OuterStage presents OUT-Words: Following the Fresh Fruit Festival’s 15th Anniversary featuring Charles Curtis

Louis Lopardi has spent a decade and a half bringing high-quality work to one of the better off-off Broadway houses that celebrate – through the lively arts – what it means to be LGBTQ in NYC!

This year, the chorus of brilliance is well-worth discussion. OuterStage will speak with some of thew featured authors at this year’s festival.


strings-e1497990562204 (1)THE WILD PROJECT

MONDAY 7/17, 7PM; TUESDAY 7/18, 9PM; THURSDAY 7/20, 8:30PM

“Strings” is about the secrets – the strings – that bind a modern day vigilante and a lawyer with an ulterior motive. Curtis’ engaging, thought-provoking … and unapologetic … drama explores the many hidden levels of being an African-American man in the 21st Century.

Charles Curtis’ play has challenged him in its creation and will challenge his audience – to make us all evaluate our own prejudice and stereotypes — ultimately understanding that we all are more alike than we realize. “I wrote this piece to give voice to the scores of men of color gunned down in the street. Young men like Trayvon, Philando, Akai, and others with so much to live for, and so much left to do” says playwright and actor, Charles Curtis, whose work was featured at the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival, selected for full performance at the 2014 DC Black Theatre Festival, and the 2016 Atlanta Black Theatre Fest (with “Strings”).

Creating dynamic tension on stage is John Cosentino as Derek, the lawyer; and Charvez Grant ​as the former detective, turned man living by his own law.

The edge of this piece begins with it’s author, Charles Curtis. His passion and determination come sthrough in every word. Don’t let the jovial voice fool you. Curtis has provided the Festival with a hi-powered peice that will make you think … and bring thoughts about your own shortcomings to the fore. ATTEND!

Mr. Curtis, share with us some thoughts; what inspires you as an artist?

7a47de2eb00d7d6c1b5917a5c8e1e450For me, raw and simple emotion inspires me. From watching a couple arguing on the train to seeing a child stare up at the sky, there’s a truth there. Life without the masks, stories without the frills. It’s real. You can feel it in every syllable uttered, every punch thrown, and every tear shed. These are the kinds of people you root for, the ones you go home and talk about hours later, the ones you record on TMZ for the world to see. Of course, it’s a bit dangerous to get in the middle of an argument to ask for some backstory, but, I want to know! For me, my inspiration doesn’t come from creating drama, but creating truth. The truth that only comes from facing the hardships or drama in one’s life.

DSC_0218 (1)For Strings, facing my own truth lead me to creating this show. I wrote this piece at a time surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin and countless other men of color. With each new incident, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. But, something in me said to write, and that’s what I did. I wrote this piece because the words needed to written, and the story told. I didn’t write this piece to make me feel better.

Has indie theater served your needs? 
I owe a lot to independent theater. As a fledgling writer, I told John Whitehead of Columbia Music Festival Association, man who would become a great friend and mentor of mine, that I wrote a play. From that single conversation, he helped to make it happen. He gifted me space to rehearse and perform, told me which people to call for what help with what I needed, and helped me get my first productions off of the ground. His wisdom and guidance has shaped who I am today. Independent theater has given me a soft place to fall. Here, I am a part of a community of other artists only concerned with your success and less about the bottom line. Here, you work on the Art in your artistry. You learn from the ground up, you take risks and hope for the best. You may fall occasionally. Sometimes, you may even perform in almost empty houses. Here we make real art happen.

Let’s get down to it. My mother was an African-American artist and she was her own producer for a lot of reasons. Do you feel there is more opportunities for a person of color in the independent theater world than in commercial theater?  

I do believe that there exist more opportunities in independent theater than in commercial theater for artists of color. For me, fear limits the amount of work done by artists of color on the commercial stage. Fear that there just isn’t a big enough pool of quality actors of color for that project. Fear that directors on the roster won’t understand it, won’t want to direct it, or are so afraid of messing it up they barely scratch the surface of the text. Fear that the normal audience member won’t get it, or won’t like it. Or, that communities of color won’t come see it. We let these decisions cloud our judgment when seeking out new work. We are often unwilling to take the chances necessary to prove ourselves wrong. This is where I believe independent theater gets it right. Those that work in this arena stand behind every project and are willing to see it through.

Thank you!  

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