Monday, August 31
Saturday, August 29
People ask me all the time what exactly do I do for Secrets? What is my role? I tell them I'm the Executive Producer. This is usually greeted with a blank stare....
It's hard to really define what I do in a nut shell. But I will say my main role has been ensuring that this play happens by any and all means necessary. Yes I'm the Malcolm X of theatre! We were turned down by nearly every arts council in Canada for funding, and maybe the thoughts of seeing six black men being on stage in non-stereotypical roles just weren't appealing to them. So after firing off a passionate (I like passionate instead of angry email) to the arts councils telling them that I didn't need their damn money that I would do the shit myself! I realized, "hey trey you've got to do this shit yourself!" That's when I realized it's sink or swim time!
Financing this project has been a huge commitment, one of my biggest financial commitments next to my mortgage! My mom who is a real estate agent in Florida told me that houses are now selling there for $80,000 to $130,000. I had to admit for a moment my stomach hit the floor when I realized I could have bought a summer house in Florida instead I decided to finance my brother's play! On paper it doesn't sound smart but in my heart, soul and everything within me, it feels like the right thing to do.
Why, because I believe in this. And I believe we have to take risks. Risks that make no sense to anyone.
My other role as Executive Producer is to ensure that I hire the right people to execute Darren, the playwright's vision. Yesterday I was in the studio listening to the music that has been created for Secrets and I nearly wept with joy. We have a team of creative geniuses. Genius is not a word I use lightly. But I will use it in this case even capitalize it. GENIUS. Many of Toronto's best kept secrets, are working on Secrets. *No pun intended*.
Brilliant minds, filled with passion. One of the things that I know about myself is I want people around me who want to think outside the box, want to take a chance, want to create, people who live and breathe innovation. People who are teaching me something new every day. I'm a talent whore! I want people around who blow me away by their talent! People who if I had it, I would pay them even more than their standard contract fees because they are so great at what they do! My job as Executive Producer, is to hire them and get out of their way! This has been challenging for me because I'm a bit of a control freak. I love to give my opinions. I love to have the last word. I love to think that my way is the best way. But I am learning to let people do their jobs! Once again I rely on my faith. Faith to know that the universe has brought us all together to create something wonderful.
My other role which I think has been one of the hardest is to let everyone know that they are appreciated and that this is a team effort. A lot of the time I get all the fame and the glory but I roll deep! Translation for my mom who reads my blog: I got a strong team behind me!
And as a leader I want to ensure that everyone on my team feels that without them none of this would be possible. From the interns who run out to grab me lunch because I've forgotten to eat because I've been in meetings all day with sponsors- I thank you. Brittney who designed this wonderful blog and given me an outlet to vent. The marketing team including the cast, who hit the pavement with their fliers and Secrets t-shirts. My bookkeeper who manages to somehow find the extra $300 dollars so we can buy God knows what now!!! Our "branding" wizard Marc who does it for the love because for sure it can't be the money! Beth, Jackie, and Erika who meet with me weekly and continuously ask, "trey what can we take off your plate.... " I love you for that.
Krystle, Krista, my assistants and silver lining team who always see the sun through the clouds. Kimahli for always pulling another trick out of his sleeve to make words jump off the page and come alive on stage! All the designers and the folks behind the scenes who are are bringing this show to another level I can't express my gratitude and awe at what you do. And Darren... my "little" brother Darren his six-foot-three self leans over to my five-foot-one self and says to me, "I know I'm in good hands" Little brother, your faith in me makes me know I cannot fail.
I "work" sixteen hours days seven days a week. But I love what I do because I love the people I work with. I always say to my staff anytime this starts to feel like "work" do us all a favor and leave! I want you here but I want you to WANT to be here. I want you a part of this team because this is the only place that you want to be. And being a part of Secrets is the only place I want to be.
So I don't have a summer house in Florida but I got a lot more.....
