.  Forced into hiding after participating in the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, Ndebele’s life spiraled downward into crime and despair.

"A MILLION COLOURS" cast, crew & HBFF executives

The film is an inspiring true story of danger, adventure, romance, betrayal and redemption...set against the turbulent background of a nation in crisis.  It is a testament to the history of South Africa and its citizens' struggle for freedom, friendship, love, and second chances.

This is the first time HBFF opened with a foreign film. Bishai calls it a mixture of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Romeo and Juliet."


On hand for the opening were cast members Wandile Molebatsi, Stelio Savante and director Peter Bishai. Also on hand was the real Muntu Ndebele whose life inspired the film.

“We consider it an honor to be the opening night film of the Hollywood Black Film Festival,” said Bishai.  “We’re proud of our film. This is our first film festival in the United States.”


Celebrities on hand included Michael Jai White, Leon, Tangi Miller and John Marshall Jones.

Opening also included the presence of  the Food Network's "The Cupcake Wars," which shot the final scenes of an hour-long episode starring the Hollywood Black Film Festival.  In the episode, baking contestants compete for the honor of showcasing their winning cupcakes at HBFF's Opening Night.  Antwone Fisher served as the guest celebrity judge on the show.  Opening guests feasted on the cupcakes and will appear in the episode!

Attendees also snacked on Garrett Popcorn and Moreno champagne.

The HBFF features 53 films, nine features, 12 documentaries, 27 shorts, three student films, 50 speakers, 13 panels and workshops and a live script reading.

HBFF happens October 27 - 30, 2011 and will be hosted at the Andaz Hotel, 8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069. For information:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Things Are Grimm for Russell Hornsby

Russell Hornsby

Russell Hornsby is having quite the career. He’s mastered the stage, has appeared in several films and is now a regular in yet another television series.

His latest prime-time gig is on the new NBC drama, Grimm, set to debut at 9/8c on NBC, Oct. 28.

Grimm centers around Portland detective turned Grimm-creature profiler Nick Burkhardt, played by David Guintoli, who thought he was prepared for the realities of working as a homicide detective, until he started seeing things he couldn't explain.

Hornsby plays Burkhardt’s partner, Hank Griffin, who is blind to Nick’s new powers.

Before Grimm, Hornsby, who attended Boston University, College of Fine Arts, and the University of Oxford, appeared in the ABC Family series, Lincoln Heights, where he played Eddie Sutton, a cop, who was married with three children.

Most recently, he starred opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in August Wilson's "Fences." Some of his other credits include: "In Treatment," opposite Gabriel Byrne and Diane Weist; Showtime's "Shameless," "Law and Order," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Good Wife," and "Playmakers." His feature film credits include "After the Sunset," "Big Fat Liar," Get Rich or Die Tryin'," "Meet the Parents" and "Stuck."

A master thespian, his theater credits include "King Hedley," "Gem of the Ocean," "Two Trains Running," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Joe Louis Blues" and "Six Degrees of Separation."

David Guintoli and Russell Hornsby in Grimm

I caught up with Hornsby recently to talk about his latest role and his career in general.

DD: Tell me about your new role on Grimm.

RH: Hank Griffin is what I like to call, good police.  He doesn’t have any special sensibilities, special powers, but he is a really good detective, a veteran of the force who has been married four times. He’s presently single. I say that only because I think there will be some interesting twists as we develop the series that are going to involve the knowledge he acquired from being married four times.

DD: Is it about the paranormal?

RH: It’s not so much about the paranormal. I would say it is a fantasy construct in a real world. Take the idea that there are real people among us who are dark, have dark sensibilities. Their vibe, their energy is negative.  We’re taking these fairytales, we’re spinning them on its head, we’re fracturing them a little bit and placing them right here in the real world.  So you would ask yourself how does Little Red Riding Hood, how does that story evolve in the real world? It can’t.  Take that idea, they’re not parallel universes, it’s all one.

DD: Have you ever met someone and thought, hmmmmm?

