Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #10

March 31st, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
53 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10 HATTIE McDANIEL, the first African American to win an Academy Award, was honored by the U.S. Postal Service, as the 29th inductee into the 2006 Black Heritage Series, with a stamp in her likeness. Appropriately, the 39 cent stamp was first issued from the Beverly Hills’ post office.

McDaniel is, undoubtedly, best known as the out- spoken ‘Mammy’ in the 1938 epic motion picture, “Gone With The Wind,” about white, plantation life, for which she won the Academy Award. The story, written from a racist perspective, focuses on how white Southerners suffered during the Civil War, and how they recovered their dignity.

McDaniel, however, had begun her show business career as a comedienne and Blues singer. A new biography by Jill Watts energetically tells McDaniel’s story in wonderful detail, “Hattie McDaniel/ Black Ambition, White Hollywood” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2005).

Ironically, in those early years on the stage, McDaniel was a great favorite with black audiences because the skits she wrote and starred in attacked the character so favored by white racists, the plantation Mammy. She exposed the stereotype as utterly ridiculous by exaggerating it to grotesque extremes. African American audiences loved her parody of the foolish, silly, and asexual Mammy.

The daughter of slaves, Hattie McDaniel was close to her father who had not only liberated himself by fleeing to a “contraband camp” protected by Union soldiers marching into the South, but joined up as a soldier himself. He was wounded, but kept in the fight, and throughout his life proudly wore his medal of honor. He suffered for the rest of his life from wounds he received at the Battle of Nashville, but like many black veterans, he got inequitable treatment from the government although he petitioned continually for the benefits he was due. Hattie McDaniel grew up in want but knew about persistence and strength in family loyalty.

Once McDaniel began getting roles in films, she wanted the biggest career she could maneuver. She went after the role of Mammy in “Gone With The Wind,” based on the best selling novel by Margaret Mitchell which saw the antebellum South as an era of greatness.

McDaniel collaborated with white racism in the harsh and unforgiving world of Hollywood, in order to advance her career, but her interpretation of Mammy was not the fantasy servant Mitchell had written. When David O. Selznick saw the final cut, he unexpectedly discovered Mammy had emerged as one of the film’s strongest characters. “A performance,” he wrote, “if merit alone rules, would entitle her practically to co-starring.”

As Watts writes, “she was hardly the slow, elderly and ‘lumbering’” character Mitchell had in mind, “indeed loyal and devoted, but also bossy, intelligent, loud, and opinionated.”

Moreover, if you look closely in some scenes, Mammy wears a large, expensive-looking ring and has nicely manicured nails.

Order McDANIEL US Postal stamps

by Kay Bourne
56 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10MFONISO UDOFIA says that being “a little bit of a leftie” puts her at ease with the feminist and politically liberal “Broad Comedy”skits. “I love the material!” says the newest addition to the cast and the show’s only local performer.

The Wellesley College senior felt “really scared” to perform with veteran comic actors Carolann DiPirro, Katie Goodman (director and writer), Joan Jankowski, Maggie Rickelfs, and Erin Roberg. She holds her own, however, whether belting out a gospel tune about homeland security, “The NSA Watches Over Me” or in a duel with plungers with a rival plumber in “Housewife: The Ballet.”

The laughter has been so hearty that “Broad Comedy,” which plays Saturday nights at the Stuart Street Playhouse, 200 Stuart Street, Boston, has been extended indefinitely.

Udofia does have a time frame, however. After graduation, she’s headed to the American Conservatory Theater to do advanced studies in the acting program.

Born in Houston, of Nigerian immigrants, Paul and Enyeneana Udofia, the family moved East where her dad is currently in a PhD program in African Studies at UMass Amherst. Her mom is a research scientist at UMass Medical in Dartmouth, working towards a cure for AIDS. “She was always trying to get me to do something in her area,” says Udofia, “but I’m not her science baby.” Mfoniso has a sister who’s at Smith College, and another sister who is at the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Her brother is in junior high school.

A political science major at Wellesley, Udofia discovered a love of theater through classes with Lois Roach. “She put out a call for actors when I was in orientation my freshman year and I thought, I’ll try it. In the years since, every time she has had a class, I’m there.”

A Boston based playwright and director, Roach’s most recent production was “Crowns” at the Lyric Stage Company. Roach says of Udofia, “Keep an eye on this young woman.”

“Lois Roach has been extraordinarily good at helping me find my own voice.” said Udofia. “She helps me think. I’m on a road with a play, almost there, but not quite. She helps me midwife my ideas.”

