For the first time ever, Robert O’Hara, who has directed plays before at the Wilma Theater, will have one that he’s written taking the stage there. “Bootycandy” will be presented May 15 through June 16 at the Center City venue.
The play looks behind a tall church pulpit, where a fire-and-brimstone preacher delivers a shocking sermon to his congregation.
On the tropical sands of a deserted island, two lesbians come together. And, at the home of a young boy a mother scolds her son for reading Jackie Collins romance novels.
This is just a taste of playwright O’Hara’s imaginative anthology of sassy lessons in sex ed, a kaleidoscope of sketches that interconnect to portray growing up gay and African-American.
The play’s title, says the multi-award winner, including the 2010 NAACP Best Director Award for his direction of “Eclipsed,” is a reference to his childhood days when his mother and grandmother used that as a word for male genitals.
“Growing up, my mother would say, ‘don’t forget to wash your Bootycandy,’” O’Hara explains. “Looking back, my mother said she called it ‘boo boo candy,’ but I think she’s just trying to rewrite history.”
Living in Cincinnati, Ohio, and “escaping it at age 18,” O’Hara said he first wanted to be a lawyer because he liked watching the lawyer shows on TV. But always writing and directing, although he never thought of them as viable career choices, O’Hara soon changed his mind and changed his major from law to English to drama.
“From then on, I knew I wanted to become a director and writer. So I got my undergraduate degree at Tufts University and eventually my MFA in directing from Columbia University,” he recalled.
In addition to his other work, O’Hara has written a Richard Pryor biopic for Martin Scorsese, and a play about Pearl Bailey.
“I’d like to do even more,” he said, “including one on Whitney Houston. Scorsese once told me, ‘You don’t have to write everything from birth to death. Just find something that’s emblematic of their life, and what we think we know about them, and the rest will take care of itself.’”
Over the years, O’Hara has received many awards and accolades, including the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play for “Antebellum,” and an OBIE Award for his direction of the world premiere, critically acclaimed “In The Continuum.”
Asked what he considers the secret to a long life in the theater, O’Hara says with a laugh, “Rum and Coke. In that order. Of course, I’m kidding. The real answer is to find and do something that makes you happy and that means not just theater but your life as well. I have a loving partnership. I like where I live. I have many friends. You can’t make theater, or any one thing for that matter, your whole life. You have to build around it and then you can appreciate what you are doing.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 546-7824.
They’ve been on the road for more than 50 years, despite losing key members of the group time after time. And yet, Otis Williams, who founded the group that was ultimately to become known as The Temptations, has somehow managed to keep it all together since 1961.
And on May 10, The Temptations, along with The Four Tops, will take the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside for a great night of Motown hits.
Describing their origins, Williams says in the beginning everything was wonderful.
“But after a while, trouble started brewing, especially after we began to be successful,” said Williams. “You know, they say money won’t change you, but that’s not true. Everybody handles money and success differently, It can bring out the best or the worst in people. And that’s when some [members] of our group started going off on the wrong foot, making money and having all the adulations that comes with it.”
But somehow Williams managed to keep the act going.
“Actually, I was caught up in the throes of it, too, but I think I knew that somebody had to keep it together, and I guess I knew that somebody had to be me,“ he said. “Not that I was a saint, but I did realize that we had something good going and I also knew that quite a few people were depending on me. So I had that job to do, and I did it.”
Williams was born in1939 in Texarkana, Texas. He spent the early years of his life with his grandmother but eventually moved to Detroit to live with his mother. That’s when, he says, music began to consume more and more of his life, until he realized that any career without making music was out of the question.
In the 1950s he began putting together little musical groups with various members dropping in and out to what was then called The Distants. As they grew and began to hone their craft, Motown eventually called and Berry Gordy signed the group.
That’s when their fate was sealed and, ultimately, The Temptations were born,” he said.
With their fine tuned choreography and harmonies, The Temptations became the definitive male vocal group of the ’60s, putting out such memorable songs as “My Girl,” “How I wish it would rain,“ and later Just My Imagination,” “Poppa Was A Rolling Stone” and more.
Having accumulated numerous Grammy Awards, platinum and gold records, various No.1 hits on the Billboard charts, they have weathered changed personnel and consumer taste and still remain a top vocal group.
Williams thinks it’s because of their music and the fact that they put on a clean, family-oriented show.
“We’re not one of those acts that comes out and bump and grinds all over the place,” he said. “You can bring the whole family to see The Temptations, and you don’t have to worry abut a thing. We come from a different mind-set than some of the acts today. We were taught to be performers and entertainers in the truest sense of the word.”
