Actor Keith Hamilton Cobb website

Category Archives: American Moor

Notes, updates, and announcements regarding the evolution of the play, American Moor.

The Intelligent, Intuitive, Indomitable, Large, Black, American, Male, Actor explores
Shakespeare, Race, and America…

not necessarily in that order…



Video Promo

 

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Monday Night Moor

August 11th, 2014, “American Moor” plays to a full house at Luna Stage

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

Of all three public performances of this new, developing play to date, this one, Monday night, the 11th of August, was the most energized, the best performed, the tightest textually, and the most satisfying evening of theatre that I, as the performer have had for some time.  Luna Stage is a 98 seat “black box” theatre space.  The seats were filled with a diverse audience, a combination of Luna’s regular patron base, some friends and colleagues of mine, and a number of people having come from as far away as DC, Massachusetts, and Missouri, to lend their minds and voices to the growth of this work, and all for one evening in the dead of summer, the toughest time to get people to come out and support theatre.

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

What I have found about these one-night-only presentations of “Moor” is that there can be no real relaxing into the work.  There is the one opportunity to put it on its feet, have people watch, listen, and comment, then nothing until the next time you get a space to mount it, and an audience to watch it.  In that circumstance, nerves are high, the space is unfamiliar, things are happening for the first time, that haven’t happened anywhere else.  This can lend itself to what people like to call “the magic of theatre,” or create utter amateur hour…  The entire creative process is stilted at best.  As those sorts of things go, this was a fairly strong showing.  At least I thought so, and the audience responses seemed to back up my perception.

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

This play is trying to speak to several very complex issues that haunt our culture in a very short space of time.  It frustrates me to attempt to do so, and I think it frustrates the audience as well.  It is a lot to hear and consider, and one tendency seems to be to say to the play, “That just ain’t so…  It’s not like that.  It’s like something else.”  As we ventured into the “talk-back” segment of the evening, I felt the agitation that this play causes in the bodies of people.  This, I felt, is a good thing.  If it were not rattling people into thought, and reaction, there would be cause for worry.  But people are outspoken and vehement in their reactions to this piece, and I’m guessing, for all my creative frustration, that I’ve done something right… something…

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

The discussion was long, and we spoke to many uncomfortable aspects of the play.  The play is about the discussion that never gets had.  I’m encouraged that it seems to want to happen in the moments following the curtain call.  People have had their emotions stirred, and are all wanting to express, “This is what I feel!”  We asked them to please feel free to express it.  They did not disappoint us.  We spoke like a group of people, diverse in background and experience, all trying to understand the same thing; to find a point of balance.  In that respect, I think the play did what it was supposed to.  American theatre did what it’s supposed to.

 

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

Then…  We stood on the stage and talked, one to one, face to face, until it was late.  Many did.  I suspect that means there was something worth staying late and talking about…

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Photo Credit: Donna Davis

from left:  Frankie Faison, myself, Cheryl Katz (Luna Stage artistic director), and Craig Alan Edwards

from left: Frankie Faison, myself, Cheryl Katz (Luna Stage artistic director), and Craig Alan Edwards
Photo Credit: Donna Davis

I’m grateful to Luna Stage Company, and all who came out to make this evening with me.  I knew there was a reason to be doin’ this shit.

 

 

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In Performance at Luna Stage Company

LunaStage AmMoor Poster

We needed a place to keep this thing on its feet without letting the summer go by; a place to keep the words in my mouth, the thoughts and ideas, so important to me, expressing through my body…  The good people of Luna Stage Company have offered me that opportunity.  Not only will this be a place to perform, an intimate ninety seat black box space, but, as a theatre that supports and develops new works, it will also afford me an opportunity to grow the piece, and to discuss it with an audience of smart, theatre-minded people, giving me the much needed reactions and feedback that will carry the work on to the next place.

Perhaps YOU can attend…  All info for the purchasing of tickets, directions, etc. are available HERE.

Please come be part of the discussion.  I’ll see you there.

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“American Moor” in Performance: The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s Spring Rep, April, 2015

This Just In!

Anubis in The Jean Cocteau Repertory production of Jean Cocteau's The Infernal Machine.  Directed by Robert Hupp.  Costumes by Gregory Gale.

Anubis in The Jean Cocteau Repertory production of Jean Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine. Directed by Robert Hupp. Costumes by Gregory Gale. 

So what if it’s far enough away on the calendar to birth a baby?  It is one, really…  I’ve worked with the prolific and dedicated artists at The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble over many years.  In fact, their predecessor, The Jean Cocteau Repertory, was the theatre where I worked my very first professional theatre gig in New York, as Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Dead in Jean Cocteau’s “The Infernal Machine,” how many ages ago??!!  I mean look at that guy above!  What was he, twelve?!!

Then, only just three or four winters ago, I was on stage with several of these same astonishing actors again at a beautiful black box space on the lower West Side called The Wild Project in their production of Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood.”

With Craig Smith, co-artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, performing in The Phoenix production of Tom Stoppard's "Hapgood," directed by John Giampietro.

With Craig Smith, co-artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, performing in The Phoenix production of Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood,” directed by John Giampietro.

