Friday, September 5, 2014

The Simple Stories

The Simple Stories
By Langston
HughesAdapted by Sandy Moore & Charles E. Gerber
Directed by Charles E. Gerber
Produced by The WorkShop Theater Company

Nomination: Sandy Moore was nominated for Outstanding Solo Performer

         Photos by Gerry Goodstein

About this Production
The Simple Stories is the timeless series by Langston Hughes from the mid-1940's. It is a one-man presentation featuring Mr. Moore as Jesse B. Semple, nicknamed "Simple." Mr. Moore also portrays some dozen other characters, creating a time capsule of African American life in the mid 20th century. The show has been presented to acclaim at such venues as The Langston Hughes Library in Queens, The National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina, the Grand Opening of the Bronx Library Center, and the National Jazz Museum of Harlem in a special presentation to high school students.

Director Charles E. Gerber and Performer Sandy Moore talk about creating this production based on the historical stories of Langston Hughes


What attracted you to this project?

Charles: What attracted me purely and Simply, (all puns intended), was the power of Hughes' language and the sentiments espoused within the historical context of this genius of American Letters.

Sandy: While touring for TheatreWorks USA in the 1990s I spent my down time reading during the 5 months on the road. I reread Langston Hughes' "The Best of Simple", a collection of Hughes' collected newspaper columns featuring his creation Jesse B. Semple, or "Simple". I remembered how funny and touching the stories were. I wondered if I could do a one-person show with the character. Little did I realize that I would end up playing up to 17 different characters in 90 minutes....

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Charles: My favorite part of working on this production is difficult to determine because there are so many, but perhaps the look in the eyes and nodding of the heads of Brooklyn High School students who'd never heard of The Simple Stories, had barely heard of Langston Hughes, and found his material to be so captivating, amusing, tragic and alarmingly TOPICAL!

Sandy: In the story "Last Whipping" Simple tells the story of his Aunt Lucy who raised him and taught him how to be a "good boy" and man. I based the voice and mannerisms on my mom. I end the story by smiling up to heaven. It's very special to share that moment with an audience.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Sandy: All the different voices and keeping the conversation going - with myself as different characters with very different postures, points of view, etc. I've discovered that the ability to really listen, and be in the moment is even more vital when there is no one else to give you a cue.

Charles: Most challenging perhaps was working with Sandy Moore, off and on, over the years; honing these characters and helping him manifest each and every one with such specificity, that no one would be confused as to who was talking to whom and what was being expressed, with all the brilliant levels of irony Mr. Hughes provided for the alert reader, and even more alert ACTOR!

What was the most memorable moment for you during the creation of this production?

Charles: Most memorable moment may have been at the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina when Sandy had over six hundred people enthralled in the not acoustically generous hall we were given to present, and yet Sandy and Hughes could be heard clearly to the back of the hall and the Festival's Founder, Larry Leon Hamlin, declared it to be, "MARVTASTIC!"

Sandy: It was a long road. Over several years of developing and adapting the stories I had so many memorable moments. For example, my director and co-adapter, Charles E. Gerber, and I performed "The Simple Stories" at The North Carolina Black Theater Festival in a hotel ballroom! It held 600 seats, but it was a ballroom, not a lot of theater ambiance.... It was a challenge to make the show intimate in such a large space. But after one show, a huge young black man (I'm 6'4" and this man must have been 6'6" around 320 pounds) came up and gave me a big bear hug. That is the power of Langston Hughes work. It's timelessness.

What did you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Charles: In terms of what I want audiences to be coming away with, after the good feeling of having seen and heard a truly good show, would be in terms of race relations in this land: how far we've come, and yet how far we've YET TO GO!

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