Friday, September 11, 2015


Seeing Serena

Was it just me, or was Serena waay more emotional in today’s match at the US Open then she was on Tuesday against her sister Venus? I mean, who was this woman? Even though she has had well- documented outbursts at matches in the past and is known to be a mercurial and passionate player, I found myself looking at a different Serena. Today she screamed, screeched and even fell to her knees! Mainly she fought. She ultimately lost but still, she fought. And what a fight.

I noticed early in the game that Serena was getting much closer to the net than she usually did, as her opponent tried, successfully, to trip her up, get her out of her comfort zone which for Serena is usually further behind the net where she can run jump and even do splits, anything to hit the green ball. That was not the case today. Today  Serena had on  an orange outfit and opponent Roberta Vinci had on a hot pink one which might as well have been red because she was a determined demon, a powerful player with heart who, being a 300-1 underdog,  was way way hungry.  She was Serena’s worst nightmare.  So much so that she arrogantly beat her chest when she scored in the third, actually using hand gestures to implore the crowd to give her her props. Roberta Vinci  actually seemed to feed off the crowd.

Serena? Not so much. As was the case in her match against Venus, she seemed annoyed, distracted even, by the crowd. At one point in Tuesday’s game she even  signaled to the umpire to quiet the crowd. This time around, frustrated and flustered, she held her hand up at the excited audience, actually gave them the hand, while they cheered the champion after a hard won point. ‘Let me focus, I need to focus, this isn’t over yet,’  she seemed to be saying.  But soon after, for Serena’s bid for The Grand Slam- which has not been won by a woman since Steffi Graff in 1988 -  it was.
Halfway into the match, my  Facebook  friend & fellow writer/mother/amazingwoman Angela Bronner Helm  posted this: “Serena is battling. Don't let me find out that Drake is a damn jinx!” I laughed aloud because like, OMG, that’s exactly what I was thinking!  Was recently rumored amour, the rapper  Drake, who was so visibly absent on Tuesday that my own guy wondered out loud where Serena’s supposed new (old?) boo was, actually a jinx?  Honest question, Angela.  Men have been known to throw a girl off their game sometimes, the damn delicious distractions.  Trust me. I know. I even wrote a book about it once.

But no. I don’t think so. I actually don’t know what to think. I am like everyone else in the world right now, including Serena: Seriously  Stunned. We all just knew she had a history-making Grand Slam in the bag.  And maybe... so did she. And maybe that was the problem.  Whatever it was, we can’t blame Drake or Venus or Roberta or even Serena. Although she, like all of us, is responsible for the outcome of her endeavors. That’s just the name of the game. I feel bad for her (as bad as I can feel for a fit, fly fabulous, tennis playing mil(bil?)ionnaire with famous friends and a God-given Black bodacious bootie). I know she fell all the way apart after all of it (the game, the shaking the opponent's hand, the smiling at the crowd, the waving) was all over. I know all of  that was not easy for her.  At least, hopefully, maybe, she’s got Drake (the jinx?) to hold her close tonight knowing as well as we all do, that she may have fallen today, but a sister like Serena Williams will never fall apart.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Street Car Named Desire: A Star is Born

People will lead you to believe that the reason to catch the new production of Tennesse Willims' A Street Care Named Desire is to see Blair Underwood on Broadway

And it is.  He's good. But  you know this already. He's had a long career in television and on film  playing characters that were sophisticated (Something New), smart (LA Law), and sexy (Sex and the City). We've seen him mean before, too (Madea's Family Reunion). And of course you  know the man is fine. (He takes his shirt off in the play to reveal a  real nice six-pack situation happening).  A true thespian, he brings all of these elements to Stanley, successfully filling the role on stage that none other than Marlon Brando epitomized in the classic film.  But  again, to me,  this came as no surprise.  I knew he could do the damn thing and he  did.

Who did surprise me in this production was Nicole Ari Parker. When I heard she'd been cast in the multi-cultural production I didn't get it.  Blanche DuBois a big role. A classic role. A role immortalized on film by Vivien Leigh in a post-Scarlet O'Hara performance that proved no one could do southern belle quite as well. A role that requires flickering, conflicting displays of vanity, confusion, corruption, vulnerability, wisdom, wit and regret.  Let's not forget the play's many moody monologues. Thankfully,Nicole Ari Parker didn't disappoint. Among a talented cast that also included the handsome Wood Harris as Blanche's love interest Mitch and Daphne Ruben-Vega as her sister,  Nicole Ari-Parker  as the desire-driven Stella was the standout.