Wednesday, August 26
To Miss Oprah,
So I heard you are coming. Miss Oprah Winfrey is coming to my hometown of Toronto. I can't help but think that I called you here- that my vibrations were that strong that the universe has now conspired to bring you here. Because Oprah, you and me go way back. Longer than you know. You see, I used to rush home in grade six to a cramped apartment to watch you every day. The first black woman that I ever saw on t.v. I ate you up because you had a nose like me, skin like me, chubby like me, and I would like to say hair like me, but even to this day, I never ever managed to achieve the Oprah hair! It moved when you walked! Oprah's hair did for black women, what the moonwalk did for dance, took it to another level. But I digress, you see, it's been over twenty years since I first saw you with that microphone in your hand and I knew that it was possible for me to be on t.v because there you were! A black woman like me, revolutionizing t.v- and so it began. I got my first job at Olive Garden and promptly told them I couldn't work between the hours of 4pm and 5pm because I had to be home to watch Oprah. This led to my nickname, Oprah. Everyone on staff began to call me that. And I felt proud. Felt closer to you. At nights, I would practice in front of the mirror with a brush, interviewing imaginary guests. I also had my outfit picked out for when we would meet, and saw clearly in my mind, me being on stage with you. I also then started the first of many writing campaigns to you. Weekly letters to you. The good old-fashioned way by post. First, in white envelopes and then, after months of not hearing from you, I thought I would change my strategy and send them in fluorescent bright pink or green envelopes. Still no word. Then one day, you did a show about how much mail you received each day and then your "helpers" brought in huge hefty garbage bags over-pouring with mail to prove to your audience how many letters you get each day. I got discouraged, pressed my nose to the screen to see if I could somehow manage to pick out one of my pink envelopes, but no luck. Weeks, months, years went by and I kept writing. Not as often, but I kept writing. My Mom and Gran would ask me weekly, "any news from Oprah?" It was a simple fact in all our lives that one day you would be coming. When I was on the treadmill I would imagine that you would burst through the door with your camera crew and say, "trey anthony, Oprah Winfrey here!" And I would burst into tears. So even now on the treadmill I always try to not sweat too hard just in case you're coming and God knows my hair better be on point! Years ago when I heard you were casting for 'Beloved', I packed up my stuff and drove to Chicago. I headed down to your studios. I needed to be in this movie! I camped out at your studio hoping to catch a glimpse of you. I gave another pink precious fluorescent envelope to your security who passed it on to one of your producers- Brian... something or other.... who actually called me. I told him my story and he couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe that I had driven from Toronto, Canada to come and see if I could get a part in 'Beloved' and he told me to get in touch with Johnathan Demme's office, who was the director of 'Beloved'. He gave me the number and wished me best of luck and Brian was one of the
nicest people I had come across in a long time. I felt I was steps away from you. I left Chicago, feeling I had accomplished something. I wrote a letter to director Johnathan Demme, I even managed to speak to his assistant who was so amazed by my persistence that she offered me an audition- via tape! Six word line, "Child, that's your mother over there!" I practised and practised, but I didn't get the part. Got a nice response that said, "better luck next time kid!" But I kept trying. During all of this, I wrote the hit play 'da Kink In My Hair, which received international critical acclaim. Won awards, including four NAACP awards, sold out houses, broke box office records! Critics called me, "The Oprah of the theatre world!" I was so proud. It was my best review and I loved it, to see my name linked to yours in print! I became the first Black Canadian woman to ever co-executive produce an all African Canadian show on a prime time Canadian network! I now have little girls rushing home to watch me on t.v and I always think to myself, "Oprah would be so proud". I only thought it was possible for a girl who looked liked me to be on t.v because I used to watch you on t.v every day. So I thank you. Sincerely thank you. Because you inspired me from a distance. Changed my life. Made impossible dreams possible. I am crying as I write this because it's so true. In my darkest moments when I wanted to give up, I would think if Oprah made it, I can too.
So I started a campaign on Facebook, the Women of 'da Kink Should Meet Oprah. Your affiliated network Oxygen even sponsored 'da Kink when it went to San Diego, this production was nominated for five NAACP theatre awards and we won four! At the award ceremony in Los Angeles people again said to me, Oprah would love this play and again I felt six degrees of separation. I knew I was close, but I felt I needed to be more proactive. So four months ago, I went to Chicago. This time I could afford to fly. If the mountain won't go to Mohammed, Mohammed would go to the mountain. My sole intentions: to bring 'da Kink theatrical play to Chicago. My belief, that it is time that I bring the play to you. I met with theatre folks including the Goodman Theatre and the "talks" have now begun. 'da Kink may be in Chicago very soon and I feel once again one step away from meeting you.
Monday, August 24
Today is exactly one month until Secrets opens. This is huge! I fluctuate between great anxiety, joy, tears and laughter. I also feel as though for the last few months I have been entrapped in P.M.S. My emotions are everywhere. Some days I feel really powerful meeting with business owners and various sponsors and then there are days while I'm searching for a pen to go into a meeting, I burst into tears. This is too much effort that I am now required to search for a pen! Hysteria at it's finest. Yet lately, I have been affirming an affirmation that seems to help, it goes like this, "Today I will laugh at the world and most of all I will laugh at myself." I got this affirmation from a book that I'm presently reading called,
The greatest Salesman in the World." by Og Mandino. I like it because it reminds me to not take myself so seriously. That I'm human. I will have good days and bad days. That this too shall pass....Just yesterday I was laughing with friends over an incident that took place at my high school graduation. My "date" at the graduation dinner told me I looked fat in my dress! I promptly left the table and went into the coat closet and cried, I was DEVASTATED! After being missing in action for nearly forty five minutes, my best friend Rachael came to look for me and found me in the coat closet, nose dripping, eyes swollen and refusing to come out of the closet. Thinking that if I skipped dinner at least I would be a little bit slimmer. I also thought that at age seventeen my life was officially over! The thoughtless and insensitive words of a pimple face seventeen year old kid was going to destroy my life for ever. Seventeen years later, Rachael and I are sharing this story with friends who are killing themselves laughing. I am dying of laughter reciting the story and I am reminded of my favourite affirmation, this too shall pass....how things which seemed so devastating and significant can become moments of great laughter if you allow yourself. My friends all laugh at my story. I laugh at myself. Laugh at the little girl who hid in a coat closet on prom night and today I laugh at the grown woman who has a melt down because she can't find a pen. I laugh especially at men who dismiss me in business meetings, I laugh instead of crying when people say thoughtless and insensitive things to me. I laugh at those who tells me my dreams are impossible.... I laugh. I laugh at life. I laugh at me. I Iaugh really loudly. People have told me I have a distinct laugh, that they love to hear me laugh.... So I laugh more often, I encourage you to do the same.
