Mr. Tol E RAncE is Brilliant

I didn’t realized how rare it was to witness the emergence of a masterpiece before December 7, 2013.   “A Love Supreme”, “A Raisin in the Sun”, Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”, often times the works I regard as masterpieces were created before I was born, but the thing about a masterpiece is you know one when you see one.  It rocks your head back and socks you directly in the breadbasket.  After seeing Camille A. Brown’s “Mr. Tol E. Rance” my head has been popped up Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots style.


Camille A. Brown

Like “Revelations”, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” was born from choreographer Camille A. Brown’s personal experiences.  Frustrated with the game many artists must master in order gain recognition or make a living, Ms. Brown started on a journey that culminated in this powerful, introspective piece.  Through exploring her own emotions, Ms. Brown was also influenced by Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”, Mel Watkins’ “On the Real Side” and the idea of the modern day minstrel.  Utilizing sketch comedy, live music and animation, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” presents a mirror to the audience allowing them to examine the influence that stereotypes have had on black culture and art.  The stereotype is the mask the artist wears to become successful, but what happens when one becomes imprisoned by it?

The Company in TOL... PC_Christopher.Duggan_166Hattie McDaniel was once quoted as saying she would rather make $700 a week playing a maid than make $7 a week being one.  This sentiment speaks to the first act of the production.  Beginning with photographs and videos of comedic actors and shows, the dance troupe then provides a blistering, rhythmic history lesson, sometimes acting out the gestures of famous black characters.  An episode of “The Twilight Zone” could best describe act two.  The particular one that comes to mind is titled “The Masks.”  Family members gather at the home of a wealthy family member whose dying. He demands the members to where masks he selected all night in order to obtain their inheritance.  They comply and when they are able to remove the mask, they realize that their face has contorted into the same shape as their mask.    As much as the first act reveals how stereotypes were used as a means of paving a way, the second act shows how stereotypes have become the main contributor to black culture and the road that was paved has lead black entertainers to a realm where minstrelsy is not only perpetuated but expected.

Waldean Nelson

Waldean Nelson

Mixing nostalgia with bitter truths, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” can brutal on the eyes and soul. The comedy and jiving lower our guards and lure us in, then without warning the rug is snatched from under your feet.  Suddenly, you realize the role you play in the perpetuation of today’s stereotypes.  As much as black entertainers wear a mask, we assist and often times insist on them wearing it.  Afterall, we are the ones that subscribe and purchase what these entertainers are peddling.  The penultimate section of act two contains two riveting solos by Waldean Nelson and Camille A. Brown, each struggling to break away from their masks.   The work ends with a dialogue between the dancers and the audience.  Explosive and extremely emotive this work barrels through the consciousness like a bullet shattering through panels of glass.  If works of art were required to be seen, this would be one of them.  It is the most telling piece of edutainment I have seen in a long time.  In short I could sum up “Mr. Tol E RAncE” in three syllables, tour de force.

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERSCamille A. Brown & Dancers performed “Mr. Tol E RAncE” at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts on December 6 and 7.   Some may always think of December 7 as a day that will live in infamy.  I will view it as a day of awakening.  There is no way you can sit down to view “Mr. Tol E RAncE” and walk out the same.  When this work is performed again I urge everyone who reads F.A.M.E NYC to see this seminal dance piece and witness this masterpiece with your own eyes, mind and spirit.

Photos: Christopher, Grant Halverson

New Madiba

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

When I first heard the announcement of Nelson Mandela’s death I was shocked.  I felt my heart chambers deflate.  Of course I knew he was ill, but what I’ve learned from watching elderly family members battle sickness and slowly fade over to the other side is that you’re never really ready when the news comes.  At first I tried to face this news with a celebratory attitude.  Mandela was 95-years-old.  He had lived several lives in the almost century his soul was here on Earth.  He changed the lives and outlooks of many worldwide. If anyone deserved rest, it was him.  As a former Baptist, I was trained not to mourn death but to celebrate it. We sing. We shout.  “Our beloved is going home to be with our Heavenly Father and those who have gone before him.  He will always be with us –even until the end of time.” That is what my head reasoned.  It told me to clap my hands as I watched South Africans gather in front of Mandela’s home and sing, “Nelson Mandela ha hona ya tshwanang le ena.”  But my heart wouldn’t concur.  Tears fell over tears so fast that I couldn’t contain them.  I cried as if a member of my family had passed, although it really doesn’t matter that we didn’t share chromosomes…one of my family members did pass.

For anyone who craves freedom and justice for everyone, Madiba was our father.  I grew up watching the Black Liberation and African National Congress flags fly in my backyard.  My father told me about the struggles of the ANC and Nelson Mandela, who was still serving his prison sentence.  He told me how apartheid mirrored Jim Crow and how we must show our support, even if all we could do was show up at a rally to put pressure on the U.S. government and corporations to divest from South Africa.  It was Madiba’s imprisonment and incidents like Yusef Hawkins’ murder here in New York that forced me to write manifestos and place them on my high school bulletin board in an effort to create awareness among my classmates.  From prison Madiba’s spirit and the spirits of other freedom fighters led me to attend protests and marches against injustice wherever it showed its smug, intolerant face.