In 1998, NBC-TV did a mini-series based on Williams’ autobiography. Penned a decade before the telemovie, Williams said it has brought the group a whole new generation of fans and continues to run from time to time.
Today, The Temptations, under Williams’ leadership, consists of Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon and Bruce Williamson.
And just like past lineups, today’s Temptations continue to please crowds everywhere
“Our challenge is to live in the present while respecting the past,” said Williams. “Our past is filled with riches only a fool would discard. At the same time, we thrive on competition. Coming from Motown, I grew up in the most competitive musical atmosphere imaginable. But we also understand that for a group with history, no matter how glorious that history might be, reinvention is the name of the game.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 572-7650.
She was a member of one of the most popular vocal group of the 1960s; a group that still bears her name - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Today, many decades later, Reeves is still on the Rock ‘n Roll trail, bringing back lots of lively and fond memories for old and new fans alike.
And on Sunday, April 28, Reeves and her group will be appearing at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, in a show dedicated to Motown. Also on the bill will be Bobby Rydell, The Happenings and The Orlons.
“I think I’m still on the charts after all these years because I’m a product of good teachers,” Reeves said. “I know my craft and I always encourage others to do the same.” Reeves said her very first teacher was her mother. Reeves and her siblings would sing in her grandfather’s church and a lot was expected of them.
“My mom taught us how to sing and retain the lyrics of a song, so we were always the stars in our church. Mother would have nothing less,” she said.
And Reeves admits she loved every minute of it.
“I always wanted to be a singer,” she said. “I was the oldest girl in the family, and as I stood at the sink washing dishes I sang all the time. I prayed I would be famous some day and make money as a singer. I wanted to make music the world would embrace, and I think it all came true.”
Indeed it did. After winning a local amateur contest, she was spotted by William Stevenson, the artist and repertoire man at Motown. She eventually got to audition for Berry Gordy, which led to a string of hits on the Gordy label with the Vandellas, including hits like “Heat Wave” “Dancing in the Street,” “Jimmy Mack” and many, many more.
Over the years there have been several changes in the Vandellas’ lineup. Today, The Vandellas are Reeve’s sisters, Lois and Delphine Reeves. Lois has been with the group since 1967 and was on the last four Motown studio albums. Delphine joined in the early 1980s and can be heard on several recordings.
“We all get along quite well because we realize that business is business,” Reeves said. “And as for me, there’s no sweeter time in the world than when I’m on stage and people identify with what we’ve done in the past and what we’re bringing them in the present. Sometimes, the minute the audience hears the intro to a song, they get excited and get up and dance. The thing I love about Motown music is that it touches the heart and the spirit, and I’m proud to be one of the original makers of that Motown sound.”
Not one to let any grass grow under her feet, Reeves served a four—year term as a member of the Detroit City Council in addition to making great and timeless music. Admitting she loves all the music she makes, she insists she has no favorites.
“They’re all like my children so there are no favorites. I think of each and every song as beautiful. I’ve recorded over 1,200 songs at this point, and I treat them all as individuals, although I know the audience has some favorites. For instance, if I don’t sing ‘Jimmy Mack’ someone’s gong to stand up and holler.”
“Never,” Reeves said. “Singing is my life, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. And as long as I can sing, and as long as audiences want to hear me, that’s what I’ll be doing.”
With no real regrets, Reeves said, “Maybe socially or somewhere in my development I might scan over my life and find some things I’d probably like to change. But as far as music and show business, I have nothing but good feelings for what I’ve done and a desire to do even better.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 572-7650.
When an eccentric homeschooler arrives at Mica Area High School, hallways buzz with texts, whispers fill the air, and 11th-grader Leo Borlock’s life is changed forever. Enter Susan “Stargirl” Caraway who, with her unusual ways and unique view of the world, lives every moment to the fullest and challenges those around her to do the same.
Such is the premise of the world premiere of “Stargirl,” running April 20 through May 12 at People’s Light & Theatre Company in Malvern. Louisiana native Mark St. Cyr takes the role of Wayne in the production, based on a novel by award-winning novelist Jerry Spinelli.
According to St. Cyr, this story celebrates first love, nonconformity and the similarities that connect us all. And because Stargirl is rejected by most of her classmates in the beginning, the themes ultimately addressed in the play are individuality, diversity, and finally, acceptance.