RH: Absolutely, of course. When you feel you have light on you, you can feel where darkness is coming from. It’s that mother thing. That six sense. It’s their vibe, their spirit. There are people who can look at you and say, ‘hey, baby, you’re shining like new money.’

DD: Would you want the abilities that Nick has in the series? Would you want your character to also have the same abilities?

RH: For me, no, that’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t know how my character would be able to work under that kind of pressure.

DD: You’ve just discontinued playing a cop, why do you want to play another one?

RH: I think that we’re talking about an actual patrolman versus a detective. I think the characters are different. If you look at Lincoln Heights and you look at Grimm, the shows are apples and oranges. This is a totally different character in another world that is a bit darker. It’s real, real in a different way than Lincoln Heights was.  In this, things don’t always end positively. My character is going to act and react accordingly.

Russell Hornsby

DD: What was the appeal of this character?

RH: I think taking the spiritual aspect and how committed they are to telling real stories. We can live in a fantasy world, but we can delve and deal with some real issues. That was the appeal.

DD: You own the stage. What does stage give you that tv doesn’t and what does tv give you that stage doesn’t?

RH: I think that stage, especially the roles I’ve done, which is mostly August Wilson, I’m speaking of my people for my people and by my people. I’m speaking in a spirit and vernacular and energy that I know. They’re my folks.  That spirit is in me, so I can express myself without any hindrance. I can live it out loud. It’s pure. That’s what the stage is to me. I can be as loud and or soft as I want, vulnerable. TV is different because you have to fit yourself in a box. There are parameters you have to fill. The characters aren’t always as three dimensional. There isn’t the same detail in a backstory. Your scope and take is different.   Whereas in theater I can do that.

DD: A lot of actors aren’t working. You seem to work all the time.

RH: I’m going in the direction my blood beats. This is a calling now. I’m not the greatest actor or smartest, but I know what I love to do and I know what I’m good at. I am in possession of a talent – that’s why I continue to work.

DD: Sounds like you’re blessed.

RH: I’m blessed, but you have to be in possession of talent. You can’t work 14 years without being in the possession of talent. This is what I love to do. I think I’m good at it.  I have a tireless dedication. This is my job. Acting is cathartic. Acting is therapy.

DD: Why should we watch your show?

RH: We’ve created an original concept. It’s going to be fun, smart and witty. It’ll be dramatic and action-filled. Tune in. You’ve got to give it a shot.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sundance Film Festival 2011 Audience Award Winner Hits Theaters

AFFRM To Release Alrick Brown’s Acclaimed Feature Debut on
December 2, 2011 in Eight Cities  

Los Angeles, CA (October 24, 2011) – AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, is pleased to announce that it will open its second film, KINYARWANDA, in theaters on Friday, December 2 in eight cities nationwide. 

KINYARWANDA will be released in AFFRM’s founding markets: New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle.  In addition, three new opening week cities have been added: Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco.

Writer/director Alrick Brown’s compelling feature directorial debut garnered the Sundance Film Festival 2011 Audience Award in the World Cinema Drama category this year, and captured the Grand Prize at the lauded Skip City Film Festival in Japan last week.

In KINYARWANDA, a young Tutsi woman and a young Hutu man fall in love amidst chaos, a soldier struggles with being absent from her family to foster a greater good, and a priest grapples with his faith in the face of unspeakable horror.  The Hollywood Reporter stated, “Brown presents these personal and heartbreaking stories with steadfast compassion.”

AFFRM is a collaborative theatrical distribution entity powered by the nation’s finest black film organizations.  The founding organizations are Urbanworld Film Festival with Imagenation in New York, BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta, ReelBlack Film Series in Philadelphia and Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival in Seattle.  For its second release, AFFRM is pleased to welcome the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago and the Black Cinema at Large Film Series in San Francisco.  AFFRM’s inaugural release was the award-winning film, I WILL FOLLOW, which opened March 2011 in more than 20 cities during its seven week run.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poignant Play Looks At The Importance of ‘Daddy’

By Darlene Donloe

Fathers and sons have a special bond. While mothers, of course, play a huge role in their child’s life, there is something equally important about a daddy’s love.
In the eyes of their children, a daddy is invincible, a protector, a teacher, loving, supportive and usually the first role model. 
E.L. James’ play Nobody Walks Like My Daddy, takes a look at the daddy-son relationship by delving inside three generations of daddies and sons. 

