PCC instructor Dr. Christopher Jimenez y West was featured in last week’s “Talkback Tuesday” at the Pasadena Playhouse following a dazzling performance of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate” starring Wayne Brady and directed by Sheldon Epps.
The focus of the conversation between Dr. West and moderator Peter J. Harris was the nurturing of African culture through black theater groups.
“In the 1830s and 1840s, white actors would portray caricatures of blacks,” explained West. “To see a performance like ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ in the year 2014, it shows progress.”
“Kiss Me, Kate” is Cole Porter’s musical version of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” It won a Tony award for Best Musical in 1949.
“We were able to infuse our spirit and our soul,” said Eric B. Anthony, who played the part of Gremio. “We told the story our way. This isn’t a new thing, just new for our age.”
West compared these black theater groups to the Negro Leagues for baseball. It gave them a chance to flourish where the oppressive society did not.
Harris commented how the theater gave the black community a “sense of wholeness,” because it was something that they were very proud of.
Dr. West was a bit emotional at this point as he emphasized how this inspired him to always “find a way to find a way, to find a way.” The audience applauded in agreement.
“Kiss Me, Kate” will run at the Pasadena Playhouse until October 12. Wayne Brady plays Fred, who is the director, producer, and lead actor in his Baltimore theater’s production of “Taming of the Shrew.” The conflict off stage ties in with the on-stage conflict and goes together wonderfully with an array of witty dance and musical numbers.
“Kiss me, Kate” has been performed more than 1,000 times on Broadway and will run at the Pasadena Playhouse for another 14 showings.