For ticket and group rate information, call The Stuart Street Playhouse box office, 617-426-4499 ext. 25


by Kay Bourne
57 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10The story of how Texas Congresswoman, BARBARA JORDAN became an uncompromising freedom fighter is strongly imagined in “VOICE OF GOOD HOPE.” The powerfully acted production, intelligently directed by Kortney Adams is in its final week at The Theatre Cooperative, 277 Broadway in Somerville, MA.

The eloquence and passion of Kristine Thatcher’s bio-drama is immeasurably assisted by a convincing and moving performance from MICHELLE DOWD as the feisty lawyer and unflappable politician. A local actress who has given consistently solid performances over the years, Michelle Dowd was honored with a Best Supporting Actress Award at Boston’s IRNE Awards this week, for her role in “The Story” produced by Zeitgeist Theater. The photo to the right, is of Michelle Dowd accepting her award at the IRNE’s, March 27, 2006.

Dowd is ably assisted by a wonderful supporting cast including child actor Cheyenne Jones who portrays Jordan in her formative years. Wesley Lawrence Taylor as Jordan’s independent minded and doting griot of a grandfather gives a remarkable performance as well. Akiba Abaka, in a role as a politician whose ethical standards are more wishy washy than Jordan’s, doesn’t flinch from letting the character’s warts show. John McClain gives a well rounded performance as a man looking for a political favor and Susan Lombarti- Verticelli is fine as Jordan’s friend and care-taker. Janell Mills is good as a doctor in awe of her patient.

Jordan, who grew up in the segregated South, studied law at Boston University where she felt challenged and where she excelled at her studies, by studying twice as hard as most of the other students.

She also thrilled to the sermons of Howard Thurman and discovered the Boston Pops and other pleasures of an open society. She loved African American culture and all the Black schools she had attended, but she came to staunchly believe that the whole society should be open to her and to everyone. Jordan was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1959 and then the Bar in Texas where she decided to practice.

Barbara Jordan, who was Chair of Immigrant Reform, gave the commencement address at Harvard in 1977. As was her way, she spoke from the heart. “What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” she said.

VOICE OF GOOD HOPE is a MUST SEE! “…a thought- provoking, determinedly non-sentimental homage to the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan…Thatcher’s play is admiring…the play raises profound questions about race, justice and political ethics that are very much of this moment.” – Chicago Sun Times. Final performance is April 1. Call 617-625-1300 for ticket information, or click below.

VOICE OF GOOD HOPE ticket info

review by Cheryl K. Symister-Masterson
54 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10I had the pleasure of interviewing vocalist, composer, lyricist and author TESSA SOUTER at WMUA, 91.1 FM in Amherst, MA. You may have had the chance to catch her debut performance at the Regattabar, last August. Truly a globetrotter, regularly performing in New York and London, she makes her debut appearance at Scullers Jazz Club on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 8pm.

Born in London of English and Trinidadian parents, Tessa’s jump from journalism to “vocalism” is recent. In seven years of singing professionally, she’s collaborated with some of jazz’s top-notch musicians, including percussionists Billy Hart and Bobby Sanabria, bassist Cecil McBee and tuba legend Howard Johnson. Based in New York, she melds jazz with flamenco flair, Middle Eastern and Celtic folk sounds, passion with play. She has been praised and recognized for her originality and authenticity with the music she brings to her audience.

Her release “Listen Love” (Nara Music) treats us to her many artistic talents. Tessa has lent lyrics to not- often heard instrumentals, like guitarist Pat Martino’s Willow here. Her one original on the release, You Don’t Have to Believe, speaks of belief beyond sight. She offers the listener a light, yet resilient rendition of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan, which she arranged. New York’s Village Voice has said, “She’s the only singer who can make sense of the composition.” Click her picture above to hear her cd, on line.

She penned her first book, Anything I Can Do You Can Do Better: How to Unlock Your Creative Dreams and Change Your Life (Vermilion-Random House, UK, January 2006) which she says “…it’s kind of like Bridget Jones’ Diary meets The Artist’s Way,”.

Not knowing much about Boston when she first visited, she came knowing a few folks. “Boston is just bursting with interesting people, like my friend Sara Bielanski whom I met on a week-long jazz workshop with [pianist] Kenny Werner, [saxophonist] Joe Lovano, [bassist] Cecil McBee and others. She’s an amazing young woman and a superb singer” In noting other Beantown acquaintances, she realized that “…the only people I know in Boston are creative artists. Somehow, there’s an “only in Boston” kind of feeling to all these people. Maybe there’s something in the water.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer has it right – “She’s a gem.” visit the TESSA SOUTER website

41 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. & ROOTZ TO RHYTHM tv thank all who attended our Special Event, The Official dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY of the film ONE LOVE, a few weeks ago, at RCC where we had the co-star of the movie, CHERINE ANDERSON as our special guest, along with Boston’s most talented reggae performers: IGINA, D!ARRYVAL and ANDREW G.

