Inspired by her devoted – and entrepreneurial – grandmother, Natalie Graves Tucker recently made the daring leap from cherished dream job to full-time acting career. In this week's Take Ten, she gives shares what ultimately motivated her to pursue her dreams. Catch her in for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf at Theater Alliance through March 26.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
There were two shows that had a tremendous impact on me at the age of 7. A regional production of The Wiz and Timbuktu starring Eartha Kitt. These shows ignited the spark for dancing and being on stage. I told my grandmother that I wanted to dance. Being from a small rural town in the 70s, there wasn't a dance school for black girls, so my grandmother, a retired teacher, along with her teacher friends, started a dance school for ballet, tap, jazz, and baton called The Emporia/Greensville Cultural Arts Association. All because I said I wanted to dance. That school still exists today. Fast forward to 2015, I met Stephanie Mills, the original Dorothy from The Wiz on Broadway and told her my dream of acting because of that show. She told me not to give up on my dream and now I'm acting full time because of her encouragement.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
The 5th grade. My teacher tapped me to be the lead in a play about two kids from outer space. I asked her why did she select me and she said it was because I had a great speaking voice.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Hamilton. I saw it in January after having the soundtrack for a few months beforehand. The hip hop and R&B style along with the lyrics and the multicultural casting showcases its out-of-the-box thinking.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
Hmmmm. If I have to think about it this hard, then I haven't had a bad job in my life.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
It wasn't in theatre but it was on stage. I was in a step show for my sorority during graduate school. During the first few steps, I fell right in the middle of the stage. We just had to start the whole show over.
6) What are you enjoying most about working on for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf?
Our cast. I've worked with a lot of diverse casts but THIS cast and crew has been exceptionally phenomenal. We group text almost every day and hang out before and/or after shows. We genuinely love each other and have so much love for the guys in Word Becomes Flesh. We watch each others shows as if it's for the first time every time. We are indeed a family.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
Christopher Jackson, the guy who plays George Washington from Hamilton. After seeing him in Hamilton, my son and I got to take a picture with him and he talked to us for a good five minutes about my acting career. He was so gracious and down-to-earth guy that it would be cool to just hang out with him and learn more about him.
8) What is your dream role/job?
I actually gave up my perfect six figure dream job after 20 years to pursue acting full time this year. I was a Multicultural Markets Manager for AARP. My job was to increase awareness about AARP amongst African Americans through infotainment, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and fraternities and sororities. I got to work with celebrities like Blair Underwood, Stephanie Mills, Kim Coles, Donnie Simpson and media outlets e.g. TV One, Centric, BET on great events and programs such as NAACP Image Awards, Essence Music Festival, Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards. I had been acting as a side hustle for 8 years and it was still calling me so I walked away from the best job ever to pursue my passion full time.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
Any August Wilson play with the original casts. I can watch them anywhere they show up. I was fortunate enough to talk for a few hours to Charles S. Dutton during one of my work trips and he talked about working with August Wilson himself and their processes. Fascinating.
10) What advice would you give to an 8 year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
8 year old: Practice through various outlets in church or community organizations that can help nurture your craft. Audition for the school plays. Ask your parents to take you to plays to get new ideas. Read.
MFA Student: Research by seeing plays. Learn by seeing and doing. Audition. Read. Learn. Take more classes of different things. If you believe that you've got IT, you will convince someone that you do.
NATALIE TUCKER has worked across the full spectrum of aging for 20 years at AARP, the largest non-profit organization for people 50+. In January 2016, she left her job to pursue her passion of acting full time. She has appeared on many Washington area stages including Theater Alliance, Studio Theatre, InSeries, African Continuum and 1st Stage. She can be seen in regional commercials for Ocean City, Sentara Hospital, BGE and Giant Food and voiceovers and industrials for AARP, FDIC and US Postal Service. In her spare time, like she has any, she's a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, an avid Disney cruiser, and a runner. She even finished a marathon that one time. She has a BA in Speech Communications from University of Maryland at College Park and a Master's in Social Work from Howard University. She's married to Melvin Tucker with two rambunctious teenage boys. www.natalietucker.com