5 Questions With Jasmine Guy

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NASHVILLE, TN — Don’t miss the one night only performance of award winning singer/actress/director/dancer Jasmine Guy, as she stars in ‘Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey’ on Feb. 24 at TPAC’s James K. Polk Theater (tickets are still available).

Joining Ms. Guy on stage will be the acclaimed Avery Sharpe Trio. The “Raisin’ Cane” production celebrates and honors the legendary voices of the Harlem Renaissance through text, song, music, movement, and imagery.

Jasmine Guy’s been regular presence on film, television, and stage. She was the star of the Bill Cosby spin-off “A Different World” for which she won six consecutive NAACP Image Awards. Recent television work includes “The Vampire Diaries,” “Melrose Place,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Dead Like Me.” A former dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she also has appeared in a range of Broadway and national productions.

Earlier this week, Jasmine took time from rehearsals to answer 5 questions with the Tribune about starring in this historic musical production and also about being “Bad and Boujee.”

TRIBUNE: I understand that you are a huge fan of Cane, Jean Toomer’s collection of short stories, and poems, and narratives that inspired the playwright, Harry Clark, to create this show. When you first read Cane, what were your initial thoughts about the book itself? J. GUY: “Well, initially I felt like it was too scholastic, that it had very limiting dialogue, and it was kind of like a brilliant lecture, and what I’ve done over the years is try to break that down and make sure people understand what I’m talking about, and break that fourth wall, so it has the improv feeling of a jazz concert.”

TRIBUNE: The Harlem Renaissance was known for so many wonderful elements, from the music to the fashion, to the artwork, the architecture and such. So, is there any particular favorite element or aspect of that area that you personally love and enjoy? J. GUY: “I love the artwork, and the paintings that we show during the show are crucial. I also love the poems that came out of that time, from Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes who was very young during the Renaissance, and also the teachings of W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey.”

TRIBUNE: In breaking down the play and musical itself, what was the most challenging aspect of it? Was it the music, the singing, the dancing, or what for you?  J. GUY: “I would think that I didn’t want to artist from that time to be ignored, so I was resistant in the beginning to sing or dance too much, and that we forget what we’re talking about. But we’ve added a lot of music, and dance, and we have ,revered that timeframe in an original way, but that might have been my first resistance, was that we just didn’t make it a musical that everybody could relate to, that you actually listened to the text, and you listened to the history, and know where we came from a hundred years ago, and what has been the most enlightening to me is how relevant that timeframe is for us now.”

TRIBUNE: I understand you’ve been touring with this production for several years, especially at colleges. What type of feedback have you received over the years from some of the students on campus? J. GUY: “We have toured this show for about twelve years.  A lot of universities have brought us in, but everywhere we’ve performed, the students go, ‘We get it.’ The Harlem Renaissance was a wonderful time of our history. It brings in all of the artistic and political implications of our country in this one decade.”

TRIBUNE: I saw recently that your Whitley Gilbert (A Different World) character is the subject of many “Bad and Boujee memes” based on Migos’ hit song by the same name. J. GUY: “I first heard about ‘Bad and Boujee’ when I was on an interview recently. I happened to be with my kid. She looked at me and said, ‘Do you know what that means? ?” I said yes, but I really didn’t. She knew I didn’t know the song, and I didn’t understand where it was coming from. I have to say, if anything, what you got from the Whitley Gilbert character is someone that is empowered, that’s finding her way, but still loves her people, her friends, and her relationships, and is loyal. If you get that from that character, I’m very happy, because I didn’t know that that comes from that. I knew she was funny, I knew that Whitley was a fish out of water, but if she’s lasted this long after thirty years, I’m only grateful that you see the humanity in her character, and not just the gloss.”

For more information about “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey,” please visit www.RaisinCaneTheTour.com

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