African-American Oral Histories
Clip 3: Transcript
Preparing for a role
Running Time: 3 min 30 sec
CC: So how does that work? What do you think about when you’re really trying to get to the essence of a role?
NK: So being thankful is the core of your conviction. You said you should remember where you come from, and be thankful. Where does that idea come from?
LA: Oh, god, these are good questions. Um, let’s see, when I’m really, okay, I’m thinking, actually it happens, it starts off here at the, when I’m putting on my makeup. I’m like getting all into it and looking at the picture again of how I do it and then getting to it and by the time I’ve got that, because I go from a dead sleep, because when I perform, I have to at least close my eyes and sleep for about fifteen or twenty minutes because I’ve rehearsed that day. The day you perform you take class, you rehearse, you have your regular daily crap that goes on in your life. I don’t want to take that on stage. So I let that go when I’m sleeping and it’s like a new day. (Singing) “It’s a new day, I get up.” I get up like, ahhh, you know like uhhh, and I slowly become whatever is that I’m making up and putting on and becoming.
So, by the end of it I’m like, you know I’ve got my headpiece on and I’m even kind of going, looking at things thinking how I’m going to. And I go over in my head and I’m singing and probably singing some show tune at the top of my lungs because I’m nervous as all get-out. And then I’ll go out there and I’ll warm up and I’m still, you know, even though I’m warming up, I’m going to start circling like a bird but I’m thinking about that even with my regular just, plies, I’m still thinking about it and I’m thinking about it in my head. But I’ve done all that in rehearsal to where it just kind of becomes natural and I kind of get into it, into what I have to be as a firebird that day. I even try to kind of wake up thinking, (whispers) oh, you know, I have a little bit more of, because birds are proud animals, no matter how, because The Firebird is a little bitty bird, but she’s a big bird. She’s like a big bird trapped in a little bird’s body. But she’s not like a parakeet, but she’s just a proud little thing.
So I think that way probably when I get up in the morning, and I know that sounds real, like weird, but I do. I mean just like with the Sugar Plum Fairy, I’ve done it for twenty-four years; this will be my twenty-fourth year. She’s never the same. But like one year I remember thinking, I’m just going to think about cotton candy and whatever and that was that one year and I thought, well, that was stupid, you know. Every year I think, god, what was I thinking? But now I think of just, it’s funny, I just started thinking about Lawrence for some reason, that was the way I started thinking, I was like hmmm. But just like, you know, because she’s a very soft kind of, she’s a piece of candy. She’s a fairy that’s gone to a piece of candy so it’s kind of like saccharine, it’s not even a real, she doesn’t have any warm blood rushing through her body, she’s just kind of floaty and even though technically she’s hard, the stuff was, but she’d kind of airy. Does that make sense?
CC: Mmmm, hmmm.
LA: Yeah, she doesn’t have much depth to her. So I have to think of things like that. Like what, who is she to me? I can’t be somebody else doing it, my version of. It’s my version of and sometimes the Sugar Plum Fairy is kind of, she’s a little more serious but I’ve kind of softened her up quite a bit lately, to where I’m almost, not marking it, because I’m never marking it, but doing it as softly as possible. Or, I’m doing it as parodies, I mean, it’s different, every time I do it, every time. I can’t even think of how many shows I’ve done, but so, but when I’m in the studio I think of all that so that makes when I get here and to go there it’s already in me, it’s already there. All I’ve got to do is find the way to open, unlock the door to let it out. That’s what I’m supposed to do when I go on the stage.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Date of Interview:
September 9, September 10, 2006
Wortham Theater, Houston, Texas
Audio: Edirol digital recorder, Uncompressed wave file
Mini digital videotapes