“…a poignant, one-woman-symphony that extracts the pain and the playfulness from Lopes, while examining the true makings of a supernova.”
~Art of Noise
WE MADE IT! …NOW WHAT?!?
…the email read, “Congratulations! Your project “2 The Left: A Tribute to the Life of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes” has been selected for our 2017-2018 Stripped Bare season….” WHAAAAAAT!?!? Up until that moment 2 The Left(a one-woman play about Atlanta-bred 90s girl group TLC’s (Waterfalls) most controversial member Left Eye who tragically passed away at the age of 30)had been a passion project of mine that I had beendeveloping over the years. Being a Stripped Bare Artist Labwinner meant I, along with my fantabulous co-artists director Thomas W. Jones II, choreographer Victor Jackson, and dramaturg Addae Moon, would finally be able to put it on its feet to see where it stumbled and fell and where it took flight and soared. It also gave us an all-important date, something a solo artist once told me had within it “inherent motivating powers”. Now, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there—and that initial excitement started turning into nervousness, doubts, and fears—but with a concrete date I had a goal to set my sights on and I was off and running.
2 The Lefthad attracted an esteemed group of artists, each excelling in their respective fields and excited about working together to bring the script to life. However, other than Tom directing a private reading for Lisa’s family the prior summer, I’ve only been able to meet with them individually over tea and crumpets. But now we were given the green light to come together and start playing. Since it was around the holidays, we scheduled five “playdates” between December and January that worked with everyone’s schedules. At our first rehearsal, we had a table read and after everyone offered their different insights and perspectives on the piece. We proceeded to spending those first two rehearsals discussing, cutting, editing, and rearranging portions of the script. With a scissor, tape dispenser, and glue stick being Addae’s weapons of choice, we trimmed away the fat to find the most efficient way to get to the essence of the play’s through line. We then spent the next rehearsals moving, acting, dancing (Tom does a mean James Brown impersonation), and rapping—and my oh my was that a doozey! Tom’s favorite sayings were “So you said you wanted to do a one woman show, huh?!” and “YOU wrote it!” …Yes, Tom, I did. But will I survive it?
Over the years, Lisa’s spirit has shown up in many ways directing me and confirming that I was on the right path. From traveling to Honduras (where Lisa visited over a dozen times to seek guidance at her spiritual counselor, Dr. Sebi’s Usha village as well as the site of her fatal car accident) and having no idea where the village was located then discovering it was less than a mile away from the bed & breakfast I was staying at, to TLC songs “randomly” coming on while I’m talking to someone about the play. So, it would be foolish of me to think I wouldn’t see one of these Lisa winks during a workshop at a theater called Synchronicity. It happened during a private rehearsal with Victor to work on some of the dances before our group playdates. A man walks into the studio and introduces himself as the owner. After telling him what we were working on, he informs me that Lisa use to rehearse with TLC in that studio and then showed me a poster hanging in the lobby that was the last poster ever to be signed by all members of TLC. Yep, synchronicity struck again!
THE MAD HATTER
As a solo artist, I’ve had to wear the hats of both a writer and actor, but I didn’t realize that another hat would begin to be weaved during this women-powered theater lab: a “smart, gutsy, and bold” producer and though challenging, I must admit I liked the fit! To ensure we pulled off the best production of this workshop possible, I coordinated schedules; secured rehearsal space, props, meals, additional personnel, financial support, and other essentials; sought out press outlets; and had to promote, promote, PROMOTE. And it paid off! I always knew Atlanta would show up for a play about their beloved Lisa but, Atlanta didn’t just show up, it showed out or better yet, we SOLD OUT! both performances a week before the show. The first time for a Stripped Bareartist– YES! And that news sent me into a happy dance. No literally, check out my Instagram post @kerissegram 😊
“JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES AND RELAX YOUR MIND AND JUST BREATHE…AND LET IT GO.” ~LISA LOPES
With the three days we had access to the theater, we decided to stage and run the sound and lights for one day and use the other two for performances. During our tech, I began feeling all types of pressure knowing that the following day would be the first time I would be bringing my baby out in public, before she had all her shots. I was beyond grateful to have the support and encouragement of our team including our stage manager, Joan. She began noting similarities between what I was experiencing and Lisa’s journey in the piece and even quoted portions of the play reminding me that my only responsibility was to stay present, breathe, and let the workshop be a workshop.
WE DID IT! …NOW WHAT!?–REFLECTIONS
Seeing the name of the project that I had invested so much time and energy in, up in lights on a marquee in front of the theater was a surprising and gratifying “Come to Jesus” moment! Stripped Baregave me the opportunity to begin to see the manifestation of a vision that started as little whispers and the experience has been amazing. The audience filled with Lisa’s family and friends, my mom and her college girlfriends who flew in from New York (and probably brought in the snow that forced us to reschedule our second show ☹), members of the arts and entertainment community, people who had never attended a performance at Synchronicity, as well as season ticket holders who had never heard of Left Eye laughed, danced and sang together. They spoke about how the play’s spirit and universal messages resonated with them. It was heartwarming to hear Lisa’s family say that it made them feel like Lisa had never left. Since the workshop, some people have mentioned they’ve gone on to look up Lisa’s music and research information about the philosophies Lisa and Dr. Sebi shared. Others have told me they’ve been inspired to begin writing their own pieces. Art breeds art. Creativity sparks creativity. Spirit feeds spirit. A writer once said that if a work doesn’t change you, if you don’t come out of it a different person, then it’s not worth your time. I have been forever changed by my journey with 2 The Left and am anxiously anticipating the mounting of the premiere of its full production. I’m also looking forward to creating my next works and eagerly awaiting to see what synchronicity moments will guide me along the way.