By Matt Phillips
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
“Give us the facts about the murder.” – The Captain
The rehearsal starts fast. There is no curtain to raise or swing aside. It simply… begins.
N.C. Central University mass communication freshman Brandon Wright, in the role of Captain, interrogates Durham actress Nikki Carroway. Carroway is playing the role of down-on-her-luck showgirl Roxie.
Wright’s voice is classic ‘cop,’ a hybrid of suspicion, encouragement and working class grit.
“What was your relationship to Mr. Watson?”
Carroway answers him in sassy, boastful adoration.
“He was my sugar daddy.”
Carroway bends at the knees, tilts her hips towards Wright, straightens up. She is digging into the character, exploring physical boundaries.
An expression of clarity animates Wright’s face.
“Oh, big favors. I get it. Sugar daddy.”
At the front of the cinderblock walled, white-tiled and dusty room – the rehearsal ‘space’ – NCCU Assistant Professor Irving Truitt watches his actors. Truitt is the writer and director of the musical murder mystery “Rave.”
“Rave” entertained theater-goers on March 23 at 7 p.m. and March 24 at 3 p.m. at the Holton Resource Center on Driver Street.
Truitt prefers not to restrict his actors.
“Project. Project,” he says at one point.
Later, when stage direction is a stumbling block for Wright, Truitt gives clear instruction.
“Captain, you come in from this way.”
Truitt has been working on “Rave,” one way or another, for two decades. Still, he knows where direction should end and the creativity of the actor should begin.
“I don’t try to impart my vision on the actors,” said Truitt.
“I don’t really tell my actors what to do. I like them to find their characters and become those characters.”
Truitt folds his hands behind his head. At certain moments his brow creases, he smiles or tilts his chin upwards. Truitt’s expressions and body language are the actions of a man who completely understands what is in front of him.
The director knows. Make no mistake about that.
“I own you people. I want you to work. Get back to work. Stretch – do something.” – Mr. Watson
Durham actor Tristan Allen was a third grade student of Truitt’s. Now Allen is unemployed, making a go of acting as his career.
Allen plays the role of Mr. Watson. Watson is a womanizer. He is a hard-driven businessman with pain deep inside his heart.
The tangled knot of “Rave” – every great mystery is a knot that slowly unravels – is wrapped around Watson. He is the catalyst driving the conflict for all the characters.
Allen plays Watson as a physically dominant, violent and tortured man.
“Watson is so out of the norm for who I am, that was the challenge,” said Allen.
“When I leave here from rehearsal I am still Mr. Watson. I have to bring it down.”
“Don’t touch me… Go to Hell.” – Neia
Neia is a talented singer and dancer entrapped by Mr. Watson. Kendria Corbett inhabits the role of Neia.
Corbett is a senior at City of Medicine High School in Durham. In the rehearsal space her angelic singing voice floats out, caresses the hard, cinderblock walls.
Corbett is small, petite. She is like a little teapot. There is something important happening inside her though, and every scene she pours herself out.
Acting is a physical act. Actors get right up next to each other. Corbett is no exception. When Watson manhandles Neia, Corbett holds her own. She lashes back against him, a wild, caged animal.
“At first I didn’t know I had to be that close. It took me awhile to get the feel for it,” said Corbett.
“Every rehearsal there was always something new that I learned.”
According to Corbett the audience should attend “Rave” ready for anything.
“It’s going to be a big shocker,” said Corbett.
“Where is the energy? Where is the punch? When I say that ‘woo-woo,’ I want you to shake it.” – Shay
Raheem Royal plays Shay in “Rave.” He is a flamboyant song and dance show director with angry tendencies.
Royal is dedicated to his craft. He puts in the work. The physicality of Royal’s role – every word Shay speaks is accompanied by gesture – pulls him into the world of the play.
“You truly have to develop the character and bring yourself into the character, everyone is important,” said Royal.
“The play is so high-tensioned. When you get into the character you don’t notice how big of an impact there is.”
Royal said the audience should come to the show with their thinking caps on.
“Expect to have your own personal story tie into the show,” said Royal.
“That ain’t the blue. That’s the horizon.” – Roxie
Nikki Carroway needs this. She needs her role of Roxie in “Rave.”
“I’m going through a lot right now. This is helping me through my storm,” said Carroway.
Carroway is 37 years old. She is finalizing a divorce.
Carroway said she has been acting her whole life, but the role of Roxie is extremely important because of her current life-state. Carroway infuses Roxie with her frustrations.
“It [acting] is in me. I want to get back. Age ain’t nothing but a number,” said Carroway.
“You got to love it. You don’t want to be perfect, but you want to be believable.”
“Kids like me? Shut up. Why should I trust you?” – David
Dorian Small is a University of North Carolina – Greensboro graduate. He is acting the role of David in “Rave.” The complexity of David stems from the secret identity of his father.
David is protective, angry, sensitive and a talented singer.
Small sings with a measured certainty. He knows he is good. When Small needs to get angry the rage is right there in front of him. He steps into it and becomes David.
“To be very passionate. That’s what I tried to bring to the character,” said Small.
“He [David] has a temper. There is a piece of that in him.”
“Everyone has a motive, but everyone has an alibi.” – Mrs. Watson
There is no curtain to raise or swing aside. The rehearsal simply… ends.
“And fade to black,” Truitt says. “Alright. Not bad. We know what we need to work on.”
It is 10 p.m. The Farrison-Newton Communications building is empty save for these few actors and their director.
No water breaks, bathroom breaks or timeouts.
The rehearsal is a death-pace, a mad dash towards the finish line of show time.
Before the show is another dimension the audience never sees. That place where Truitt boils “Rave” down to its essence.
It is a small cinder block walled, white-tiled and dusty room. A pianist composes notes in one corner and actors huddle over scripts. Outside the world rolls on. It isn’t show time just yet.
The cast of “Rave” hasn’t forgotten the audience. Truitt won’t let them forget. He waves his thumb over his shoulder towards the cinderblocks at his back.
“Out here,” says Truitt.
“Rave” played March 23 at 7 p.m. and March 24 at 3 p.m. at the Holton Career & Resource Center on Driver Street. Voice direction is by Paula Nunn. Musical arrangement is by Cameron Morgan. For more information call 919-408-1174 or visit www.anfo.us
Directed by: Irving Truitt
Book and Lyrics: Irving Truitt
Vocal Direction: Paula Nunn
Musical Arrangement: Cameron Morgan
Tristan Allen – Mr. Watson
Ariel Griffin – Mrs. Watson
Raheem Royal – Shay
Kendria Corbett – Neia
Nikki Carroway – Roxie
Dorian Small – David
Brandon Wright – The Captain
Kamaya Truitt-Martin – Miss Susanne