Actor Keith Hamilton Cobb website

Tag Archives: American Moor



ONE NIGHT ONLY at The University of Maryland

A Special Event!!

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at The University of Maryland.

UMD Flyer

 

 

So much of my time is currently being spent focused on the 11 dates of “Moor” in Manhattan.  But this promises to be a truly intimate, one-time, event with the students of UMD and a post-show discussion with Dr. Faedra Carpenter.  The event is open to all.

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Moor on Manhattan

PhoenixMoor Flyer

And that’s all there really is to say…  The New York City debut of this play begins on April 21st.  The Wild Project is an intimate 88 seat black box playing space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  It is the perfect space to perform this piece in, and I expect it to be oversold for all of it’s eleven dates.

The members of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble and I are all hugely excited about this endeavor.  Our collaboration in presenting this work is the next logical step in the performance path of something that I’ve begun to believe has true contemporary relevance and import.

As per usual, I urge everyone to secure a seat soon, and to come be a part of this continuing discussion.

For those who’ve come late to the party, just to bring you up to speed…

American Moor is a passionate and uneasy study of a large African American actor auditioning for the role of Othello for a middle-aged white director who portends to have knowledge about how a large black man should act and respond in an unaccepting society.

The play asks uncomfortable and complex questions, moving to much larger issues than the audition/theatre process: Is there a patronizing racism that exists in our contemporary theatre?  Is this a microcosm of progressive/liberal society that thinks it has knowledge of the black experience?  Do directors want to work with actors who ask challenging questions in a 3-week rehearsal process?

And then, there is the whole issue of whether or not we can ever talk past our own personal perspective to address any of these questions and a multitude of others…

It’s a big chunk of theatre that will make you laugh… or maybe weep…

“In this remarkable evening a unique performer with an uncanny ear for the language of Shakespeare lures you into taking a startling double journey.

In the seeming act of demolishing The Bard’s OTHELLO and resurrecting him in his own image, Keith Hamilton Cobb takes you on a riveting journey through the love and rage in the turbulent interior of a modern black man.” 

                                                Ellen Holly, Actress/Writer, author of ONE LIFE:                                                                         The Autobiography of an African American Actress.

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Powerful Return Performance Weekend at Luna Stage

I’ve always got to start with thanks…

It was not the easiest weekend to come out to the theatre.  There was snow… lots of it…  But many made it to Luna Stage just the same, and stayed to share their thoughts and perceptions at the latest incarnation of this work, “American Moor.”

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Opening tableau, “American Moor” at Luna Stage 2/27/15

Added to the weekend’s many adventures was the presence of film maker, Bobby Razak, and his crew, accruing footage for some cinematic rendering of the play, and a study of the myriad elements that have conspired to give birth to and grow it.

Bobby Razak and I, November 2009

Film maker, Bobby Razak and I, November 2009

Bobby’s film making career has spanned twenty years, focusing mostly on the world of mixed martial arts.  But he is also taken with theatre, and this project presents a huge departure for him in his work, and an exploration of an actor’s life as opposed to that of a fighter’s…  There are many similarities as we have discovered…

Filming post-performance, day 3 of the Luna Weekend.  Final thoughts and perceptions for camera...

Filming post-performance, day 3 of the Luna Weekend. Final thoughts and perceptions for camera…

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“American Moor” performance Q&A at Luna Stage 3/1/15

Two of the three performances over the course of the weekend were extremely strong from a critical standpoint.  One was not.  We had issues that effected all of us, camera crew, theatre staff, and performer on Saturday night that made it difficult to muscle through to the curtain call.  But the audience response that evening was equally as positive and complimentary as it had been on either of the other two nights.  I am beginning to believe that the content of the script is tending to outweigh what might from time to time be lacking in performance.  This is a wonderful reassurance.  Not that I plan to get lazy and let the power of the words carry the show forward.  We’ve still got a long way to go…  But I was encouraged by the weekend with all its ups and downs.  Those that came out made everything work, and contributed to the further education of everyone involved.

"American Moor" post-show audience interaction 2/28/15.

“American Moor” post-show audience interaction 2/28/15.

“American Moor” is such a minimalist and simple show to stage.  It is essentially a single man on a bare stage for 87 minutes…  And so it is continually fascinating to me how layered and complex the matter of the play becomes, particularly when discussions about what was just experienced continue after the curtain call.

So we are looking forward to the spring, and our ten dates with The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble at The Wild Project space in the East Village.  Spring… when the weather begins to warm, and people’s brains begin to turn on again for the few weeks before it gets insufferably hot.  Our New York debut!!  As usual, I hope everyone can come out and see this play.  But at least no one will be able to offer the excuse that it was snowing…

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Returning to Luna Stage in February!!

This is a return engagement to the venue where “American Moor” played to an over-sold house in August of 2014.  I’m excited to be returning to Luna Stage for three dates in February/March.  The play has undergone some slight evolutions since the August staging, and we are expected the numbers to come out and lend their minds to its continuing growth.

There are also a couple of other new creative experiments we’ll be launching at this engagement, and I hope all those in the trip-state area who have not yet experienced this important piece of theatre will come out and be a part of this newest exploration.

COME PLAY WITH US!!

Click below to be taken to the calendar and box office for Luna Stage.

LUNA STAGE: 555 VALLEY ROAD, WEST ORANGE, NJ

AmericanMoorFlyerWeb

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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

AmMoor-TestamonialsWeb4

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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