In the audience, where I spotted a discreet Holly Robinson-Peete taking in the show with a friend, the buzz was the same. During curtain call the woman behind me whispered to her date: "Nicole played the sh-t out of that role" and she did. She really, really did.

This past season I have seen many  performances by black actresses on Broadway. Angela Basset was powerful in The Mountaintop (but of course she was; she's Angela Basset) while watching the female cast of Stick Fly was an unremarkable  experience.

But Nicole Ari Parker in this revamped version of A Streetcar Named Desire was a revelation. I didn't know she had it in her, but oh she did! Her performance of the damaged and doomed Blanche outshone Mr. Underwood's Stanley and he seemed content to let her shine.

 You may have seen Nicole-Ari Parker in television's Soul Food and in films like "Boogie Nights" and "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins."  But you haven't seen her until you've seen her  as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.  It's been a long time coming for the  NYU alum and audiences alike, but this Broadway season, finally, a star is born.

Monday, March 5, 2012

NY Knicks Bowl 2012

The New York Knicks are looking good on and off the court these days. I had the privilege of getting some pictures of my favorite players at their annual fundraiser,  KnicksBowl 2012. As always, the event took place at Chelsea Piers. 

With their recent successes and  the injection of new blood in the form of Jeremy Lin (who was gone by the time I got there. But, oh well. As a true Knicks fan one thing I know for sure is that you win some, you lose some), there were some celebrities on hand to show the love. 

 I spotted Brooklyn's hometown boy, former X Factor Contestant Astro  along with "Mad Men" actor John Slattery and  actor Matthew Modine. But of course it was all about the players, all of whom were approachable and down to earth and posed for me with pleasure! Good times, I say. Good times!
Landry Fields
JR Smith
Tyson Chandler
Cal Ramsey, Matthew Modine, and Legendary Knickerbocker
Mike Bibby and Steve Novak
Kym Hampton and Amare Stoudemire

John Slattery

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Stars of the Great White Way: 3 Female Playwrights Present Productions this Season!!!

If you didn't already know, the hottest ticket of Broadway right about now is "The Mountaintop" with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset. Portraying the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and the  mysterious maid he meets the very night before his assassination,  the two megawatt movie stars bring experience, passion, and true talent to their roles. Their performances have been buzzed about  ever since the play opened at the Bernod B. Jacobs Theatre on October 13th, 2011. It will run until January 15, 2012 (unless it gets extended, of course, which it should). It is truly a funny, spirited, controversial and powerful play.

What makes it really remarkable, though, is the playwright herself and the significance her production brings to this particular Broadway season.

For the first time ever, three Black Women Playwrights will have their work performed simultaneously on The Great White Way.  In addition to "The Mountaintop" creator Katori Hill, Lydia R. Diamond will debut "Stick Fly" in December at The Cort Theatre.  Her play was produced by Alicia Keys (who also composed the music-I guess she couldn't resist!) and also boasts some serious star power: Mekhi Phifer, Dule Hill, Tracie Thomas and Ruben Santiago-Hudson star in this drama about a rich Black family's secrets and lies. Joining the Broadway babies that are Ms. Hill and Ms. Diamond is veteran playwright Susan Lori Parks. She's revamped the classic "Porgy and Bess", which will be  featuring the talents of Audra McDonald and David Alan Grier (yes, that David Alan Grier) and begins previews December 17th at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

A historic event, yes. But these women have had their way paved by others, such as  Miki Grant whose play "Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope" swept the Broadway stage from 1972-1974 and was nominated for numerous Tony Awards. She was one of the many, young and old,  who came out to Times Square on October 7th, 2011 for the annual "Black Stars of the Great White Way" gathering.
Playwright and Actress Micki Grant
(Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope)

 The event drew many from the theatre world: dancers, actors, composers, choreographers and the like.

Linda Twine, Composer
(Sophisticated Ladies, The Color Purple)
Ebony Jo Ann, Actress/Singer
(Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
George Faison, Choreographer
(1st Black man to win Tony for Choreography, "The Wiz")

Maurice Hinds, Dancer/Choreographer
(Sophisticated Ladies)

Daniel Watts, Vivian Nixon, Actors
 (Memphis, Ruined)

"The Lion KIng" Cast Members
Norm Crosby, Actor
(Chicago, Porgy and Bess)

Still, without writers, without words, there would be no plays, no productions. This is not lost on Katori Hill who names Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage ("Ruined") as her mentor and admires the work of  other emerging playwrights such as Rhada Blank, Dominique Morisseau and Pia Wilson.