Madiba has brought me to tears before.  My parents and I had tears in our eyes as we watched him walk out of prison in 1990.  He was so vibrant; the feeling resonated through the television screen.  Within months he was in New York and we went to see him.  It didn’t matter that we were just faces and voices in the crowd, we were there.  Madiba brought me to tears when he was elected president of South Africa and he brought me to tears when he took the oath of office.

Today I realized why I had to cry when I heard the news of Mandela’s passing.  It brought me back to the day I realized my family, which at one point was too large to count, was shrinking.  All the individuals who strive to simply make the world a better place for all its citizens were leaving. “Our elders are transitioning…” I thought as I cried.  “Who would take their place?  Has the last few decades prepared anyone to take their place?” These answers will only come in time.

Social Media has provided a platform for anyone with brainwaves and internet access to comment about the life of Nelson Mandela, positive or negative.  But I will remember Madiba as a patriarch and the “troublemaker” that his name proclaimed him to be.  I will remember his unyielding spirit.  I will remember how he ascended above the lower emotions of hate and hostility to work towards a greater South Africa.  To me he was Gandhi, Spartacus and FDR rolled into one towering figure with a smile that beguiled the heart of anyone who saw it.

Madiba, I never met you in life, so I will take this opportunity to say thank you.  Thank you for giving the world you.  Thank you for being the type of troublemaker who wouldn’t hesitate to shake up and change an unjust system. Thank you for showing us what one person can do when they are armed with devotion, discipline and forgiveness.  Thank you showing us that even through our human frailties we can and should always allow our God-given light to shine.   And to the family of Nelson Mandela, thank you for allowing us to share him with all of you.

Nelson Mandela there is no one like you.  There will never be another like you. History and the world could never forget you. Go and take your place among the ancestors.  


Meagan Good Lends Her Voice to The Bible

Actress Meagan Good has displayed her beauty and talent in numerous films including Deliver Us from Eva, Stomp the Yard and Think Like a Man.  Recently she, along with other actors such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Patricia Heaton and Christopher Gorham and pastors such as Craig Groeschel , Erwin McManus , Jonathan Falwell and Miles McPherson, has participated in the latest audio production of the bible.  Directed by actress and director Chip Hurd (who also directed the 2006 audio adaptation) NIV Live: A Bible Experience features cinematic 3D enhanced sound and a musical score courtesy of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.  When asked about her involvement with NIV Live, Meagan responded, “As a little girl I’d known Chip and she’s just an incredible person and incredible mentor.  As this project came about she asked me if I would like to be a part of it and I was like of course I would.”

The bible is one of the most read works in the human history with several adaptations published.  The creative team behind NIV Live: A Bible Experience also produced the first audio version of the bible in 2006.  The passages Meagan and the other cast members read were assigned to them.  In this version she portrays Eve, mother of all mankind, but as for her personal favorite passage the 32-year-old actress stated, “My personal favorite is always going to be Proverbs 31 because that is who I aspire to be every day. I put my best foot forward to try to be that woman.” NIV Live: A Bible Experience can be purchased as a 79-disc CD set with a bonus DVD featuring the making of NIV Live, a downloadable digital version with multi-platform access or a mobile app with price points ranging from $19.99 to $62.50.  If you want to see and hear Meagan, you won’t have to wait long; she is co-starring in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is set to be released on December 18.  In 2014, she will be reprising the role of Mya in Think Like a Man Too.  And yes FAMERS, I tried to get some scoop for you, but all Meagan would say was, “I will say…that someone gets married.  That’s all I can say or else Will Packer [producer of the Think Like a Man films] will have my head on a platter.”  And none of us wants that.  


Holiday Savings with AAADT

For those of you that are doing your Black Friday shopping online this evening, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is offering 40% off select performances at New York City Center.  The heat that emanates from the stage of any AAADT performance is surely hot enough to thaw a frigid night and is a cool alternative to the traditional holiday outings.

To order visit, and enter code ALYFRI. 

Need an extra incentive to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, well I’ve got one.  Your purchase guarantees you a “ticket-to-dance.”  “Ticket to Dance” offers a complimentary Ailey Extension class with a ticket stub from any Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater or Ailey II performance nationwide.  There are myriad techniques to choose from, including Horton, Ballet, Salsa as well as Yoga.   Now that is a gift that keeps giving.

Photo: Andrew Eccles

New Macbeth

Macbeth Gets Abstract

Pablo Picasso once stated, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”   By using color, line and form, abstract artists, like Picasso, create works that are considered free from traditional visual references.  The deconstruction of the customary form allows the viewer to interpret the art however they desire.  This fall, the timeless words of Shakespeare are receiving an abstract spin courtesy of director Jack O’Brien.  Macbeth, starring Ethan Hawke, is playing at Lincoln Center Theater until January 12.  Steeped in colors of black, blood red and white, this production explores the adverse realities that plagued Macbeth’s mind thrusting the audience into the eye of a nightmare.  But do not believe me; see the faces of Macbeth for yourself!

