The secret is out.
Adorn Wakefield is the real force behind Talbot Beacon’s plays. He’s been writing the plays for years.
But no one would ever know it, because Talbot never includes Adorn’s name on the poster, much less the program.
Talbot is the face of the operation, the personality that drives it. OK, let’s just say it — he’s the divo.
That’s the male version of a diva. Not to worry, there also is a diva in Greg Williams Jr.’s comedy, Talbot Beacon Presents His Latest, Greatest Stage Play.
Williams not only wrote it but is directing New Venture Theatre’s production of the play, which opens Thursday, Oct. 11, at Independence Park Theatre.
Williams also is New Venture’s founder and artistic director. Talbot Beacon was inspired by his involvement with an urban theater production in New Orleans.
“I produced plays in New Orleans before coming to Baton Rouge,” Williams said. “And I left this particular production before it opened.”
The production was a gospel play staged by a New Orleans personality known for, well, his gospel plays.
“I’m not going to name names,” Williams said, laughing. “But this play was a disaster from the beginning. He didn’t give the cast the script until two days before the play, and he wanted celebrities to play all the parts, but he didn’t fly them into the city until the day of the play. He had about five vendors selling the tickets, and no one knew how many tickets had been sold, so there were people coming in from everywhere.”
Williams didn’t stick around to see how the play turned out. He knows only that it was chaos.
“It was a horrible experience,” he said. “But it was a great experience for writing a play, because it was such a great story that it had to be a play.”
So came Talbot Beacon, a character that has some people speculating. Is Talbot based on Tyler Perry?
Not saying that Tyler Perry is a divo. Not saying, either, that someone else writes his material. But he started out in urban theater while living in Atlanta.
The New York Times, in a 2007 article, explained that urban theater also has been called “inspirational theater, black Broadway, gospel theater and the chitlin circuit.” The genre sells out some of the biggest theaters across the country, and its plays usually take place in contemporary settings and have uplifting plots.
Tyler Perry’s first play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, was produced in Atlanta. He’s since moved on to films and televisions and has been praised and criticized by other black filmmakers.
“I don’t agree with everything Tyler Perry does, but I agree with him that what we do should be entertaining,” Williams said. “And I always say that there wouldn’t be a New Venture Theatre without his work in the entertainment world.”
But in the end?
“No, Talbot Beacon is not inspired by Tyler Perry,” Williams said.
“This was an opportunity for me to build on my experience in New Orleans, and it was also an opportunity to do a piece about urban theater. My training is in traditional theater, but this gives me a chance to do a play about the genre.”
So, the piece became an urban theater play within a traditional play.
“At the end, the audience finds itself watching this play fall apart in front of their eyes, then come together,” Williams said.
And Talbot Beacon’s play begins falling apart at the beginning, when Adorn refuses to write any more plays.
“Adorn is a flamboyant character,” Brian Jordan Jr. said.
Jordan’s portrayal of Adorn marks his 10th New Venture production as either an actor or choreographer.
“Adorn wants recognition for his work, so the audience sees him quit at the beginning of the story,” Jordan said.
But Talbot needs Adorn, because Le’Bonique Blessings has suddenly stepped into the picture. Her stage name is Mother Blessings.
“And on stage, she goes into the character of Mother Blessings, who’s so caring,” Angela Perry said. \
“But off stage, she is dramatic and over-the-top.”
Perry, of course, plays Le’Bonique, and Caiden Crockett plays Talbot, who usually casts the singing trio, the Dixon Brothers in his production.
But little do the Dixon Brothers know, Talbot has cast them as women in his newest stage play. Yes, they’re to wear dresses on stage.
“And Louis Dixon doesn’t like it,” said Dominique Smith, who plays Louis.
“The Dixon Brothers are older, and Louis is grumpy. But what I think he’s grumpy about it having to wear a dress, along with the fact that his brothers are OK with it. More than OK.”
All of which adds to the comedy of this show that Williams said he wrote for pure entertainment.
Talbot’s newest play is the result of a challenge put forth by Le’Bonique. Her play will run in the theater across the street from the theater where his production is playing out. The only problem is Talbot has only two weeks to pull it all together.
“And in my mind, I’m better than Talbot,” Perry says in the character of Le’Bonique.”
Both Perry and Smith instantly loved Williams’ play at the first reading.
“I laughed so hard that I was bawling,” Smith said.
This is the reaction Williams sought, because if his actors are having fun, surely the audience will, too. But an original work isn’t without its problems.
“You have to spend more time and money trying to get the word out of what this play is about,” Williams said.
Now the secret’s out — Talbot Beacon is about fun entertainment.
- CAST: Caiden Crockett, Talbot Beacon; Brian Jordan Jr., Adorn Wakefield; Michael Russ, Robert Jones; Milton Crosby, Sheldon; Angela Perry, Le’Bonique Blessings (Mother Blessings); Seanre Harding, Gloria Yonder; Stephanie Chavis, Tracy/Woman; Tnesha Craig, Julia/Lillian Bradford; Alvin Temple, Preston; James Drake, Bud (Mavis)/Executive 3; Cedric D. Clarke II, Cop/Deliver Man/ Executive 1/Stage Manager/Tyrone/Vergil; Tiera Williams, Dana (Cyrstal)/Woman/Executive 2/Myra Miller/Waitress; Jarred Walker, Executive 4/Frederick Norman; Ahmad Harris, Father/George (Faye); Treston Miles, Henry (Langston)/Norman’s Assistant/Policeman/Bartender; Kristie Lambrose, LaWanna/Monique/Libby Jackson; Dominique Smith, Louis (IMaybelline), Mitchell/Reporter; Quiana Green, Nurse/Thelma.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Greg Williams Jr., writer/director; Kelly Latchie, set designer; Michael Burton, lighting designer; Alvin A. Temple, costumer; Christopher D. Daniel, production manager; Henry Harris, stage manager; Jeremy Young, stage manager.