Theater Opening: Juliette Fairley’s ‘Mulatto: A Never Ending Saga’

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Theater Opening: Juliette Fairley’s ‘Mulatto: A Never Ending Saga’

By Wilson Morales

October 23, 2010

Directed by Charles Burnett, ‘Mulatto: A Never Ending Saga’ stars Juliette Fairley, who also wrote the 70 minute solo show. This is the gem of a one-woman theatrical play providing an inside look into an interracial relationship established in the 1960s, which is of interest to the general public given Obama’s presidency, Tiger Woods’ divorce and the increase in interracial marriages since the 1980s.

In playing several characters, Fairley portrays the dysfunctional marriage of an Afro G.I. and his white French wife as she assimilates into white American society and the impact on their bi-racial daughter’s romantic life.

‘Mulatto Saga’ is Miss Fairley’s third solo show. Her first one woman show was 2008’s ‘Mulatto’s Dilemma, ’ a two-part play which chronicled the adventures of a biracial woman living in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance and, in the sequel, looks at issues relevant to interracial marriages and their children. Her performance won the African American Playwrights Exchange Award for Best Actress in 2008.

Her second one woman show, ‘The Making of a Mulatto’ was reviewed in 2009 in the New York Times, Show Business Weekly, the Amsterdam News and featured on NBC and WBAI radio.

Blackfilm.com caught up with Fairley at the reception as she celebrated the opening of her latest show.

How much of your life is actually discussed on stage?

Juliette Fairley: I would say all of it. It’s been embellish. Charles Burnett dramatized it because he’s a Hollywood filmmaker, but the basic elements are there. We had to dramatize it otherwise it wouldn’t be an interesting show.

As a writer who put this together based on your own experiences, what were the challenges once Charles came on board with his changes?

JF: The challenges were that he had a cinematic vision of it on stage and I had to go with it because I brought him in. I had to let him do his job. Everything he brought to it was perfect. I identified the top people who will get my story. I had asked Debbie Allen, John Singleton, and Spike Lee, and Charles was the only one who said yes. I wanted to pick the top Black filmmakers. He’s a great writer. He’s a great filmmaker and I don’t think anyone could have done what he did with it and I’m very please with what he did.

With this play being your third solo outing, why did you decide to inject more of your life into it?

JF: The first play was fiction. The second part was about my life and the third part, which is this play, is more about me. The first play dealt with my parents, and the second explored my dating experience. People have asked if there’s more to my life than dating and that will probably be the fourth part, more life ‘The Memoir of a Mulato.’

Was there anything wrong with your previous director before you decided to go with Charles?

JF: No. I could do these shows until I was blue in the face and no one would pay attention until I attached people to it that were big. That’s when I started to do the association with the Halle Berry perfume and the Mixed Chicks hair products and Charles Burnett. No one care until I mentioned these names. That’s just the truth. That’s the way people are. They don’t care unless Bill Cosby walks in the door.

What is the challenge of doing a one-woman show?

JF: Well, you have to get over the hump of being up there by yourself. Once you get that hump, it’s smooth sailing. I’ve been doing this for about 2-3 years, so it’s not hard anymore. At first it was hard to get up there and you don’t have anyone to lean on or hide behind. You are just there and you either sink or swim. Once you do it, there’s no going back. It’s hard going back to cast, which is why I keep writing show after show. What else am I going to now and who’s going to cast me in a play?

How do your parents feel about you talking about them and revealing family information?

JF: They didn’t see this show. They saw the second one. They haven’t even asked to see this. I approached them about the second one and my mom was like, “Take this out and this,” and she censored it; so I didn’t give her the third one. I knew she would have censored it. I respected her decisions for the second show but with the third show, she knew I was writing it because I would go home and work on it, but she never asked once to see it.

What do you wants folks to get from watching this show?

JF: There are a couple of things. One is that when you have racism, which is an element of fascism, that it affects not only Afro people but it affects white people. Some white people think that if you bring in Hitler, they are not going to bother us, because we’re blond and blue eyes, but that’s just not true because they were harassed just as well. My point is that don’t think that because you are white, you can survive in a fascist and racist society because you are going to get it too. The second point is that when you see the show and you see my mother’s and father’s issues, this could be a black family, a white family, it just happened to be issues that affected a bi-racial family. This is what has been part of my life, and with the last sentence of the show, I just try to “get a normal life.”

What’s next?

JF: If I don’t book a movie or a TV show, I’m just going to keep doing the play. The only reason I’m doing the play is because I don’t have anything else. If you are creative and an actress, you need to act.

‘Mulatto: A Never Ending Saga’ plays on Saturdays at 4:45pm & Sundays at 7pm on October 23, 24, 30, 31, November 6, 7 and 21, 2010 at the Richmond Shepard Theater, 309 East 26 Street at 2nd Avenue. Purchase NYC tickets at www.theatermania.com


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