poems and I have always gotten requests from people to give it to
their partners etc... So i thought i would make it public. My only
request is to please give me credit as a writer, that's important as a
I think this poem resonates with so many because it talks about our
deepest fear of being vulnerable with someone we love, not being
afraid to say I really want you, want THIS. For myself, I have
sabotaged many relationships because of my own fear of not wanting to
love someone more than they loved me...... and I now realize one must
dive in.... enjoy swimming.
I’m scared of water.
I’m scared of water
You’re not sure that you can swim
Yet, could you meet me at the edge of the sea
Could you come wearing nothing No clothing, no life jacket bearing no armor.
Could you come with no past regrets, no baggage, no her story, no hurts, no shames no scores to settle, crosses to bear, wrongs to be righted.
I’m scared of water and you’re not sure that you can swim…
What if I showed up at the edge of the sea? At a time we both planned did not plan. What if we were both there on time? Fully committed. Prepared for everything. Prepared for nothing.
What if I came naked?
arms wide open to love you, Be there with you. Would you swim with me? You’re scared of water and I’m not sure that I can swim.
Cold feet touching the water. Sand soaking in between our toes.
Would we take the chance to dive right in? Or would we hesitate and warn each other about what could go wrong. I would convince you and you would quickly agree that we would never reach the other side…ALIVE I’m scared of water and you’re not sure if you can swim
So we stand at the edge. Be on the edge. LIVE safely on the edge of the water. Never dare to jump right in, be naked, vulnerable, open, never love like we’ve never been hurt. Never forgive because we wish to be forgiven. Never know if we would or could reach the other side. Never ever possess the belief that we could make it. Never allow ourselves the belief that our love would keep us afloat.
Never believe that if you were drowning I would risk everything to save you… We’re both scared of water and both know that the other can’t swim.
So we stand at the edge of the sea. Contemplating. Unmoving. Sand becoming hard between our toes. Feeling safe yet yearning for something more. Eventually, you got a boat to sail across
i watched you from the shore. ‘cause I’m scared of water and now you’re just too cold too swim.
And at nights we secretly dream that you grabbed my hand or did I grab yours?
we are running boldly
the wind on our faces
the moon smiling down on us
we run towards the sea
Dive in at the risk of maybe drowning. Water hot on our naked bodies, you’re scared of water, I can’t swim. I ‘m scared of water. You can’t swim. I’m scared of water. you can’t swim. I’m scared. You’re scared…
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
--- Frank Herbert, Dune - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
I’ve gone out on a limb. Producing Secrets of a Black Boy has been one of my most rewarding accomplishments but also one of the most fearful experiences of my life. I have put a lot of money, a lot of faith in a community to buy tickets, a lot of faith in a relatively unknown cast, a lot of faith in a very small producing team, a lot of faith in my own ability to produce quality theatre. And constantly there’s that little “Voice” ---you know what I’m talking about, that “VOICE” that questions and demands to know, “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Sometimes I defiantly answer back, “I’m a little black girl from Rexdale who had a dream to have her own TV show, a dream to produce quality theatre. I’m the little black girl who wants to dream beyond my circumstances. I’m the little black girl who is brave, strong, and yet kind. I’m a little black girl who wants to see herself and her experiences reflected authentically on stage! That’s who the HELL I AM”
Yet sometimes when that VOICE demands to know, “Who the hell do you think you are?” I shudder. I cry. I wonder and I question. Scared that I’m too bold. Scared of public failure. Scared of not being good enough. And I want to curl up in a ball and not come out of bed for weeks. And I look in the mirror and I don’t see a grown confident woman but a small frighten little girl. It’s on those days that I’m kinder to myself. I pray a lot, affirm, and look myself in the mirror and say, “trey you are doing your best.” I remind myself of all that I have accomplished. Accomplished things that many thought were impossible. And I remind myself that it would be harder for me to give up than to keep pursuing my dreams. That I must walk through fear. Actually dive into it. I must dream bigger than my circumstances. I need to keep doing the “Work” to show others that it’s possible to dream. There is no safety net. I must fly, no, I must soar...