Monday, April 8, 2013

Chatting With Candace Kelley About Life, Acceptance, and Supernatural: The Play

 photo 543596_528195310555874_1214156798_n_zps09fa52b9.jpgHey Kinkies!!  

So most of you may recall that I went to an event last summer called Supernatural:The Event.  I had an amazing time there and was able to see Supernatural: The Play at it's debut (and was able to meet Kim Coles - yayness).  Well, the play is coming back to the East Coast and I had the awesome opportunity of chatting with one of the playwrights, Candace Kelley.

So just to tell you all a little about the play, Supernatural: The Play, which now features Kim Coles, is funny and insightful while exploring the lives of seven women who are forced to confront their definition of beauty in an image obsessed world, leading them on a natural hair journey and finding themselves.  Some are describing it as the Vagina Monologues - but about hair.  Since it's debut in 2012, Supernatural: The Play, has resonated with theater-goers through tears and standing ovations for its universal themes of self-acceptance, triumph over tragedy, and redefining BEAUTY!

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Kinky Kinetik: How did you and your fellow playwrights come up with the concept and idea to write Supernatural: The Play?
Candace Kelley: Actually, years ago Gilda Rogers, one of the co-writers of the play, said that I should do a hair play.  I recently reminded her that she was way ahead of her time.  I let her know that she planted that seed years ago.  I had met so many people along my natural hair journey through workshops and my natural hair care line, Curl Prep, and these women had phenomenal hair stories.  I am a journalist by trade and since I write, I thought back to Gilda and she and I sat down about two years ago and started constructing this.  My sister, Audrey Kelley, who is a writer and producer Hollywood re-tooled and re-worked the play and re-tooled again.  She made it so that it [the play] would work for the stage.  She gave it the glue from word choice to proper character development.  It may have fallen apart otherwise!

KK: When I saw the original play, it touched me. I laughed and I cried. It allowed me to see different perspectives of how some women live with being natural and the effect it has on their life, if any. What is it that you want people to walk away feeling, or thinking, after seeing the play?
CK: I want people to walk away and feel like their stories matter and that they belong, because they do. So many women I meet think that they were in a vacuum.  They come to see the play and have a common experience.  I want women to know that their story matters enough to be shared.  You don't have to say anything to a natural haired woman walking down the street because you know there’s a story behind that hair.  It's unspoken yet it’s loud and clear.  I remember working at Court TV and being told that my hair was inappropriate for the workplace.  That was in 1997.  And we all have stories but it’s good to hear them spoken aloud on stage and embraced.

KK: I saw the play when it first debuted at Crossroads Theater, and at that time it was awesome. I see that you've added new cast members to perfect the play. I believe that at that time I saw it, there was five roles and a host. How has the play changed since it debuted?
CK: Part of the process with a play is showing it in front of an audience, getting feedback, and making changes until you get the product you want and we now have that product.  One change is that we added a Sociologist who sets the stage for why natural hair is so important in 2013, the history behind our hair story, why so many women rejected it, and why we are here now.  The host, who is considered a character, also
has a story. Since you saw it, a lot has changed.

KK: Do you foresee making any additional changes to the script and/or characters?
CK: No, but you never know.  When it showed in LA on March 25, 2013, people really loved it. What's more interesting is that there were people there that are not African-American.  Their comments were especially interesting because if you don't know about natural hair and there's no back-story to it, it may be hard to understand.  Some suggested to change part of the play but we had to determine if there was a need to change it.  We had to ask: is there a need to change some stories because of the limited experience of some?  No.

KK: So Candace, what role or character do you identify with most and why?
CK: When it was written, the character that leads you down memory lane would be me - simply because of the fact that I have met so many people and heard so many stories during my natural hair events.  Women would get up and do what I call "testify" about their hair journeys.  I remember one woman saying about her relaxer, "I’ve been clean for eight months!"  I meet women with cancer, bi-racial women, and more who had the most compelling stories about beauty and acceptance.  So there is a character who shares my experience. While we don't have the exact same story, I identify with her.

KK: You now have Kim Coles as part of the play, which I think is amazing. She's funny, relatable, and warm. What role is she playing and how is she doing with that role?
CK: She's the one that walks you down memory lane to meet an intriguing cast of women from all walks of life, but she adds "Kim" to it.  As with her journey, she has met a lot of people and this made her are real solid choice to be in the play.  She adds her own spice to it.  She "Kimifies" it and that works.  As part of some of her stand up routines she talks about natural hair and so we gave her some liberty.  And I also want to add that she is hilarious just like so many women I meet who can joke about their broken edges or the hair style that kept them from going to work!

KK: Well that sounds awesome, I’m sure it makes the play all the more funny and relatable. Are there any plans to take the play beyond LA & NY, perhaps to other countries?
CK: That is the goal!  Our first goal is to give it a home base for a while, to generate publicity.  I want to travel around the country, Atlanta and Chicago to be specific.  I want to see where it goes after the showing in May.  We are inviting a lot of people who may see it and want it to go further.  I think women want to see other women who share the same story.

