In Part 7 of a series of interviews with the cast and director of Flyin’ West at Bowie Community Theatre, meet Lolita Marie.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
I am Lolita Marie and readers may have seen me recently in a 1st Stage production of Doubt as Mrs. Muller, or just prior to that as Angel in a Port City Players’ production of Blues for an Alabama Sky.
Why did you want to be part of the Bowie Community Theatre’s production of Flyin’ West?
I wanted to be part of Flyin’ West because it is an African American woman’s story of entrepreneurship, ownership, independence, bravery, and love during the Western Expansion. Historically, it has been much more common to forget their contribution entirely or relegate them entirely to the background with nothing more to contribute than children.
What did you perform at your audition, and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
I performed an excerpt from Kathleen Collins’ The Brothers for my audition piece, and I was at work when I got the call offering me the role.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character? What do you like about your character?
I play Fannie Mae Dove and I can relate to her appreciation of beauty and the arts. I love that Fannie is an optimist and the peacemaker in the household. She is loyal and her love for her “family” runs deep. However, her positive nature makes her slow to recognize and react to wrong-doing.
How did you prepare for your role and what were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you resolve them?
I prepared for my role by reading, reading, and reading about the lives of people during the time period of 1880-1900 in the West, the settlement and subsequent rise and fall of Nicodemus, Kansas, and the experience of African American women and their families in these all-black settlements in particular. I was interested in where they came from, why they left those places, what were the realities of creating a settlement in the West, how did the “new” lifestyle impact their families, what was required for survival, what their motivation to stay was, what was daily life like, and so on. I conducted Internet searches and read narratives of frontier men and women (mostly white), read fiction (i.e., Judith Miller’s Christian book trilogy based in Nicodemus, Kansas) and non-fiction (e.g., Black Women of the Old West, African American Women of the Old West), as well as watched a few timely movies (e.g., Buffalo Soldiers, Feast of All Saints) to inform Fannie Mae’s background. The biggest challenge was finding documentation about the Western Expansion that spoke extensively about African American women. I overcame that challenge by simply purchasing materials that I wasn’t able to locate in any of the three county libraries that I am a part of.
What advice and suggestions did your director give you that helped you prepare for your role?
Estelle Miller, the director, cautioned us against forming opinions about our characters too early. She suggested research prior settling into who our character is to allow us to understand his/her motivations even if we didn’t particularly agree with our character’s actions.
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 in the play that I am not a part of is the exchange between Sophie and Frank when he departs from the train station to head for the homestead. The illustration in the balance of power between men and women of the time is beautifully illustrated without words and yet is loud and clear. My favorite scene that I am in is when the audience first sees Wil and me together. It is a brief, but very sweet scene.
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
I am most like Fannie, so I don’t think I could’ve been cast better! I love my sister-girlfriends, the arts in all forms and fashions, and certainly can appreciate beauty. She’s probably a better cook than I, however!
What do you admire most about your fellow castmates’ performances?
I admire Sophie’s self-confidence and vision, Min’s beauty and sophistication, Wil’s honesty and simplicity, and Miss Leah’s strength. I can empathize with Frank’s desire to belong.I even understand the rage that he must have felt at that time being trapped between so many worlds but not having a true home in any of them.
What does this show have to say to today’s audiences?
This show reminds us that we don’t have to be a victim of our circumstances–that, at any point, on any given day, we can make the decision to make a change and take action to point our lives in a new direction.
What line or lines that someone recites are your favorites and what are your favorite line or line that you recite and why?
My favorite line from another character is delivered by Wil, “…a colored woman is a precious jewel deserving of my respect, my love and my protection.” Some lines that I say that always give me pause are, “I asked her, well, why didn’t you ever laugh like that in Memphis? And she said her laugh was too free to come out in a place where a colored woman’s life wasn’t worth two cents on the dollar. What kind of fool would find that funny, she asked me.”
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Flyin’ West?
I would like Flyin’ West to peak our audience members’ curiosity and increase their knowledge of the lives of African American women on the frontier, and black settlements such as Nicodemus, Kansas. And, as I mentioned before, that it be a gentle reminder that one of our uniquely human gifts is that we are the masters of our own lives. We just have to be bold enough to take the reins!
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.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 7: Lolita Marie.