Ms. Hill, who is also an actress, is open to writing in other genres.  She  initially thought she was going to be a novelist. The theatre, though, is the truth: "Playwriting requires you to write stories of witness--people have to be in the room for it to happen. The actors, they are like shamans or priests. When molecules react something spiritual happens."

I''m sure all of her Broadway contemporaries,  in  their truest theatrical fashion, would totally agree!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Digital Photographer Reminisces Over Film, My God!

Scorsese and Spike @ LIU Film Seminars, Brooklyn, 1999
Summer cleaning, came across  some of my old pictures. Pictures I took in The Early 90’s!!! Thinking back to when it all  really started for me. I was young. Just back from Howard U. Took an internship at 40 Acres—no pay but totally worth it. Fell in love with photography again and again and again every Saturday afternoon shooting  Spike Lee’s LIU Film Seminars in Brooklyn.  I was shooting with  FILM. Black and White Film!!! No one ever does that anymore. Now??? It’s digital digital digital for them all—including me ( a girl’s gotta keep up with the times!) Digital is kool. No duh!!! But film??? Waay kooler. There was an element of  anxiety, excitement even. You had your camera. You had your film. You had your subject(s). You had your light (via flash or strobe or available). And you had your instincts, your timing, your LUCK!!! Now, with digital? Take a shot, look at it, don’t like it?? Delete it. Then, with film? You had a roll with 24-36 shots. The more rolls you had, the better.  But once you ran out that was IT. So you took your time. Contemplated every shot. And when you HAD to shoot fast you shot fast and smart and steady and  good - counting each frame to insure you did not run out. Then, you had to wait to get the film processed  to finally  see what you shot. Life was full of sweet anticipation. Now? Instant gratification. But it’s all good. Technology changes things. Life moves fast. Film is obsolete. I get it. I’m just reminiscing.
Lonette McGee @ LIU Film Seminars, Brooklyn, 1991

The Hughes Brothers and Spike @ LIU Film Seminars, Brooklyn,   1991

                                                       Julie Dash (center) leads Women in Film Panel at LIU Film Seminars, Brooklyn , 1991

Friday, May 7, 2010

Faces and Places: FENCES on Broadway

 "FENCES" is currently at the Cort Theatre starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

These thespians brought the set alive, taking the audience immediately to Pittsburgh, 1957 in the front yard of main characters Troy Maxson and his wife, Rose. Troy, a strong willed garbage hauler, brings home the bacon and his wife fries it up in a pan, all the while sporting her signature headscarf, skirt and apron. But don't let the clothes fool you. Viola's Rose is a smart, sexy and spiritual woman who believes in family first. But when a bitter and resentful Troy commits a cardinal sin, Rose's strength and loyalty is put to the ultimate test proving that "FENCES", although featuring megawatt stars who have each been recently nominated for Tony Awards, is not about the stars. It is about the story.

The late great August Wilson was a master at creating characters and situations that are real and relateable to anyone who has experienced a dream die. Through Mr. Wilson's snappy dialogue, knowledge of human nature, and attention to detail, we feel each character's challenges. I've been lucky enough to see many of Mr. Wilson's plays in the past: "Gem of the Ocean", "The Piano Lesson", "Radio Gulf", "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and this past fall, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone". All were powerful. All were classics. But for me, "Fences" was by far the best. It kept my attention and managed to keep my teenage daughter's attention, too, which is no easy feat. Because of this I can seriously say it will make a great night on the town with the family. So catch it while you can (the play runs though July 11) and take your mom, your auntie or your sister. But definitely take your man!

Denzel Washington's portrayal of a man who has lost his light can serve as a cautionary tale for those who choose to hold on to life's past pain and disappointments instead of embracing faith in the future. Denzel is gritty, angry and unshaven here. The character Troy is a broken man, a tired man. It was interesting to watch The Denzel Washington play it so gritty, so close to the bone, especially since we are so used to seeing him in the handsome leading man role. The last time I saw him on Broadway he was clean cut, fit and fine as ever in Julius Ceasar. He is a far cry from that here, even sporting a small gut, but it's okay.  He's still the great actor Denzel Washington who does it all, stage and screen, and nobody does it better!


Post performance, the players greeted fans!

(Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson)

(Mykelti Williamson plays Gabriel)

(Russel Hornsby plays Lyons)

(Steven McKInley Henderson plays Jim BONO)

All photos by Kerika Fields