"What seems impossible seems inevitable in retrospect..." - CONDOLEEZZA RICE, Ph.D (Keynote Speaker at The Links, Incorporated's 38th National Assembly Civic Luncheon)
After I got back from my Morehouse 20 REUNION, we got some fun down time with our friends Danielle and Bernard who threw the annual karaoke Memorial Day bash! As always, it was a BLAST!
REGULAR DAY IN HARLEM
On a rare, aimless day in Harlem, I met up with my girlfriend Sidra Smith at Red Rooster for a quick drink. She was accompanied by my buddy Tichina Arnold (Currently starring in TV LAND’s “Happily Divorced”, though she’s engaged to be married later this year) and her cute dog Kharma. After our cocktails, we went to Astor Row Café where I ran into writer Keith Josef Adkins (“Girlfriends”; etc.). Shout out to owner Manny to whom Sidra introduced me. Also got to hang out with Chrystale Wilson (“Players Club”) who I haven’t seen since my 2009 in L.A.
My friend George Faison’s Firehouse was the home of the NYC Premiere of my industry brother Patrik-Ian Polk’s “The Skinny”, which is WONDERFUL.
You must check it out! GO SEE IT THIS WEEK, if you're here in NYC! MEANWHILE, as 'The Skinny' chronicles a PRIDE weekend in NYC, it's worth noting that we got to celebrate PRIDE last week as well. Bumped into two brothers in pop culture, music, and ALL THINGS DIVAS: Ra Shawn and Donald Peebles – both of whom have recently written blogs on our beloved DONNA SUMMER, one of our favorite divas whose LEGACY must not be forgotten. Here’s Ra Shawn’s: http://www.mywritingzone.blogspot.com/?zx=bcedce988f932c9d. Here’s Donald’s: http://authordonaldpeebles.blogspot.com/2012/06/black-people-hate-donna-summer.html. Also was good to toast PRIDE with friends Robert West and his husband John Bradley! And see some of my little Morehouse brothers.
Afterwards, I connected with Ant and his cousin Taricq at Harlem Tavern where we wanted to support our beloved NYABJ and NYABJ President Mike Feeney. It was a Mardi Gras/New Orleans kick-off (NABJ is in New Orleans June 20-24 – www.nabj.org). Shout out to my BET buddy Gary who was in the house along with many friends in the business i.e. Nina Flowers (Apollo) and Simone Smalls. MORE ON NABJ in a minute…
FOR THE LOVE OF NINA
Only OUR LOVE FOR NINA ISABELLA would have all of us up at the crack of dawn to attend a “baby blessing” at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church. My Morehouse brother, Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, oversaw the beautiful ceremony. But of course, we LOVE Nina’s parents Mara Schiavocampo and Tommie Porter…and wouldn’t have missed it. I even ran into dear friends who are members there i.e. performer/choreography Ken Roberson; artist Dianne Smith; and one of my Morehouse BFFs Mike Bryant. After the dedication, the Porters hosted a well-appointed, Amy-Ruth-catered brunch of fried chicken, waffles (with Mara’s special praline syrup), scrambled eggs, grits, and a stunningly sweet, red velvet cake. Mara’s mom asked where my nephew Herman L. Riley III was. I called him to check. In a half hour, he joined us (IN TOW: a thoughtful card, gift, and guest [his Morehouse brother Jerrod Etian Hill, an assistant producer for NBC News/Dateline, which makes him Mara’s colleague]).
Ant and I went to Billie’s Black to join our friend Kevin-Anthony for his ‘Black 2 Broadway’ Tony-Awards viewing party as we all cheered on Best Musical Revival “Porgy & Bess” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XDnTV-TMoA). Also, Audra Macdonald won her prize while co-star Norm Lewis, a friend, was nominated as well. While enjoying some light bites, I also ran into performer April Nixon who is currently starring in off-Broadway’s “SISTAS :the Musical” – a musical celebration of African American women from Bessie Smith to Mary J. Blige (www.sistasthemusical.com). April and I acted alongside each other for a film reading last year (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/1/27/live-out-louder.html). And it’s always a pleasure to see my industry family – including Kevin Reed; Natalie Clarke; Morehouse brother Jason; singer extraordinaire Darius Booker; and many others.
BABY NEWS & NEW JOB NEWS
Shout out to Monique – former fill-in producer for ‘Wendy Williams’, now in Chi-town to produce for “The Steve Harvey Show”. We got to toast her on Friday at CAVA wine lounge on the upper west side of Manhattan.