KK: Aside from checking out the play, what advice would you give women struggling with accepting their natural hair?
CK: I would say that if women surround themselves with people who look like themselves they ,will understand that their hair is just fine.  A lot of us grew up and from our surroundings we were told our hair was not fine.  Now we can feel and believe that not only is my hair fine, but there are options and there are
others like me.  Natural hair events are also great; it’s where some women get the wherewithal to embrace their hair.

KK: You're getting rave reviews about the play.  Does the amazing responses and reviews of the play seem surreal to you? How does it feel to know that your play is impacting others in a positive aspect?
CK: It does because when we started writing it, I said give it a run and see what happens.  And when women started crying in the audience when it debuted at the Crossroad Theater, along with the vocal responses, I asked Gilda, "What is going on?"  I saw a few people in the audience crying.  And there
were a lot of "amen corners."  Someone said, "Oh my god!"  At one point I was taken aback and then we did it again and people were again touched.  It does seem surreal.  On the other hand it's a lot of business! The numbers and contracts bring me right out of surrealism, let me tell you.  Like do you have the down payment? (laughing)  But still, specifically at Crossroads Theater, it was a surreal moment.

Hundreds of women responded to the casting call and when we spoke to a lot of them, they thanked my sister, who also directs the play.  They said how thankful they were to be able to play real characters, especially given that it's hard as a black woman in Hollywood to get good roles.  They were grateful that they could play characters that were not one-dimensional or caricatures of the Black experience.

KK: Describe the play in five words or less.
CKGo inside my natural head!

KK: Aside from the Supernatural play and your product line, are you working on anything else?
CK: I am managing Let Your Hair Down Expo on April 20th.  I will be hosting expos and other events
that bring natural women together.  And the focus of my events recently shifted.  Through my hair events, I meet a lot of women that are starting their own business, out of a job, or want to do something new so with the next event, I am adding an empowerment focus.  I want to do something either about social networking, self-leadership, or building your own business because so many women are business owners or have had a change in circumstance, like being scaled down. Yes, talking about hair is important, but if I am going to be in a room with 350 women, why not learn a new skill or do some major networking?!

KK: I totally agree and will be there to support AND learn.  So, how did you come up with the name for the play?
CKI look at the title in two ways.  First, the naturals that I know and see online, they have an energy that is like a superpower.  Their sense of selves and pride they have is immeasurable they are indeed Supernaturals.  How I also see the title is that people use the word supernatural to describe that which is beyond, and something you can’t see, and when it comes to natural hair, there is so much that is beyond what the eye
sees.  We might have braids or twists or even a relaxer, but it goes way beyond that, it's more than what we see.  It's like our tag line says "we all have a hair story."

KK: Well Candace, I thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. I wish you success beyond your heart's desire with your play, and beyond.

Kinkies, be sure to check out Supernatural: The Playas we ALL have a hair story.  Also, make sure you stay tuned as I will be chatting it up with Kim Coles!  I'm totally excited about that!

The May showings are as follows:
May 25th at 4pm and 7pm and on May 26th at 3pm in New York! The Curl Whisper will do a natural hair workshop called Transformations at 1pm, before the 3pm play on May 26.  

Be sure to check it out and come back to tell me your thoughts!  Visit Supernatural: The Play for ticket information.

About the playwrights:

Audrey Kelley/Director & Playwright
Audrey Kelley studied sketch comedy writing at Second City in Los Angeles and stand-up comedy with Judy Carter.  She was selected for an Internship in Writing and Development with Tri Destined Studios in Los Angeles working closely with Gregory Anderson and ND Brown.  Original written works include: I’d Never Say This in Public (one-woman show), Little Dates (a webisode in collaboration with Asia Winston) and several sketch comedy skits and stand-up comedy pieces. She wrote, produced and directed Audrey & Dre, a webisode starring Zuri Alexander and Andrew Chen which was recently picked up for distribution. Audrey resides in Los Angeles.

Gilda Rogers/Playwright
Gilda Rogers is an award winning producer, journalist and historian who often speaks about the topic of hair history. She is the executive producer of the popular weekly television show Frank Talk that airs on Brookdale Television on Comcast and Verizon FIOS Cable stations.  In that role, Gilda has showcased an array of stories that inspire, inform and entertain.  A documentarian, she wrote and produced A Man and His Music chronicling the life of Ralph Gatta, a Red Bank, N.J. native and jazz historian, known as "Johnny Jazz."  She is also part of the creative team for the documentary Kosher. Gilda’s work has appeared on AOL Black Voices and the PBS affiliated station NJN.

Candace O. Kelley/Playwright & Producer
Candace Kelley is a five-time Emmy nominated writer, TV reporter and documentarian. Over the past four years she has collected a myriad of hair stories that helped shaped the play Supernatural. A leader in the natural hair field, she has produced dozens of natural hair signature events to sold out audiences. Her book Coif Cuisine: Natural Hair Recipes and Side Dishes for the Natural Hair & Now was released in 2011 and her book The Big Chop will be released in 2013. Her online E-Zine Hair Candy has a huge fan base and she continues to teach Natural Hair workshops as founder of Curl Prep Natural Hair Solutions. A documentarian, she wrote and produced the film Missing. The piece sheds light on what happens when children grow up without a father. She is also the co-writer and producer of the film Kosher about an Orthodox Jewish man who became a Pentecostal pastor of an African-American church in Manalapan, NJ.

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