In this week’s Take Ten, actor DOUG BROWN looks back to his debut as an audience member and the career-inspiring experience of seeing James Earl Jones in The River Niger at the National Theatre. Catch Brown and Helen Hayes Award recipient Roz White in The Gin Game at MetroStage through March 12.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first show I saw was The River Niger at The National Theater in DC. James Earl Jones was the star and I was indeed moved by his and other performances.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
My first involvement in a theatrical production was at the DC Black Repertory Theatre (The Rep) in Day of Absence playing the character of Rastus. It was a very big deal for me because I attending acting classes at the time at The Rep. Jay Stewart, the Artistic Director, came and asked If I was interested in doing the role. I was encouraged by the interest.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Most everything that August Wilson has written. Obviously his plays speak to my experience as a black man in this country. I suppose my favorite would be Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, probably because it was my introduction to his work.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
I didn’t really bounce around during my early days as an actor. I worked a regular 9 to 5 as the Art Director for an insurance firm.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
It was at The Rep in a play called A Kiss Too Late and playing the bartender Swigs. It was the beginning of the second act and I had to enter behind the bar in the black. Well, I bumped into a rack containing all of the drinking glasses (plastic) behind the bar. All you could hear was the crash of those things hitting floor. Someone in the audience cried out, “That must be Swigs!; and the entire audience screamed with laughter as the lights came up to reveal me and a few cups still twirling around on the stage floor.
I would have to change that what to who, and that would be Roz White. I think we have a natural chemistry. And, we are just getting warmed up folks.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Huh, something clever, funny and interesting? Sorry I’ve got nothing.
8) What is your dream role/job?
You know, I really can’t think of a dream role I’d love to play. However, I think I’ve learn a little about acting over the years, and if it were possible to go back replay some major roles of my past, I’d do that. My dream job would be a fishing guide in some tropical region. Or better still, to be a fishing guide in exotic places around the world.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
Cecily [Tyson] and James Earl [Jones] doing The Gin Game might be one. Maybe Adolf Caesar’s performance in A Soldier's Story. What about James Earl in The Great White Hope? I don’t know. I look back at my humble career in theater and I am appreciative and grateful for most of the experiences and most of the people with whom I’ve been blessed to work and learn.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
To the 8-year-old, I would suggest he/she keep an open mind regarding their future, while experiencing as much theatre as is reasonable. To the MFA grad, I would say some of their best theatrical experiences and education are about to start as they seek and achieve work in the field.
DOUG BROWN's DC-area credits include Uprising, The Island (1991 and 2015), Mooi Street Moves (MetroStage); Two Trains Running, Trip to Bountiful, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Lesson Before Dying, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Pantomime (Round House Theatre); Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Theatre); Hambone, The Colored Museum, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Spunk (Studio Theatre); Measure for Pleasure, Curse of the Starving Class, Our Lady of 121 St., Fuddy Meers, Last Orbit of Billy Mars (Woolly Mammoth); Homebody/Kabul (Theater J); Jitney, Member of the Wedding (Ford’s Theatre); The Cricket of Times Square (Kennedy Center); The Gospel of Loving Kindness (Mosaic Theater Company). Regionally, he has appeared in The Trip to Bountiful (Cleveland Playhouse and Cincinnati Playhouse); Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean (Milwaukee Rep); Jitney, Piano Lesson (Actors’ Theatre of Louisville); Jitney (Syracuse Stage), and most recently, Jitney (Cincinnati Playhouse).