Ellis E. Williams, Dale Fielder (seated) and E.L. James
Star in Nobody Walks Like My Daddy
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy, subtitled a jazz song in syncopated counterpoint, is a two character play accompanied by a saxophonist (Dale Fielder) and sprinkled with jazzy blues music. The autobiographical, emotion-packed and character-driven production takes place in Norfolk, VA and tells the story of a man’s relationships with his family.
The play opens with a Son (Ellis E. Williams) reminiscing about his Father (E.L. James) and how important he is/was in his life.  He remembers how, as a little kid, he had to go to the hospital to have his tonsils taken out and how wary he was of his father leaving him in the care of  “white nurses.” When it was time to go home, he looked out the window to see if his father was coming to pick him up. After a nurse tried to convince him the man he saw walking toward the hospital was not his father, the son replied, “Nobody Walks Like My Daddy,” hence the title of the play. 

Ellis E. Williams, left, and E.L. James, writer/director/co-star

Later the Son reveals that he is about to become a father once again at age 52 and has to admit he’s not as confident as he was when he fathered a child three decades earlier. He wonders if he can do half the job his father did in raising him.
The Son, whose father warned him not to fall into the daddy trap again, soon finds out that being a new, more mature parent has its share of pitfalls. From the beginning, it’s clear his life ain’t been no crystal stair. He’s had and still has some issues. Regrets, he’s had a few, including job woes, four failed marriages, a hard stint in the army, plus his children being raised miles away - without him.

Ellis E. Williams, left, plays the Son and E.L. James plays his Father

Williams is exceptional in the role of the Son. Sans any props and armed with only his thespian skills and James’ exceptional dialogue, he masterfully commands the stage as he spins a human tale that is familiar, poignant and engaging.  From the moment he takes the stage he draws in the audience with his vivid, memorable description of his daddy’s walk. Gliding effortlessly into various personalities, he then takes the audience on a journey through his life, taking occasional detours to introduce these colorful characters.
James, who wrote, directs and stars in the drama, is equally impressive. First as a writer and director he intertwines music with his luscious words. He effectively uses black screen panels to deliver both songs and dialogue.  Fielder, whose playing is emotive, seductive and evocative, blows his horn from behind a screen while his image is kissed with mood lighting. The direction adds texture and layers to the show. 

Ellis E. Williams (foreground) and E.L. James

As the Father, James delivers. He’s comical, direct, dramatic and solid. Whether he’s delivering dialogue or singing the blues, his voice adds depth.  Throughout the show Williams and James give a kind of tag team impression that leaves one man behind the black screen panels, while the other is onstage, a move that works and gives the show breadth. And when the two are on stage together - the chemistry is palpable.
Kudos to Robert Gurule for his set and lighting designs.
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy, which was previously performed in Leimert Park and Culver City in 2003 and at the National Black Theatre Festival in 2007, wins on many levels. This production proves you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles when you have a strong cast and effectual dialogue.
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy is one of the best productions this year!!!!
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy, written and directed by E.L. James; music by Tommie McKenzie, Clarence Patterson and James. It’s executive produced by Sonya Geder Diggs and produced by Pamela Goodlow Green for Conscious Comedy Concepts, Inc. in association with Geder Diggs.
It stars E.L. James, Ellis E. Williams and Dale Fielder.  
On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Nobody Walks Like My Daddy gets an E (excellent).
Nobody Walks Like My Daddy, Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.; through Oct. 30; $20-$25; 1-800- 838-306; Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd floor, Hollywood, CA  90028