It was in the 1970's that I first decided to start my own theatrical production company. I named it Regal Roots Theater for the Performing Arts. I didn't have a dime to invest in it. At the time it was just a dream. Little did I know it was taking the shape of a reality.
I walked into the office of the director at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Paterson, NJ. He did everything he could to discourage me. He told me it would not work and that many people had tried to start a theatrical company in that town. All had failed and some had gotten hurt trying. I would not listen, I would not be turned around. Finally, he stood up and shook my hand, telling me we could hold rehearsals there free of charge. I climbed on the bus and headed home with my heart soaring in my chest.
I went through many ups and downs. The upside? Well, God sent me fantastic, dedicated people. Not one of them had ever had any acting experience and I had to train them all. It was great fun. I had been taught acting by Norman Charles the director of The Theater of Renewal in NYC. He taught me improvisation, a skill I relish to this day. He was demanding and magnificent. He taught me about being "real" on stage, refusing to fake even the smallest prop. You could never pretend to hold a glass of water. If you didn't have one, you'd better not speak of it on his stage! I then taught that to my actors. The result was the creation of my first show, "Get Right, Church!" I assigned each actor a character and there was absolutely no script! The entire play was improvised and we rehearsed every Saturday creating lines and adding depth to each character. We opened to a sold out house! We had very few props. Yet, we received a standing room ovation! It built our reputation. We never looked back.
I began to write more plays. Major department stores lent us furniture and their window displays. All I ever had to do was rent a truck for pick up and delivery. I also gave each one a full page ad in the program for free. I went to the Legal Aid Society in my hometown and hired an attorney for free. He incorporated the company as a non profit organization. When the paperwork went through we all celebrated with champagne in his office. He than began to file for grants for us and we went on to perform to full houses at every performance.
I then branched out and began a poetry performance group in New York. It was called Cross-Bron-Cross Productions. I had a diverse group of poets who loved each other and spent time together whether we were in performance or not. My son grew up with Laurence Holder and Gylan Kain (of the original Last Poets) spending many weekends in our home. Soon, my life took a different turn with the birth of my daughter and we all moved on. Yet, the memories of those days stay close to my heart forever.
It is with this same faith that I began Lali Productions. I walked into the office of Chris McCord at the Beam Theater, in May of this year, with not a dime in my purse to start a production company. He believed in me and has allowed me to grow. I couldn't give him a long term contract. I told him I would get the money somehow and he believed me. All I had was the advise of a few friends--to end my days of auditioning and performing for others. Kim Purdue-Sims (the moderator and founder of Black Writers with Purpose) was one of the first people to tell me to get off my duff and to get going! She told me to start the company and stand back and allow God to provide the funds to make it happen. So, I took a leap of faith. Every week, the money to pay for rehearsals would come. Every time I took a step, God sent me running right to the funds and the people who would help to make my dream come true. I have a fantastic cast, a great theater to open my play "The Delinquent Society" in and a nearly sold out 3 day showcase! When I think of the blessings I receive, I constantly sit at my desk and cry with joy! I went out on a leap of faith and God answered my prayers.
It has been a difficult journey. I started out with a partner in this venture who I love to this day, despite having to move forward alone. Yet, God brings people into your lives and removes them for reasons and we have to wait to find out why. My Assistant Director, Roderick Scott, told me that I could do this and he was in my corner every step of the way. What a God send he is! He has brought in a valuable sponsor and possible business partner for our production company. We at Lali Productions love and appreciate him. I had already cast this play when I found out that my husband, my friend and my love has stage 4 liver and gall bladder cancers. Yet, he has encouraged and inspired me. He refused to allow this to end my dream. I told the cast and they have made putting the production of this play as smooth as key lime pie! My daughter Naeemah stepped in as Stage Manager and for the first time we have rehearsal notes! To think, I refused to allow her to join the company because I have always hated nepotism in the corporate world. Once, I stepped back and let God, my eyes were opened to a partner who has always had my back.
Stephanie Scott stepped up to the plate and became our Resident Photographer. As you view her work, you will see the sensitivity and care she has taken in capturing the spirit of Lali Production and it's cast. Stephanie also sold more ticktets than any other person to date! Barbara Yizar has always been my right hand as my Production Assistant. Of course, the cast has done more than provided splendid acting. David Tilton, a lead actor agreed to be Prop Master for The Delinquent Society and Samuel Hubbard jumped aboard as a Production Assistant providing additional props and Julie Kelly (Mom of Jennifer Kelly) stepped in as a sponsor for the show. Yet what we do without LaFawn Austin, Vanessa Johnson and Julie Lopez (parents of our actors) who pulled out all stops to increase ticket sales!
So...here is my plea. We want to take this show to a larger venue. We have had a few wonderful sponsors and great ticket sales. This enabled us to pay for the theater and the printing of our brochures. Yet, we want to take the play throughout Georgia. Needless to say, our company is young and we don't have the money needed to assist in it's growth. We have the faith and the will power! We are willing to do the work to take our company to the next stage. Our goal is to become viable so that we can hire and maintain a group of actors dedicated to excellence; with an eye toward bringing meaningful and thought provoking productions to our community.
We are stretching out our hands to you and praying that you will grasp them and help us. There is no donation too small. Imagine, a few dollars here, a few more there and we will be on our way to the next venue. I am asking you to help me keep this dream alive. Please consider me and Lali Productions LLC.
Thank you so very much!