Here are some comments from those who attended the screening: “…a complete experience to come to a public setting and see a Black Love story that ends on a positive note with such talented young people…” “Better than The Harder They Come” “Very Good. Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”

“…Thank you for opening that movie to the Boston community. It was REALLY good! Hopefully, more quality movies like that will come out of Jamaica and marketed abroad…” “Fantastic. I loved it.”

“It was really an immense pleasure to attend the ONE LOVE event. I enjoyed watching a bunch of our young, Black people show-casing their talents. Also, I enjoyed the movie, including the young woman from Jamaica who played the lead role…She was wonderful…”

Hopefully, these remarks will move you to support this independent film, by ordering your own Official ONE LOVE dvd at $20 and Official soundtrack at $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com. As the only distributor to donate proceeds from sales of the Official ONE LOVE product to The Jamaica Hurricane Relief efforts, we ask you to take up this cause with us, leave the bootleg copy at the barber shop and get an OFFICIAL copy for your home library, from The Color of Film.

Hailed as the “Best Jamaican Film Ever” and Winner of the: AUDIENCE AWARD‚ Bahamas Int’l Film Festival ‘04; BEST ACTRESS, Urban world Film Festival ‘05; BEST SOUNDTRACK‚ Monaco Int’l FF ‘05; FILM OF THE YEAR‚ Santa Barbara African Film Series’05, ONE LOVE is a romantic comedy infused with the music and culture of Jamaica. A story of forbidden love between a young Rasta reggae musician played by Ky-Mani Marley, the son of Bob Marley, and the gospel singing daughter of a devout Pentecostal preacher, played by Cherine Anderson. Both actors bring their distinctive musical talents to this inspiring motion picture. ONE LOVE also stars Idris Elba of the HBO hit series The Wire with screenplay by world renowned and preeminent writer, Trevor Rhone (The Harder They Come).

16 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10THE COLOR OF FILM joins the First Weekend Club ©, sponsored by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) to promote the idea to Boston movie goers, the importance of going out to see a movie on the first weekend of its release, which is the crucial Hollywood moment. Club members pledge to support movies on the first weekend of release, and encourage other filmgoers to do the same. The Club is designed to financially advocate approval of African American themed films, in addition to those that portray people of color in a more diverse, three-dimensional way. The importance of BHERC is seen in its national appeal. Since its inception, club membership has increased to more than 37,000 filmgoers, with chapters in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Sacramento, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C. and now, Boston, with the efforts of The Color of Film.

To join the TCOF/First Weekend Club, email your name and phone number to robin@coloroffilm.com with First Weekend Club in the subject line.

52 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10This Saturday at Hibernian Hall! THERE’s A MEETING HERE TONIGHT! The Revels’ Touring Ensemble, ‘Circle of Song’ features MILTON WRIGHT as Frederick Douglass.

A show that takes you back to the mid 1800′s in New England, when the Hutchinson Family Singers, America’s first social activist performers, entertained at rallies. You never can tell who might show up – P.T. Barnum, maybe. A one-man band and juggler. Two shows only, April 1, 2006 at 4pm and again at 7:30pm. A family show, reasonably priced for seniors and children.

The Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall is located at 182-186 Dudley Street, next to the fire station in Roxbury. For more info you can phone 617-541-3900. Ticket info on The REVELS website

59 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #10The remarkable life and stellar career of legendary singer, NAT KING COLE comes to the Stoneham Theatre in UNFORGETTABLE: THE NAT KING COLE STORY, from MARCH 30 until APRIL 15, featuring Broadway star, MONROE KENT III as Nat King Cole, the beloved superstar whose tremendous appeal transcended the boundaries of race, culture and geography. Call the Stoneham Theatre Box Office at 781-279-2200 or click the photo to the left, to go to the Stoneham Theatre website for more information.

On Friday, APRIL 7, The Bank of America’s Celebrity Series presents South Africa’s SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR, after a sold-out performance in February of 2005. This encore special will be held at The Boston Symphony Hall, 8pm, as part of their 46-city US tour. Call CelebrityCharge at 617- 482-6661 for ticket information.

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The Color of Film Collaborative is a non-profit organization that supports and fosters the individuals and organizations in the creation of diverse images of people of color in film, video, theater and other media, by providing artists with opportunities to exhibit, distribute and find funding for their work, as well as provide a supportive environment where they can share and develop their ideas, their vision and their work with their peers. About Us

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