The countdown begins
NEW YORK—As was recently announced, my time on the “Island” is coming to an end. On June 24, I shall depart the revival production of “Once On This Island,” and start preparations for my return home, as well as a brief stay in Los Angeles to play Grace Farrell in “Annie” at the Hollywood Bowl in July.
By the time I leave the show, I’ll have been in it for almost eight months, which is a good chunk of time to be performing in the same show. I have amassed so many wonderful memories and made some amazing friends. For sure I’ll miss everyone when my departure date arrives.
It’s also been fantastic that my family has been with me these past weeks. My mom and Nicole arrived with me on March 24, but Mom has since headed home, and now my husband has arrived and will remain until it’s time for him and Nic to head home in preparation for the first day of school.
Nicole has been my constant companion at the theater, communing with her surroundings and making friends with the company. Over the last few weeks, she’s been able to produce quite a bit of art (she loves working with watercolor and ink, as well as bright, permanent markers), widen her foodie palate, and act as my theater date and backstage tour guide. Her sense of humor and flair for the dramatic has served her well in her interactions with people, especially when a few special ones pay us backstage visits.
For example, on Sunday night, Queen Ramonda, the Queen Mother of Wakanda (more popularly known as Angela Bassett) came to watch “Once On This Island.” Word of her presence spread like wildfire throughout the theater. I mean, “Black Panther” is one of the biggest film releases in recent history, so fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know who she is.
However, for those of us who are closer in age to her, she is Tina Turner (in the film “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which earned her a Golden Globe award and a best actress Oscar nomination). She is Betty Shabazz (in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X”).
She is one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the screen, and she was here. Mary Ragus, our guest services person at the theater, spoke to her before the show and told us that she would be paying us a visit.
Never have I seen a cast of actors get out of costume and into their street clothes so fast. Everyone was so excited to meet her, yours truly included. My daughter, probably more so.
A few nights before, Nicole and I watched “Black Panther.” She fell in love with the film, and counts Princess Shuri, the younger sister of King T’Challa and Wakanda’s technology expert as her favorite character. However, Queen Ramonda, in all her regal beauty, stature and courage captured both of us. And we had no idea that only a few days later, we would actually get to meet her.
Tamyra Gray (Papa Ge) and I headed out of our dressing room and into the backstage hallway to meet and hug her. I then introduced my daughter, who immediately went down on one knee, her head bowed, and arms crossed over her chest. The entire hallway erupted in cheers as videos and photos were taken. Yup, little girl did great. Everyone then clumped together for various group photos before she said her goodbyes and left us.
By the time you read this, Nicole will have turned 12 years old. Her birthday was spent learning how to ride a skateboard (thank you, Daddy), and playing arcade games with her friends. She’s getting taller, which means her feet are getting bigger. And she’s now able to borrow my shoes.
The countdown to her adulthood is one I am in no rush to go through.
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