ALSO I recently popped by baby shower for Phillana Williams, friend of my many NEW RO baby loves – including – of course – my Amazing Grace, Nichole Shellman; Michelle Sanchez-Boyce; Erika Munro Kennerly; Pamela Watson; Angelique Miles; Cynthia Burgos; Chenoa Maxwell; and many of other FAB friends!
My friend Carl Nelson invited me to join him at Urban Latino Magazine’s big music issue party last night at Rooftop 760. BET's Master of the Mix DJ MELL STARR kept us dancing. SI*SE performed – including tracks from their new single EP "GO"! And my highlight: running into and catching up with old friend Ray Rosario who is doing some awesome things with his art and the film industry. Stay tuned. https://www.facebook.com/UrbanLatinoMag. I was out of town for the unveiling of one of Ray’s projects. It’s the NIMBY EXPERIENCE: A pledge by celebrities, committed to MAKING A DIFFERENCE, to go undercover to shed light on causes they are passionate about. Actor Luis Guzman is attached as are Producer Ed Martin and Director Jacquelyn Aluotto. http://www.rbrw.org/rbrw-tv CONGRATS, RAY!
PROJECT 1 VOICE
TOTAL HONOR to share the stage with Tony-award ROYALTY – including Lillias White; Adriane Lenox (Also from my Miss Ross’ “Double Platinum”); Chuck Cooper; and from this year’s winner for Broadway revival, “Porgy & Bess”, my buddy Norm Lewis. It was Erich McMillan-McCall’s brainchild PROJECT1VOICE (www.project1voice.org) and this year, the black-theater initiative doled out 24 productions of JAMES BALDWIN’s “The Amen Corner” in 18 cities – including NYC’s The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. I was cast as STAGE NARRATOR for ACT 2. WHAT A BLAST! And as always, there were so many friends who were either a part of the production and/or just in the house that the names are too many, but let me list a few: Kimberly JaJuan; Michelle Robinson; and more! PLEASE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT PROJECT 1 VOICE beyond Monday, June 18th – whether in NYC or the other 18 locations throughout the USA: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Project1voice/158820437504381 And a SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to my Morehouse brother Walter Dallas, who DIRECTED this special staged reading of JAMES BALDWIN's "The AMEN CORNER" for PROJECT 1 VOICE (www.project1voice.org).
NABJ NEW ORLEANS
You all know my time at NABJ is precious to me. This time was no exception. I can’t tell it all as it was just too much for a shared blog entry, but you can see a lot of it via these photo albums:
A few things I must point out:
1) Shout out to my Amazing Graces Mara Schiavocampo and Audrey Irvine who took care of me while I was in NOLA… on a budget! I LOVE YOU, MY LADIES! And another POUND for my Morehouse brother Khalid Gross who too was in the cut to ensure I had a great time in New Orleans.
2) My friend Ava DuVernay screened her upcoming film, Middle of Nowhere, which has been winning festival prize after festival prize… and receiving praise over praise over praise. It’s really a GREAT FILM! Middle of Nowhere stars Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissaint, and Edwina Findley. The film was acquired jointly by Participant Media and AFFRM, and will be released on October 12. CONGRATS, AVA! www.facebook.com/MiddleofNowhereMovie
3) Another shout out to Jackie Bazan who brought GMC TELEVISION NETWORK to NABJ with buddy Vanessa Williams and Morehouse brother Rockmond Dunbar in tow. They shared and talked about their latest project for GMC. Former Executive Vice President of Tyler Perry Studios, Roger Bobb, who left the company earlier last year to start his own film production company called Bobcat Films, makes his feature film directorial debut with a project titled “Raising Izzie” - a film that's based on the grand-prize winning script of the 1st annual GMC Faith & Family Screenplay Competition last year, and that will premiere on the GMC (Gospel Music Channel) this July. ALWAYS GREAT TO SEE THEM!
4) Shout out to my NABJ colleagues, Miss Kelley Carter and Miss Adrienne Samuels Gibbs for their inaugural A&E Task Force programming for NABJ. It was stellar. We celebrated this year’s LEGACY Award honoree Kevin Frazier, founder of HipHollywood.com and host of the entertainment news program The Insider. Pioneering filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, producer of Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated Django Unchained, presented the award and further highlighted the evening by debuting an exclusive sneak peak of the film. Kerry Washington attended as well. “Django Unchained” is an action packed project starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and produced by Reginald Hudlin for a Christmas release. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC8VJ9aeB_g
5) Shout out to my friend, Fox Searchlight Picture's Cassandra Butcher who invited a small group of us out to dinner at the French Quarter's Ritz Carlton to discuss her latest account: "BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD" - winner of the Sundance 2012 Grand Jury Prize as well as the Excellence in Cinematography Award. The compelling flick is set in a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee where a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. It will keep you on the edge of your seat (as it kept me on the edge of mine): www.beastsofthesouthernwild.com.
