by Nathan Lerner
In its second year, the Philly Urban Theatre Festival has undertaken an ambitious schedule. Over the course of a 20-day span, 14 different plays with 50 total showings will be mounted under the rubric of the new festival. The plays will feature contemporary, African-American themes. The festival is the brainchild of its founder, producer/writer/director, Kash Goins. It is mounted through his company, GoKash Productions.
Plymouth Meeting resident Tiffany Barrett, 36, who will undertake major roles in two festival plays, grew up in New York. “I like to say I was born In the Bronx, raised in Harlem and refined on the Upper East Side. But most of my younger formative years were spent in the Bronx literally one block from Yankee Stadium.
“I grew up walking the Great White Way every day knowing that my time would come, just not knowing when. My mother was constantly taking my sister and me to Broadway musicals and Lincoln Center to see the New York City Ballet or Shakespeare in the Park.”
Barrett will perform in “The Diary of the Secret Wife” and “The Other Side of Love.” Adapted from a controversial novel by T. Nicole and helmed by Walter DeShields, “The Diary of the Secret Wife” focuses on a black woman who is surreptitiously married to a career-driven white man. To avoid jeopardizing her husband’s professional aspirations, she and their bi-racial son must remain carefully concealed as a secret.
Barrett described how she became involved with the play, “The director, who is a very good friend, asked me to come out and audition. I auditioned for the panel and won the role of Sharon, the protagonist’s older sister. Sharon is stable, protective and definitely a mother bear. She protects all her loved ones, at all costs. Do not let her soccer mom look fool you. She hasn’t forgotten where she came from …
“All you have to go on as an actor is the script. If you are lucky, there are a few hints In the stage directions. But the upside is that it gives the actor the freedom to build much of the character on her own and have fun with it. I certainly do that in this case.”
Written and directed by Ina Farrell, “The Other Side of Love” is an ensemble piece set in a belly dancing studio. There, a close-knit group of friends reveal secrets, then deal with the consequences of these disclosures.
Barrett auditioned at her open call and was offered the role of Lala, “who is a true inner-city girl. She’s all about the bling and doesn’t mind compromising to get it. However, she is dealing with some serious issues. She also is a bit of a glamour doll. Playing that up too much can become one-dimensional, and the message would get lost, which we don’t want to do.
“Lala is beautiful and hilarious. So I get to wear all the cutest outfits and deliver funny lines at the same time. I have a lot of fun with her. Lala is closer to what I am used to playing, a troubled woman trying to overcome some huge and horrible circumstances.
“As actors of color we often have to create our own opportunities. Kash and all of the writers who will participate in the festival did that. I spent four years in college working diligently in a major that a lot of people looked at as a joke. (She graduated from Temple University in 2006 with a degree in theater.) Why? So that I could tell stories, and these are some of the stores I would like to tell. There is always a whole new generation of theatergoers emerging, and we need to grab them now!”
For more on Tiffany Barrett, visit www.tiffanybarrett.com. The Philly Urban Theatre Festival runs through Oct. 9 at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. For more information on the festival, visit www.putf.org.
“The Diary of a Secret Wife” will be performed on Friday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.thediaryofthesecretwife-stageplay.com. “The Other Side of Love” will be performed on Sunday, Oct. 2, 3 and 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.myheavensong.com.
Nathan Lerner is the Director of Davenport Communications. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.