“My character has a very difficult time reading,” St. Cyr explained. “And although he’s one of the most popular kids in school— he’s a model and people go to him for modeling and fashion advice — he wants to do much more than that in life. When Stargirl comes on the scene, he realizes how much he’s been missing.”
Because she’s been homeschooled, St. Cyr continued, “she hasn’t learned what’s cool in school, but slowly her personality starts to bring out characteristics in other people that no one before has been willing to see or do. And because of her, we all begin to show different sides of ourselves that we’d never have seen if she hadn’t come into the mix.”
Most actors try to identify with the characters they are playing as much as possible, St. Cyr explained. And he said he’s had no trouble identifying with Wayne. “In school I was pretty smart , popular and good-looking. But I had some problems. And that’s what I love about the theater. In the theater you are free to be who you are and also to be something you are not. In the theater I learned it’s okay just to be me and work from there.”
A graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, St. Cyr is making his first appearance at People’s Light, and he says he’s enjoying the experience very much. He’s also enjoying the fact that he’s been given a very challenging role.
“In a way, Wayne carries the story, so his role is very large although he doesn’t have many scenes. But he does have a very large impact on the play, helping to bring about change in a very small amount of time. So my role is more like a sprint rather than a marathon runner.’
Having just graduated from college in 2010, St. Cyr is still happy to discover that what he hoped for is coming true. “The best part of what I’m doing is, without doubt, the people that I’ve been meeting on this journey I’ve been on so far It’s the conversations and the connections I had hoped for. In fact, the people are what originally drew me into this business, and it’s something I still enjoy and very much look forward to. I love sharing the energy and the community of people, sharing something we all have in common.”
For times and ticket information, call 610-644-3500.
Much imitated and respected vocalist/songwriter Ben E. King has continued to record and perform more than five decades after his career first began. “I think I’ve lasted all this time because I really love the profession I’m in and I don’t take it for granted. Also, I’m very proud of the music we did back then and still do today,” said King, who will be performing at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on April 12 and 13.
Indeed, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and his music is beloved the world over. As a member of The Drifters and as a solo artist, King has produced many number one hits, including ‘There Goes My Baby,” “Save The Last Dance For Me,” “Stand By Me” and many others.
Not bad for a kid from Henderson, N.C., who was transported at an early age to the streets of Harlem, and whose introduction to a fabulous career began essentially by learning to sing a cappella with street corner groups.
“When I was 11 or 12, my parents moved the family to New York so they could open a restaurant,” King recalled. “We ended up in Harlem,where I heard music other than gospel for the first time in my life. And I was drawn to this new music because it had a good, happy feeling to it.”
It was the 1950s, and what King “heard” was rhythm-and-blues and rock ‘n’ roll. There were also sights he’d never seen before, like apartment buildings and subway trains and the like. And it was while working in his father’s restaurant that he was approached to audition for a singing group called the Five Crowns, a group later to be named The Drifters.
The group went on to produce many hits with King as lead singer. “We all loved what we were doing, but at the same time, it was very frightening,” he said. “When we first went out on tour, we were booed off the stage, and bottles were thrown at us. We were actually chased out of a lot of places and often had to run for our lives.”
“Because unbeknown to us the club mangers had pasted up photos of the original Drifters,” King explained. “So when the curtain went up, here were these unrecognized young kids. The audience was upset, so they started throwing things. And all the while, I’m thinking, what the heck is gong n? We eventually figured it out, but at the same time it was very confusing.”
King eventually left the group to set out on hi own and, after several false starts, finally began to achieve success. After many, many hits, a 1986 re-issue of “Stand By Me” followed the song’s use as the theme song of the movie of the same name, and re-entered the Billboard Top Ten after a 25-year absence.
In 1990, King and Bo Diddley along with Doug Lazy recorded a revamped rap version of the Monotones’ 1958 ht song “Book of Love,” for the soundtrack of the movie “Book of Love.” King also recorded a children’s album, “I Have Songs in My Pocket,” written and produced by children’s music artist Bobby Susset in 1998, which won the Early Childhood News Directors’ Choice Award and Dr. Toy’s/The Institute for Childh0ood Resources Award. When he’s not performing, King keeps himself busy doing lots of charitable work, which he enjoys.
“But I love being on stage and making music. I sing all the time,” he said. “It’s a gift that God gave me, and I have fun with it. I’m most proud of the fact that the music we did back in the day is still alive, and every now and then some kid will stand up and do it again. What a wonderful thrill that is.”
For times and ticket information, call1-(800) 736-1420.