6) Congrats to Monica Pearson, recipient of this year’s NABJ Legacy Award. She is the longest-running anchor in the Atlanta marketing and the first African American women ever named as a primary evening co-anchor (circa 1975). She’s also a long-standing mentor for whom Audrey Irvine and I were interns (at WBS) while at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse, respectively (Last I saw Monica, we were together, we were celebrating a boss I would have later in my career and her goodbye to the airwaves: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/5/15/nothing-ventured-nothing-gained.html).
7) ALSO: Pat Tobin Media Professional Award recipient to another boss-of sorts: Janet Rolle under whom I produced several special projects during her tenure at BET (including an opportunity she gave me to produce video tributes and art/design for the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies gala for which she has been the Chair and a recipient: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/1/27/live-out-louder.html). Last year, AFUWI honored Suzanne de Passe. Pat Tobin was a mentor and friend – so I loved the synergies here.
8) And a special SHOUT OUT to Gerrick Kennedy who joins a short list of friends who – over the last eight years are so – have been named “EMERGING JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR”. This honor makes Gerrick the first full-time A&E journalist to receive this special honor.
I LOVE NABJ!!!!! And Krystal! LOL!
THE LINKS, INCORPORATED
Didn’t get much room to breathe after NABJ. Had to high-tail it to ORLANDO’s Rosen Shingle Creek Resort where client THE LINKS, INCORPORATED was hosting its 38th National Assembly of the now-65-year old friendship-and-service organization for which I produced tribute videos (at their gala in D.C.: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/12/14/get-into-it.html). I produced tributes for 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and all of the 2012 Co-Founders Awards recipients. The Co-Founders Award honorees are individuals who are widely recognized nationally or internationally for service rendered and have made significant contributions to the African American, African and Caribbean communities. Awards are given in the service areas: Services to Youth, Dr. Freeman Hrawboski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; The Arts, Judith Jamison, Artistic Director Emerita, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; National Trends and Services, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, U.S. House of Representatives; International Trends and Services, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Director, Smithsonian Museum of African Art; and Health and Human Services, Dr. Vivian Pinn, former Director, Office of Research on Women’s Health, National Institutes of Health. Each honoree received an Elizabeth Catlett bronze sculpture commissioned especially for this occasion. And so many familiar faces! At NABJ, I saw so many of my ATLANTA TV FAMILY – from FOX 5 – including Sidmel Estes-Sumpter; Darius Walker; Elise Durham; Michael K. Watts; etc. Here I saw a few more – including Lisa Rayam and Angelique Proctor (who are members of THE LINKS, INC.). ALSO: My NABJ baby buddy Dee Griffin was in the house along with other NABJ sisters Nina Henderson-Moore; Tiffany Greene; Tina A. Brown; Michelle Stepney; etc. And my Spelman sisters Dr. Juvonda Hodge; Sharmell Sullivan; and others were in the mix as THE LINKS, INC. they are as well. SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to President Margot James Copeland; Eris Sims; Sherri Blount-Gray; Eleanor Hayes (the STELLAR NARRATOR of all the tribute pieces); and HEIR-O-LINK Lynn Whitfield who narrated the re-purposed LINKS, INC. HISTORY I produced for the 65th Anniversary GALA in DC. WHEW! ALL IN A FEW MONTHS of asset gathering; scripting; editing; tweaking; and schlepping to Orlando! WELL WORTH THE TRIP!
Shout out to my Savannah homeboy and sometimes-boss Maurice Marable for taking home the TOP PRIZE at the 2012 Promax awards for DIRECTING HBO's Boardwalk Empire campaign last year (www.believemedia.com). Below are the categories that that it topped: 1) GOLD: Directing - Boardwalk Empire Shoot Spot; 2) GOLD: Best Dramatic Program Spot - Boardwalk Empire Shoot spot; 3) GOLD: Best Dramatic Program Campaign. CONGRATS, MO! You are MOST DESERVING and have always been the MOST CREATIVE and TALENTED DIRECTOR I know. Worth noting, Mo is responsible for the PROMAX nods of which I've had the luxury of contributing (as field producer): 2010 Black History Month campaign (under Mr. Marable's DIRECTORIAL GENIUS) and I too had SENIOR PRODUCING credit on this year's PROMAX finalist (as well): - having produced - again under MO's let-him-fly LEADERSHIP - TWO Civil Rights-themed projects for BET that ran in DC during MLK Monument events October 2011 (pre-Irene cancellation). They were quite well-received...and now FINALISTs: a. Civil Rights: http://csftp.bet.net/FileView/2569_Reel1_WhenYouBelieve_CUT23_FINALMIXED.mov b. Women Civil Rights: http://csftp.bet.net/fileview/2569_Reel2_IWasHere_CUT5_FINAL_Mix.zip.
