New York native Lyn Artope (pronounced Ar-Tah-Pay) came into acting on a whim, invited by her friend, directing playwright Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman to play the supporting role of “Bennie” in her 2010 Capital Fringe festival entry Running: Amok.Four years later, she is still working with Ali-Coleman, this time, playing co-lead, portraying poet Lucille Clifton in the theatrical production In Her Words which begins its touring season this coming March.
In Her Words is produced by Liberated Muse Arts Group. It is a 50-minute theatrical musical that explores the intersection of race, gender and social activism through the lives of six legendary African-American creatives, including Lucille Clifton and some other notables such as Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The production debuted in 2012 and has since been commissioned by the United States Peace Corps Agency, the DC Public Library System and other places. This year, one stop will be at a Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. Artope appeared in In Her Words in 2013, the production’s second year, portraying feisty writer Zora Neale Hurston, but was asked to move into a lead role during re-casting of the production.
As Lucille Clifton, Artope not only goes through a physical transformation, she also was challenged as an artist to stretch in her first lead role. In the following Q & A, Artope shares about In Her Words, why we should see it and what she’s learned while being part of the production.
Tell us a little bit about who you are as a performer and what led you to Liberated Muse’s production of IN HER WORDS.
My first exposure to In Her Words was as an audience member at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC. I was moved by the music and the interview excerpts.It reminded me of how great these women were and how much they endured and overcame.As a black woman I find that I and my peers have a tendency to get too comfortable with what we have and we forget that someone fought for us and it is our responsibility to fight for someone else.In Her Words reminds of the greatness of these women.
Tell us about who you portraying in the production. Are they anything like you?
I am portraying Lucille Clifton, a phenomenal poet.I would like to think I am like her. She’s very confident and poised. She speaks honestly about the human experience. She is very relatable.
What were some things that you learned while preparing for your role?
I learned that it is very difficult to memorize 26 pages of dialogue.However, more importantly I learned how easy it is to forget.The images I had of these women were of glamour and success; not trauma and struggle. These women fought for me and paved a pathway that allows me to stand on a stage and exclaim my glory as a black woman without shame or fear of reprisal. I learned that history is written everyday and I must not forget that I will play a role for the children that come behind me.
What are some things you would like the audience to learn about these women?
I just want the audience to walk away with a complete picture of these women–the good, the bad, and the ugly. They were human. They were flawed. They had insecurities and vices.Yet in all of that, they harnessed their creativity to create magic. They created music, words and movement that still impacts us today. I want the audience to walk away knowing that we are all capable of greatness.
Why is theater important when it comes to learning about historical figures?
Theatre is an educational vehicle that can reach the masses. You come to be entertained and you leave enlightened. Theatre makes you feel something, so it’s not just learning arbitrary facts. You walk away with an understanding of these historical figures and gain n empathy that you can’t get from a classroom or a book.
What would you like the audience to know about IN HER WORDS that you didn’t get a chance to tell them?
That it’s just the tip of the iceberg– the tip of the iceberg in every sense. In regards to the subjects of the production, there are tons of other transformative African American artists whose stories are yet to be told. In regards to the In Her Words cast; these are women on the go who are making their own way to be muses for the next generation.
Where can folks learn more about your work and about who you are?
I will have my artist website up before the end of the year, but, in the meantime, folks can check out the website for In Her Words at www.InHerWordsTour.com and learn more about me and the other cast members through the posted videos and photos.
Tickets are now on sale for the concert Natural Woman: A Collage of Female Creativity. Lyn Artope will serve as a co-MC for this event. This event will feature excerpt scenes from In Her Words during an evening of live music, spoken word, vendors and food. Use the code LYN to get a dollar off of your $10 online ticket. Tickets are $15 at the door. Tickets to this event support the In Her Words 2014 tour that will travel through Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. Buy your ticket now.
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