Hello, thespians and drama kweens! Itching to get your bard on, but don’t have the bucks? You’re in luck.
From Feb. 7-17, Theatre Philadelphia presents Philly Theatre Week. It’s actually a 10-day celebration of the arts, showcasing more than 100 unique theater events including productions, readings and interactive programs. It’s a great way to check out the growing, vibrant and diverse theater scene in the area. The shows include world and regional premieres, Black History Month and Valentine’s Day-themed events, programs with food and drink, physical theater and dance, regional theater and the classics as well as academic and community performances. Many events are free. Some cost $15 or $30.
This weekend offers two free preview events. First Friday at the Cherry Street Pier is a preview party from 5-8 p.m. and includes gallery tours, preview performances of Philly Theatre Week events, a cash bar and food. The big Theatre Week Kick-Off and Open House will be held Saturday, 1-4 p.m., and is a great chance for audiences to interact with participating Theatre Week artists in a casual midday open house.
But, let’s first interact with one of the players right here. Sagacious is an artist, minister, writer, poetic entity, producer and director. Her show, “Nobody’s Perfect,” opens Feb. 7.
PGN: Tell me a little about the show.
S: “Nobody’s Perfect” is the story of a woman who leaves her abusive boyfriend and gets involved romantically with another woman. It’s about love and trust and healing.
PGN: And tell me a little of your story.
S: I was born in New York. After high school I went to University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to West Chester University. After college I moved to Philly and now I live in Wilmington.
PGN: Big or small family?
S: Very big! On my mom’s side, there are five sisters, two brothers and they all have, like, three to four kids. On my dad’s side, he has six siblings himself and they all have kids too. I grew up in a household with both parents, but they weren’t my biological parents. I was raised by my aunt and uncle. There was never a formal adoption, but they’ve raised me since I was 8 months old, so they’re the only parents I’ve known. I’m the oldest of their six children; the rest of the kids are either foster kids or adopted. I’m helping my mom plan our family reunion this year and it’s an undertaking. The last time, we had over 100 family members there.
PGN: Nice! What led to you being taken in by your parents?
S: I was the last of five kids that my birth mom had. She had challenges, and just couldn’t handle it, so her sister stepped in. That’s the kind of family we are; one where if the child needs to go stay with Auntie for a while, that’s what happens. I know who my mom is. She actually passed away in January last year, but I never really knew my bio dad, though I met him once. I never had much desire to know him because I already had a dad.
PGN: What’s a fun family memory?
S: We have fun every time we get together. They live in Ohio, so when I go to see them, the most fun for me is just hanging out, watching movies. My siblings laying all over the place, sleeping on the couch and floor, just being together.
PGN: What kinds of things were you into as a kid?
S: Oh, everything. My parents made sure we always had things to do. I was a cheerleader. I played basketball. I did karate. I did dance. I did gymnastics. My dad’s a preacher, so we were always doing church things, a lot of civic engagement and volunteering. I’m an ordained minister myself.
PGN: What did you study at West Chester?
S: I was an English major and a theater minor. I originally wanted to study law. I’m someone who appreciates oratory. I appreciate presentation, being able to comfortably talk in front of people. I loved debate in school, and take pride in always getting an easy “A” in my public-speaking courses. I had the gift of gab, so I thought I’d go to law school. But the other side was that I started writing when I was in sixth grade. It began with the death of my grandmother. It was my way of healing and trying to make sense of the fact that she was no longer with me. I wrote to her and that’s how my talent developed. Both my teachers and parents acknowledged that there was something special there, so they encouraged me to write any chance that I had.
PGN: The show deals with some heavy topics. Where did that come from?
S: Finding work after college is always a challenge, but I somehow got a temporary job in the behavioral and mental health field, which ended up being a 12-year experience. I worked with children who came from abusive homes, teenagers in unsafe environments — and hearing their stories touched me in a way that never went away. In my personal life, one of my past partners was a victim of domestic violence, which made the experience more impactful. I wanted to learn more about it so I could be more effective in how I handled it. I took courses and became an advocate for that community. I also worked with kids with autism, kids who were nonverbal, adults with brain trauma and everything in between. A great desire of mine was to put that knowledge together and bring it to the stage to raise awareness about mental health. There are people suffering every day. People who have stories to tell but are afraid of being stigmatized, so I decided to use my gift as a writer to tell their stories in poetry and plays.
PGN: Where did you get your cast?
S: I worked with Allen Clark of RunBoyRun Productions to present this show. They are an amazing theater company whose goal is to produce thought-provoking theater. Their mission is to produce the kind of theater you will want to run and tell someone about. Allen got about 100 people from all over the country that auditioned and narrowed it down to 20 for me. I chose a cast of eight from all different backgrounds and experiences. I grew up with diversity and I don’t want any of my shows to be isolated to one race, one kind of person. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where we come from, what our skin looks like or what our financial situation is when dealing with these problems.
PGN: What’s ahead?
S: I’m launching an open-mic night in Wilmington on the 15th, and I potentially could be the director of a performing-arts center, but that’s still in the works. And, I’m working on a proposal to run a theater summer camp, among other things.
PGN: Two books I’d find on your bookstand?
S: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverly Daniel Tatum and a book on Ted Talks.
PGN: What star would you want to cast in a show?
S: Oh my gosh! I’ve already put thought into this; Naturi Naughton, who played Lil’ Kim in “Notorious,” and in a perfect world, Kerry Washington.
PGN: When did you come out?
S: I came out when I was 19. I’m 35 now. My sister’s best friend at the time was gay, but not openly. When my girlfriend from college came to visit me, he quickly put two and two together, and he did it in front of my parents. So that’s how that happened. My mom had 21,000 uncomfortable questions for me. All the questions you wouldn’t want your mother to ask you about what you do privately? Yeah, she was that person. As I mentioned, my dad’s a minister. He told me, “You can be what you want, just not in my house.”
S: Right. So I didn’t see my parents for five years. And it killed me. Then, there was a family tragedy. My dad had a heart attack and several other health problems, so I put my life on hold and went home to help them. After that, things changed. I remember my dad and I sitting on the porch, which we would do in the mornings with a cup of coffee. It was our thing. And this one morning he said, “You know what? I thought when you came out, that you had changed, and because of that, you had become a different person. I thought that I had lost the child I knew, and I didn’t want to deal with this new person I didn’t know. But now, I know that you’re still the same person. You’ve shown me that you haven’t forgotten any of the lessons we taught you growing up, and I want you to know regardless of whatever your preference is, we still love and support you. Now go back to Philly and live your life!” And so I did, and they’ve been accepting since then of me and my partners. In fact, my ex-partner is the one who helped them find their house in Ohio! It’s shifted so much that my dad has hired a 16-passenger van to bring his friends and church members to the show! It’s still overwhelmingly surprising, but I’m so grateful because I know a lot of people are still going through that struggle.