WHEW! Made it back from Orlando and New Orleans to NYC to exhale! Parents and niece Taylor of BFF since 7th grade Ern were in town – so was great to see them over low-country boil! Ern's parents have been like my own parents or my bonus parents since childhood. So, this reunion was MANDATORY and filled with fun, food, and re-flections!
JULY 4TH WEEKEND: SPIDER MAN & JOSEPHINE BAKER
Before you get too caught up in your holiday plans, don’t forget to factor in a GOOD FLICK or SOME GOOD THEATER in NYC!
I just saw two wonderful projects:
The Amazing Spider-Man opens nationwide Tuesday, July 3
The release reads: “One of the world's most popular charters is back on the big screen as a new chapter in the Spider-Man legacy is revealed in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Focusing on an untold story that tells a different side of the Peter Parker story, the new films stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field. The film is directed by Marc Webb. The screenplay is by James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves from a story by James Vanderbilt, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Lauren Ziskin, Avi Arad, and Matt Tolmach are producing the film in association with Marvel Entertainment for Columbia Pictures, which will open in theaters everywhere in 3D on July 3.”
To view the trailer for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, please go to the following link:
Off-Broadway’s The Sensational Josephine Baker
Described as a rich, comedic, moving musical portrait of the unique iconic Jazz Age legend, written and performed by Cheryl Howard, directed by Ian Streicher and presented by the award-winning Emerging Artists Theatre. The unforgettable story of Josephine Baker springs to life in this tightly woven play featuring several of Baker’s signature songs. The story goes from little girl to showgirl as we follow Josephine on her journey from conservative St. Louis, Missouri to the risqué cabarets of the Rue Pigalle, France. The show opened this week and will continue through September 8.
Beckett Theater at Theater Row
410 West 42nd Street, NYC
Show times are: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm; and Sunday at 3pm.
THE EMERGING ARTISTS’ THEATRE PRESENTS
The Off-Broadway Premiere of
The Sensational Josephine Baker
Written and performed by Cheryl Howard
Running now through September 8, 2012
at The Beckett Theatre - Theatre Row
(New York, NY) – The award-winning Emerging Artists Theatre proudly presents the Off-Broadway premiere of The Sensational Josephine Baker, a rich, comedic, moving musical portrait of the unique iconic Jazz Age legend, Josephine Baker. Preview performances begin Tuesday, June 19th, opening night will be Tuesday, June 26th and the play enjoys a 12-week run through Saturday, September 8, 2012 at The Beckett Theatre – Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street (www.theatrerow.org). Show times are: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm; and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $69.25 and can be purchased by calling Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or online at www.Telecharge.com. For all discount offers visit www.broadwayoffers.com or call 212-947-8844. Special $20 Rush Tickets are offered for every show to any ticket buyer for available seats 20 minutes before show time.
Written and performed by Cheryl Howard and directed by Ian Streicher, the unforgettable story of Josephine Baker springs to life in this tightly woven play featuring several of Baker’s signature songs. The story goes from little girl to showgirl as we follow Josephine on her journey from conservative St. Louis, Missouri to the risqué cabarets of the Rue Pigalle, France. Howard delivers this tale through an array of fascinating female characters: Josephine’s domineering mother, Carrie McDonald; fellow chorus girl Lydia Jones; Ada “Bricktop” Smith, owner of the infamous nightclub “Bricktop’s in Montmarte…” And a raw, fearless portrayal of Ms. Baker herself in a series of defining moments: from the hilarious antics which rescued her from the obscurity of the chorus, to the humiliation of being shunned by a narrow-minded American public, to her life-long search for unconditional love. Cheryl Howard has toured and performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe. She has starred as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls in Berlin, Germany, and as Josephne Baker in Josephine: The Musical, which toured throughout Europe, winning her a Golden Heart Award for Best Actress in a Musical and Best Musical.
For more information visit www.emergingartiststheatre.org.
For more information on the show visit www.thesensationaljosepinebaker.com.