To learn more about Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater please visit the following sites:



Twitter: @LCTheater

New BDRCoverPhoto

Four Years Strong….F.A.M.E NYC Anniversary Ticket Giveaway

It’s F.A.M.E NYC Magazine’s Anniversary!!! And as a thank you to all my FAMERS, I would like to extend the opportunity to win two tickets to see BECOMING DR. RUTH!

To enter, all you have to do is leave this comment:  “I LOVE F.A.M.E NYC!” 


Each comment increases your chances of winning, so comment a lot.  This is quickie ticket giveaway and the winner will be announced November 20, 2013.

So what are you waiting for….comment and tell us how much you love F.A.M.E NYC and win some tickets!

Tickets courtesy of Serino Coyne

15. Photograph - Carlo Scarpa with Arturo Biasutto in the Venini factory

Carlos Scarpa Glasswork on Display at The Met

On Nov. 5, The Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa The Venini Company, 1932–1947.   Born in 1906 in Venice Italy, Carlos Scarpa studied architecture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice and graduated in 1926 with the qualification of being “professor of architectural drawing.” Between 1926 and 1932, he worked at M.V.M. Cappellin glassworks.  During Scarpa’s next position at Venini Glassworks (1932 and 1947) his talents redefined the art glass-blowing.  The medium of glass-blowing is a tradition that spans centuries on the Venetian island of Murano.  Scarpa and the Venini factory became the leaders of innovation experimenting with surface texture, silhouettes and color.

4. Truncated cone-shaped glass vase of murrine romane_Scarpa

Truncated cone-shaped glass vase of murrine romane

The exhibition features close to 300 selected pieces, which are organized chronologically and divided into groups according to technique.  Two of the techniques showcased are bollicine, named for the bubbles of air trapped inside, and mezza filigrana, the art of blowing glass as thinly as possible into objects weighing just a few ounces each. Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa The Venini Company, 1932–1947 will run until March 2, 2014 and was made possible in part by the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund.

Photos courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art


William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time On Display At The Met

In a joint acquisition with the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art premiered William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time (2012) on October 22; the exhibit will run through May 11, 2014.  A five-channel installation is billed as “a thirty-minute meditation on time and space, the complex legacies of colonialism and industry, and the artist’s own intellectual life.” Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa where he still lives and works.

The Met will host three Gallery Talk events in conjunction with this exhibit.  The dates are as follows:

Saturday, January 4, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 5, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 22, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Gallery Talk is free with Museum admission


Photo:  Henrik Stromberg

Video: Antonio Limonciello


Lou Reed

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Lou Reed

My earliest memory of Lou Reed was hearing his music and saying, “I wanna write like that.” His voice…his poetry – it’s artistic perfection.  When I heard of Lou Reed’s passing, I was devastated.  We want our artistic heroes to be immortal but our flesh doesn’t work that way.  It wrinkles, it ages, it fades and dies.  Thankfully we have his music, brimming with energy and moments accompanied by sound. I would like to share some of my favorite Lou Reed songs.  After all his music tells his story better than I ever could.  RIP Lou Reed!

Photo: Getty



Hurricane Sandy One Year Later

Last year this time I had no electricity.  I was disconnected from family, friends and the entire world.  I was on the road maneuvering around downed trees and power lines, searching for non-perishable food to feed my parents and myself as well as gas to feed my vehicle. Anxiety was starting to settle in; my gas gauge was at a quarter of a tank and I had no idea when the gas trucks would arrive.  Darkness was descending and my Blackberry’s battery life was dwindling.  It had been a long time since I had been frightened on Halloween.  I felt as if I was starring in my own post-apocalyptic drama.

When Sandy hit the NYC-Metro area I, like many others, was ill-prepared.  I heard the warnings but I didn’t take them seriously.  I didn’t run out and stock up on canned goods, candles and water.  This is NYC and New Jersey I thought, we’ll be fine.  Around 8:30 that evening my home went dark.  From my windows I watched the transformers blow one by one, sparking electric flashes of blue light.  One by one I watched as the surrounding blocks and homes in my neighborhood lost the life source of the 21st century.  As I stared into the candlelight illuminating my bedroom, wondering what time it was, I was suddenly humbled by the tremendous power of Mother Nature.  Two days after Halloween, the lights in my house came back on and I was able to view the full devastation of what Sandy had left in her wake. I was thankful that Sandy only cost me a few days of inconvenience, but horrified and saddened to see and hear the stories of those who had lost everything.

As the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approached a feeling invaded the air, it was almost palpable.  A year later and many of us have had the opportunity to go back to normal.  For some the ghost of Sandy still lingers, still possessing a stranglehold on their lives.  Recovery is slow going but I stand firm in the belief that those who were severely affected by the storm will receive the resources necessary to rebuild.  One thing I know about this area is we may get knocked down, but we get back up better than before.

Photo: Getty