Hi Aimee, you have such an incredibly busy schedule right now with playing Addaperle in the Children's Theatre production of The Wiz! We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little about what your background and what your art form is?
I am a theatre artist. I have performed on stage in every style of theatre except opera. Off stage I have worked as a playwright, director, choreographer, carpenter, set designer, and crew member.
When did you first become interested in music and theater? How did it happen? Who were some of your influences?
This is embarrassing, but when I was little I was in love with Gary Coleman. I watched Different Strokes faithfully, and I wanted to be little, cute, funny, and on TV just like him. My mom took our family to the theatre frequently, and after I saw the tour of Annie that’s who I wanted to be. Now I’m continually inspired by the actors I work with: Greta Oglesby, Regina Marie Williams, Dennis Spears, T. Mychael Rambo, etc.
You work in a wide variety of art forms (acting, singing, songwriting, dancing, choreography). Do you have an art form that you enjoy the best? Which one challenges you the most?
I don’t think of acting, singing, and dancing as different art forms. They are all part of theatre performance. Even if the play I am performing in is not a musical, there is melody and rhythm to speech, and there is an element of dance in a character’s style of movement and in the staging. I’m fortunate to be able to apply what I know about each component of performance to every style of show. So I can approach the creation of a character, and the interpretation of text with a variety of skills, which hopefully, makes a character more three dimensional and believable.
What do you get out of teaching versus creating your own work? What do you hope participants of your programs learn?
I think my main purpose as a teaching artist is to lavish my students with love and respect, and make them aware of their magnificence. I hope that when people see me perform they have a similar experience, but in a classroom I have the opportunity to praise each child individually and coach them into an awareness of their artistic ability and their intrinsic brilliance. I love the immediate exchange of ideas that happens in a residency, and I enjoy collaborating with students. They teach me so much about my own artistry and about how to be a better instructor. The love I get in return is what keeps me working to become a better teaching artist.
In my work there is a strong emphasis on critical thinking, improvisation, collaboration, and community building. I hope when students complete a residency with me that they have learned how to look at the world from someone else’s perspective, that they are willing to follow their creativity wherever it leads, that they are better at compromising and working together, and that they care for each other more deeply than they did before.
What do you see as the benefits of working in Minnesota’s art community?
Minnesota is a wonderful place to be an artist for many reasons. First of all, you can make a living as an artist here because there is so much support for the arts and the cost of living is reasonable. Second, some of the best artists is the world are living and creating here. The work that is created here is on par with art you would see in New York and L.A., though the rest of the world may be unaware of it. Most importantly, the community of artist themselves are competitive in a way that is supportive and not cutthroat. When I moved to MN after I graduated from Howard University I thought I would stay for a season and then move to New York, but the work and the family I made here have kept me. I’m thankful for the career this market has given me. The producers and directors I’ve worked with here never limited me based on my appearance. I don’t know if I would have gotten to the play the variety of roles I have in any other region.
You have been on the COMPAS roster for several years now. What’s it been like to be a part of COMPAS?
COMPAS is an amazing organization that puts its artists at the front of its mission. I’m lucky to be represented by a company that listens to my suggestions, offers training opportunities for me and so adeptly handles the business side of being a teaching artist on my behalf.
How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?
It’s important to me to do things that I can be bad at. I need to have fun drawing, skating, knitting or taking piano lessons because I love it, not because people are watching, or to make money or in an effort to become “the best”. I am always trying new things to keep me creative. My intent is to enjoy creativity for creativity’s sake and to stay in the habit of approaching things as a beginner.