Ryan Vincent Anderson will star in Bright Swords by Rick Creese at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. The one-man show tells the true story of African-American actor Ira Aldridge, who fled racial hatred in New York in 1825, became a star of the European stage, and inspired the successful campaign to end slavery in the British Empire. Talk about making a difference.
In this short interview, Ryan [pictured right in Twelfth Night at the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival] gives us his thoughts about the show and what to expect from Bright Swords. Enjoy!
Ryan, how are rehearsals for the show going?
I have been having a blast with director Jeffrey Wienckowski. I have never done a one man show before so it was exciting to find my footing in the process, which has been going on since May 8th. We work well together because we listen to each other’s instincts and try things out in the moment, rather than over talk issues. This saves a lot of time and makes for a very quick and efficient process. We are kind of like two cooks having fun in the kitchen. Hopefully our dish is received well.
As for Ira, it’s been great to imagine the life of someone who I consider a really important trailblazer for people like me, theater artists of color. I didn’t know much about him before I chose him as the focal point for this play, except the fact that he was the first black Othello in London. But as I play with Rick’s juicy script in rehearsal, I am understanding more and more that Ira was just like many of us. He had a passion for theater and for civil rights, and he used his art to express his value system. He courageously made a case for black performers at a time when it was not very accepted or fashionable. But he was also just a dude. Sometimes we paint a picture of our heroes and that picture doesn’t always include blemishes. Ira was just an ordinary guy with ordinary flaws that men face still today. Every time I rehearse I feel as if I am paying homage to my ancestors and carrying an invisible torch. It may sound corny, but maybe that’s okay.
What is the significance of the title?
Bright Swords refers to the moment when Signior Brabantio and others, armed, confront Othello in the streets about his “thieving” of Brabantio’s daughter Desdemona. Othello says “Keep up your bright swords for the dew will rust them.” He is basically saying for everyone to put away their weapons and chill the @&!$ out. Kind of sounds like what many people are saying in our nation today, with all the racial injustices and protests.
Why do you think fringe audiences would love to see it?
I think the fringe audience is an audience that is open; open to learning something that they wouldn’t necessarily seek out on their own. They’re also a fun audience. A lot of fringe shows are mostly fun and entertaining, which is all good. But I like that fact that Bright Swords is not only fun and entertaining but also informative. I think anyone, not just actors, can relate to Ira Aldridge’s amazing life, that has been sort of lost among Americans.
You can catch Ryan in Bright Swords at the Complex beginning June 13.
June 13 – 27, 2015
Complex Theatres (East Theatre)
6468 Santa Monica Blvd.