Her name may not be as well known as say, Angela Bassett, but people have most certainly witnessed the talent of veteran actress and singer, Charlayne Woodard.
No relation to Alfre, Woodard is best known for her work in musicals such as “Ain’t Misbehavin.’”
Her resume also includes appearances in “Law and Order: SVU,” “Lackawanna Blues” and Oprah Winfrey presents “The Wedding,” however, audiences will be able to see a more personal side of Woodard in “Pretty Fire.”
“I can’t just sit down every morning and start typing. Something has to hit me, something has to mean something to me,” said Woodard.
In writing her first solo play, Woodard decided to show audiences the significance of her life and experiences as a child.
“Pretty Fire” is a series vignettes that tells the story of “simple pleasures, small fears and quiet wonders of childhood.”
Playgoers will take a walk down memory lane as Woodard shares her birth as a premature baby, the first time she was called a nigger, being teased about her physical appearance and the sacrifices of her supportive family.
Woodard’s theatrical autobiography, however, isn’t a tale full of hardship, pain and suffering. Milicent Wright who plays Charlayne Woodard in the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s version of “Pretty Fire” says Woodard had a very average life, but the play shines a light on issues that transcend race, gender and age. Woodard’s play cleverly blends growing pains with humor.
“It’s about making things better for the next generation and every day heroes,” said Wright. “Even in the hard times, family is there for a reason, even when we discover the reason later on. They create who we are.”
The actress, who has also done the one woman play “The Power of One” on the lives of Harriet Tubman, Madame C.J. Walker and Rosa Parks, said when reading “Pretty Fire” for the first time, she immediately related with Woodard’s life.
Some might believe that Wright portraying Woodard and other sub-characters makes the play more powerful while others may believe a full cast would make the story more complete. Wright acknowledges both sides, but affirms “Pretty Fire” is the essence of classic story telling.
“Gone are the days of the griot,” said Wright. “Watching and listening; the weaving of the story, it takes you back to your own experiences. You watch this and you think ‘oh my god, that’s my uncle who tells that story every Christmas.’ It’s a tradition the solo craft creates.”
Although “Pretty Fire” explores certain themes not suitable for young children, Wright states this play is the ideal grandmother/mother/daughter outing and a great time in celebrating womanhood, family and non-stereotypical African-Americans.
The message of “Pretty Fire” is a simple one: everyone has a special story to tell.
“Not many of us have the talent of writing our story, like Charlayne, but we each embody this,” said Wright. “This piece will bring a lot of comfort.”
‘Spook Show’ by Whoopi Goldberg
First presented on Oct. 15, 1982, “Spook Show” was directed by and performed by Whoopi Goldberg. The show opened in 1983 at New York’s Dance Theatre Workshop, which led to a Broadway production the following year.
Characters included The Junkie, Surfer Chick, Little Girl with Blonde Hair, and Hospital Lady.
Here’s an excerpt from the monologue “Little Girl with Blonde Hair:”
I told my mother I didn’t want to be Black no more…Man, she say even if you sitting in a vat of Clorox till hell freezes over, you ain’t gonna be nothing but Black. And she was right too, because I sat in the Clorox and I got burned. And she say I just got to be happy with what I got, but look. See? It don’t do nothing. It don’t blow in the wind. And it don’t casca—cascadadade down my back. It don’t. And I put that bouncing stuff in it and it didn’t even lift. And I want some other kind of hair to do something else. I do.”
IRT presents the ‘Going Solo’ Festival featuring three one-actor Plays
The Indiana Repertory Theatre, 140 W. Washington St., announces a festival of intimate stories in an intimate setting in “Going Solo” which is showing on the Upperstage. This is IRT’s first time to present a festival of three unique one-actor plays within a season. Theatre buffs can actually see all three shows on the same day. Plays include “Pretty Fire;” “The Year of Magical Thinking,” is a clear-eyed examination of shock and grief as one woman attempts to make sense of a time when nothing makes sense; and “After Paul McCartney,” two buddies who travel across the ocean and back in efforts to meet half of “the greatest collaboration in 20th century art.” Ticket costs are $44 adults; $34 seniors; $19 students (prices vary based on shows). For more information, call (317) 635-5252 or visit www.irtlive.com. “Pretty Fire” show times: Saturday, Feb. 13, 5 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 20, 1 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 27, 4 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 28, 2 p.m.