At our curtain call yesterday, Roger Robinson announced to the audience that we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of Actors Equity, and that Equity Rep has been the first company of black artists in all of Los Angeles.
I answered an open call in Backstage in 1972 for the Public Theater was then cast in BLACK VISIONS and earned my Equity card. Among my cast were Morgan Freeman, Bill Cobbs, John Henry Redwood, Anthony Chisolm, Gloria Foster, Beverly Todd, Barbara Montgomery and J.A. Preston.
This was four one-acts. The writers included Richard Wesley, Sonia Sanchez and Neil Harris. The director were Kris Keiser and Novella Nelson. Hope Clarke choreographed and Garland Lee Thompson was the stage manager. Theater history…
Turner Greystone, my most recent character from FRATERNITY. 41 years later…
Even after all these years and all of the miracles, my life still has the capacity to surprise me. I am Ravenous; I can smell the beef ribs waiting for me but I must get this down while it remains fresh.
After a wonderful show and weekend of performance, I wanted to treat myself, so I drove south to Dinah’s on Sepulveda, one of my favorite kitchens. I called ahead to order a rack of ribs, a box of chicken and sides. I arrived, paid, tipped and waited. A fit older black man entered, black t-shirt and ball cap and I noticed his 1st Cav patch. I commented, we shook hands; he’d been a door gunner for two tours in the Central Highlands in the mid-60’s. I showed him the picture from my wallet you see above with my brother, Dai and we exchanged our benediction. Welcome Home.
My food was ready, I wished him well and went to my car. Then I had the thought to bring him a flyer from the play. I returned and told him of the events inspiring the play, the bombing in Birmingham in 1963. I could see his eyes narrow, even thru the shades…and he very soberly told me, “My cousin married the sister of one of those girls that died. I’m from Birmingham.” I encouraged him to try to make one of the final four performances, shook his hand again and walked to my car.
As I drove north, on a whim, I switched the radio off of the playoff game onto CBS, which was in the middle of a story about our president awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to commemorate the four young victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. They were interviewing the sister of Addie, one of the victims. The sister was also in that bathroom and spent 3 months hospitalized. She lost an eye, still has shards of glass in the remaining eye…and still misses her sister. But she has managed to forgive – because hatred will change nothing and because she believes that forgiveness is what God would want her to do.
I don’t know if she is the sister that married the cousin of the man I met at Dinahs today…but at this point, I would not be surprised to learn that was so. Perhaps if he comes next week, I’ll have the chance to ask him.