HELLO AMERICA!─In the old days when many of the great musicals and plays arrived on Broadway, they were so compelling, millions of talented people jumped at the chance of emulating them, one way or the other. They inspired young people with any kind of musical, comedic or writing talent to do anything to justify hopping a bus or train in the direction of the Great White Way.
I remember at 13, I did the same things to audition for the “Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians” ITV show. Fortunately, Mr. Waring was amused and promised to use me once I finished school. However, Allen Craig, his musical director, took a liking to me and promised to do what he could as I continued my career. He did, whenever there was a possibility, I might fit the bill, I was in New York to meet the director or casting person. This is why when aware of director, producer DENNIS KURT CREARY, I was anxious to see if he might remind me of those days during the 1940s when “hope” was in the air. When finally connected with Mr. Ceary, it was as though we had known each other from child hood!
We discussed actors, Broadway stories and plays and best of all, that it was “time” for change and needed perception of people of color, especially, in this new century of obvious growth and commercial acceptability and needed social.
After several phone calls, I could not wait to introduce Denis Creary to my world loyal readership, as well as the many Hollywood theatre lovers who watch every move made on Broadway for film ideas. When he consented to do a brief interview for the “Canyon News,” I went practically nuts with excitement, calling many of my friends who have managed to tolerate my hysterics previously about show biz. When speaking with my friend, RUTA LEE, she laughed and said in her “Talullah Bankhead” voice, “Dawling, if you don’t calm down, you won’t be around to enjoy it!” Well, to that it brought me back to earth, after all, she did have a point. So, folks, this is my brief session with the director of the hour, Dennis Kurt Creary!
MIKE: Dennis, where are you from originally? Where did you get your basic Theatre Training and the effect it had on the type of productions you decided to concentrate on?
DENNIS: As a transplant from across the pond, proud Jamaican heritage, my journey to the theatre was rather circuitous. Fond of the theatre in my youth, and well versed in literature, I decided to pursue a career in IT and Finance – instead of following my passion. But that decision has afforded me the flexibility to place my efforts in my community – both in owning a non-profit determined to instruct out your in attaining generational wealth, and now at the helm of the Negro Ensemble Company. There, my focus and mission are twofold – find, produce and promote new and upcoming black talent with relevant and impactful works and (2) show the younger generation that black theatre matters now more than ever.
MIKE: What was missing in many theatre productions which needed to be filled culturally, especially representing American life?
DENNIS: America, in general, likes to refer to American life and the black experience as two separate historical occurrences – celebrated in designated slots. The two are really conflated as Black History is American History. Theatrical productions, both in the States and abroad, still compartmentalize and focus on works that separate cultures. Hence, a gratuitous approach at representation – token representation both in film and on stage. Hamilton has tried to break that mold, but that gratuitous casting still exists.
MIKE: What do you feel about much of the material offered to the theatre, right across the board, having to do with the reality and basic concerns of people of color?
DENNIS: Unfortunately, productions must have financially solvent goals to make it to the stage. The public still spends their discretionary income on jukebox musicals, remakes of classics and known brands – eg Disney. Until our numbers grow in the boardrooms and on the investor fronts, that will still remain. No investor will make bets where returns are de minimis.
MIKE: How much upfront “honesty” do you believe that today’s theatre patrons can handle? Do you think that many new or young writers resort to playing it safe when it comes to language, accepted old identifying attitudes utilized in old Hollywood days of “Steppin’ Fetchet,” simply to survive?
DENNIS: Attended a preview of “Slave Play.” This was a night dedicated to black audiences and black theatre aficionados. Subsequently saw it again with its regular audience – predominantly white. The stark difference in response highlights why young writers play it safe. Theatre patrons are not ready for raw truths, unless masked diluted by comedic inflections. Writers need to push the boundaries, and my hood is during this pandemic shutdown, creatives will utilize that time to bring forth more hard hitting, societal commentary. We see the black community being adversely affected both in death rates, and exclusion from the monetary gains of the $2 trillon stimulus package.
MIKE: Because you are obviously aware of much of the political and cultural changes and transitions in our artistic thinking, how does the challenge make you feel?
DENNIS: I am strangely invigorated. Getting in touch with peers and likeminded individuals to collaborate has never been easier. We know where everyone is! Hence, I’ve been able to produce a series of zoom concerts rather rapidly. Monies donated from these showcases pay not on they the participating talents – but a large portions pays the behind the scene professionals also out of work – stagehands, lighting technicians, costume and set designers etc. our next in the Creary’s Quarantine series is The Opera.
The much-touted Concert this was presented Sunday, April 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET. It was the third Creary’s Quarantine Brunch in New York City, and Dinner in Paris – Simultaneously!!
Such arias as “Ella Giammo M’amo” from Don Carlo; “Le Veau D’or” from Faust and many others performed. World renowned Opera Stars from Paris – Guillame Dussau & Christophe Poncet de Solages; and New York – Leslie Middlebrook & Joanie Brittingham please audiences as glasses of Champagne were raised!!
DENNIS CREARY reminds America to SUPPORT THE ARTS DURING THIS PANDEMIC!
Seventy percent of Proceeds goes to the Artists; thirty percent to New York Landmark – Theatre 80. My time with Creary was not disappointing, it made me reason why, as a young kid back in Philadelphia, why I had such a hunger to play a role in this magical world of “possibilities!”