In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the cast and director of Flyin’ West at Bowie Community Theatre, meet Brawnlyn Blueitt.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
My name is Brawnlyn Blueitt, a native of Texas, so I haven’t been in the area long enough to be considered a local, much less a frequent of local theater.
Why did you want to be part of the Bowie Community Theatre’s production of Flyin’ West?
I have always loved acting, since before I can remember. However, I never had the opportunity to be on stage other than memorizing poems for the church Easter and Christmas plays. I even did monologues for various pageants I was in. Moving up here after college, I knew this was my shot to do what I’d always dreamed of. When auditions for Flyin’ West were posted, I immediately went and loved the idea of strong Black women moving West in 1898. That part of American history is the nadir of Black History, a lost generation between the end of slavery and the Harlem Renaissance. I wanted to rediscover it and bring it to life.
What did you perform at your audition, and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
I performed “The Flood” from The Vagina Monologues, a piece I read in college and fell in love with because of its reminiscent nature. I’ll be honest, though—I got up there and blanked on the entire last paragraph and had an internal freak out as the director’s two-minute timer went off. I thought it would show in my face and I was done—no part for me.
Estelle called me the next day as I was driving around trying to find a parking spot and said, “How would you like to be our Minnie?” I calmly, but excitedly accepted. As soon as I hit “end” on my cell phone, I did the happiest dance and gave the loudest shout of joy I could manage with my seat belt on. As my colleagues tried to find a parking spot, they just stared . . .
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character? What do you like about your character?
I play Minnie Dove Charles, the baby sister whose sisters want the best for. They want to do and give everything they never had. That’s exactly what my parents did for me. They grew up in very small towns, like Nicodemus, and wanted to give my sisters and me the world. I went off to get an education, like Minnie, and went off to become a world traveler. London’s even one of my favorite cities to be in.
How did you prepare for your role and what were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you resolve them?
Where Minnie and I differ is that I was blessed to never experience the pain and anguish and confusion this poor girl went through. What’s even sadder is that millions of other young women and men can’t say the same. To be torn between a family of so much love and a man who stole her heart and turned violent is something I struggled to internalize. It was hard not to just stand up for myself the way my parents taught me. I always thought to myself how Minnie would feel until it became “How do I feel about what’s going on?”
What advice and suggestions did your director give you that helped you prepare for your role?
She told me several stories of abuse and I listened with no regard for how I think the woman should’ve acted. I thought about what did happen and opened myself up to realize it was happening to me. It wasn’t just an “abuse story”; it was a complex reflection of my (Minnie’s) life leading to where she is now.
What is your favorite scene in the show that you are not in and what is your favorite scene that you are in?
My favorite scene to watch is when Miss Leah and Sophie bicker each other to death. They may not like each other, but they love each other to the ends of the Earth and that is revealed throughout the play.
My favorite scene to act out is when Minnie catches up with Miss Leah while she’s braiding her hair. Miss Leah reminisces on her life as a slave and my mind would immediately jump to when my grandmother would reminisce about how different life was 60+ years ago. I was as mesmerized by her stories just as Minnie is mesmerized by Miss Leah’s.
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
Honestly, Sophie is more like my personality, with a dash of Minnie. I can be as cute as a button, but I can handle my own. My parents, grandparents, sisters, friends and life all taught me to be strong and I’m not afraid to show it.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmates’ performances?
Darius is such a method actor and is so bold with his character. We’d laugh at times, but I love his energy. Sandra is just such a perfect Miss Leah that even though we ran lines over and over, I always felt like I was learning something new each time. Kecia is just so loving, and it was so hard to imagine her as this rough and tumble Sophie. She worked so hard on having an attitude. Lolita is just a well of experience, and I could always tell she worked hard while juggling other performances. And, poor Ben. He is such an amazing person who loves his family and couldn’t hurt a fly. He struggled so hard to become the complete opposite of what he is, while retaining his kindness. They’re all just an amazing cast to work with for my first stage performance.
What does this show have to say to today’s audiences?
Time is irrelevant. The same issues of racism, survival, abuse, love, and striving for a better life still apply today.
What line or lines that someone recites are your favorites and what are your favorite line or line that you recite and why?
I love when Sophie talks about what she wants for the town. It’s such a dream that she’s reaching for and I so desperately want her to achieve it. When I recount how Frank and I met, it’s beautiful: the story of Frank and Min. It’s what she holds onto the most, remembering the man she fell in love with, hoping he comes back from the war raging inside of him. It’s her place of hope in a world that is starting to pour in darkness.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Flyin’ West?
I want them to see this not as a drama or a tragedy, but as a story of hope, love, survival, and the overcoming of odds. Sometimes, there are internal struggles: Frank battling with his identity; Sometimes there are external struggles: Sophie trying to save the town from speculators. I want audiences to see those struggles and honor them by reflecting on their own struggles and striving to overcome them.
Flyin’ West opens April 10, 2015 and plays through April 25, 2015 at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call (301) 805-0219, or purchase them online, or at the door.
Meet the Cast and Director of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part One: Drector Estelle Miller.
Meet the Cast and Director of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part Two: Kecia A. Campbell.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 3: Sandra Cox True.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 4: Darius McCall.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 5: Brawnlyn Blueitt.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 6: Ben Harris. (Coming)
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 7: Lolita Marie. (Coming)