They are thespians of integrity and intelligence, and intention, and vision who have known me throughout my entire professional career.  They were there when it began. And so I am excited for their announcement today of their 2014-15 rep season, and honored that they have taken an interest in this new work of mine.  So, April of 2015 will be “American Moor’s” New York City debut!  It could not happen amongst a more nurturing company of artists.  You’ll see, if you check out the links, that it’s a short run, (we will be running April 21-25, 2015 and May 5-10, 2015) and The Wild Project, while it could not be more perfect for this piece of theatre, is a small space.  So I encourage everyone to put us on their calendar, and reserve their seats early!!  You can save money on tickets if you order early.  If you’re local to New York, you may want to buy a package so that you can experience all of the remarkable work that The Phoenix Theatre’s coming season has to offer you.  Have a look here for ticket packages and discounts.

For single tickets, you can still purchase in advance at the online box office here.

The season calendar can be found here.

I’m really extremely proud to be a point of focus in the life of this theatre company.  And I’m proud of this evolving, and I think rather important work.

Please follow the updates, and join us next spring.

AmMoor Wild Project

“American Moor” is written and performed by Keith Hamilton Cobb, and is being directed by Paul Kwame Johnson.

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American Moor: An Overview

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This project, the play, “American Moor,” began as most creative endeavors in my life do: as resistance.  I had always resisted the idea of doing a solo show.  It seemed to be the sort of thing that came up in discussion every time an actor was talking about the things that weren’t going on in his/her career.  Someone would inevitably say, “Why don’t you write a solo show?”  And I always thought that having nothing better to do was never a good reason to do anything.  Many of the solo shows that I had seen were one of two things, either extremely self-indulgent, or dependent upon the type of strong character work that was not my skill set (think Anna Deavere Smith).  I didn’t think that I had a strong shot at creating one of either variety and being happy with myself.  And what was more, I just didn’t want to do one.  Acting had always been an ensemble endeavor.  One did it in conjunction with others, in a scene, whether on film or on a stage.  And for me, acting stories still abound about creative interactions with others, some joyous, others not so much, that paint the portrait of my professional life.  Standing up there alone seemed to scream “Look at me!  Please!!  Just look at me!”  I don’t think I ever entered into the industry to have people look at me, although that is sometimes how it turned out.  If this thing we do is, as Shakespeare says, about “holding the mirror up to nature,” and if nature is more a series of interactions than a look at any one being unto themselves, then I feel as though I’ve always been there as a piece of some larger ensemble, and not really a value alone without the other elements conspiring with me to present a living moment.  This is heady shit, I know.  I’ll just move on.


 

It started simply.  I was auditioning for the role of Oberon in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a casting that makes perfect sense if you know anything about the play or me.  The young director on the other side of the table had no shortage of things to say about his concept, and what he wanted to see in the role of Oberon, the faerie king, and his interaction with Titania, the faerie queen.  But he had cut nearly everything out of the audition material that would have allowed me to show him any of what he had said he wanted to see. Oh, and what was more, the reader enacting the role of Titania was a 60 plus year old man!  The director didn’t know me.  He didn’t know my work.  I stood in the middle of that studio floor a complete unknown tasked with showing a complete stranger that I was who he wanted, what he wanted, and all with about three minutes or less to do it in…  There’s more to that story, but why wallow in the absurdity?

1st reading of "American Moor," Manhattan Apartment of the director, March, 2013

1st reading of “American Moor,” Manhattan Apartment of the Director, March, 2013

Audience / 1st Reading, New York, March 2013

Audience / 1st Reading, New York, March 2013

Moor Reading March 2013 C

 

The upshot is that in the wake of that audition I began to think about how we are all always auditioning for the role of ourselves, or for the role that someone expects of us.  So much of American culture is predicated on the idea of selling one’s self.  And what if the role that one expects you to play is neither remotely who you are, nor who someone’s erroneous notions seek to make you?  What if you can’t be seen because the person looking is far too busy trying to picture you as who they would most like you to be for their purpose?

So, when I began to write, it was this interaction that I was writing about.  In that respect, I guess I didn’t really write a solo show at all, but a two person play with the second, unseen person representing everyone else; the omnipresent voice of the culture (replete with all its cultural expectations) that we have all made some tacit agreement to answer to whether we are aware that we made it or not.  ”American Moor” has evolved from there.  My colleague, New York director/producer/filmmaker Brent Buell, urged me to begin this project, and it was in creative collaboration with him, and under his direction that it had its first reading in March of 2013.  Since then, it seems to have taken on relevances impacting a much more diverse audience than I had originally imagined it might.  I suppose this speaks to the commonality of this human dilemma, if that’s not blowing my own horn too much…

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My note in the program for the second public performance said the following, and I think it is still at the root of the play:

“I had always thought that no one saw me.  But, as I have regularly been admonished over these older years, “Everything is not all about you.”  This is a difficult realization for an actor to make.  But I think it is equally difficult for humans as well.  I hope that this will not be the extent of my maturing awareness.  But it’s a place to start.”

Funny, I think, that a guy who was resisting saying “Look at me!” would write a piece about needing to be seen…

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