Nobody, No Time

Written by: Carlyle Brown Date posted: . Posted in In Development, Nobody No Time

Nobody, No Time

A Play with Music
by Carlyle Brown

It is February 25, 1922 – the last night in the life of celebrated Negro entertainer, Bert Williams.  In a break between performances, Bert regales his longtime assistant with songs and stories and finds himself confronting his own legacy of a career built on the exploitation of Negro stereotypes.  Nobody, No Time is a play with music that looks inside one of the most complex and conflicted figures in the Vaudeville era.

Bert Williams is considered a pioneer of American Vaudeville.  In an age when black performers were discriminated against as a matter of course, Williams rose to stardom through his mastery of physical comedy.

In the early years of the twentieth century, Williams found an artistic partner in African-American George Walker, and the pair developed blackface shows that found humor in universal situations rather than racial stereotypes, a new precedent in Vaudeville.

Following the success of his partnership with Walker, Williams became the first African-American man to work for the Ziegfeld Follies of New York City.  Williams Follies fame lead to a contract with Columbia Records, resulting in recordings of hits such as Nobody and Play that Barbershop Chord.  By 1920, Williams was one of the three highest paid recording artists in the world.

In 1922 Williams collapsed during a performance of Under the Bamboo Tree in Detroit, MI.  He died a month later and was mourned by thousands of fans at his funeral in New York City.

Speaking on the discrimination he faced throughout his career and life, Williams stated, “I have never been able to discover that there was anything disgraceful in being a colored man.  But I have often found it inconvenient… in America.”

Nobody, No Time has had a workshop and readings as part of the Playwrights’ Center PlayLabs New Play Festival in October 2012.

Directed by Marion McClinton
Music Direction by Victor Zupanc
Stage Manager : Sarah Holmberg

Cast

Brian Anthony Wilson* Bert Williams
Forrest McClendon* Chappy
Brian Grandison* George Walker
Timotha Lanae* Aida Overton Walker
Thomasina Petrus* Lottie Williams
Patrick Bailey* Florenz Ziegfeld/David Belasco
Adia Morris* Stage Directions

*Member, Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers

 

 

Finding Fish

Written by: Carlyle Brown Date posted: . Posted in Finding Fish, In Development

A Play In-progress
by Carlyle Brown

Finding Fish is a commission for Stage Force Theatre in Kittery Point, Maine for a play about the sustainability wars between fishermen, scientists and government regulators in the Gulf of Maine fisheries.  I was asked to write this play not only because the artistic director, a longtime colleague, was confident in my abilities to translate research into compelling theater, but also because I had spent my formative years as a young sailor piloting ships in the Gulf of Maine, and although I was never a fisherman, I witnessed the savage depletion of the fisheries first hand.  Therefore my interest and connection to the material is deeply personal.

Part myth, part futuristic science fiction, a cautionary tale, Finding Fish will first premier at Stage Force in Maine and the participants in this particular sustainability war will undoubtedly be in the audience and therefore the play from the beginning was tacitly charged with being a forum where they could talk to each other.  My attempt to resolve these problems resides in a recently completed first draft.  As the play’s development progresses we will be experimenting with video design that gives emphasis to nature and weather as among the central characters.

To learn more about the commission and the community it is being written for, visit www.stageforce.org

As we consider what relevance this story may have in our local community we recently came upon this article in Mpls/St. Paul Magazine.  Check it out.