Audra McDonald

  • Aired:  03/05/12
  •  | Views: 16,825

Audra McDonald gives some historical background on "Porgy and Bess" and explains why it's not a musical about Stephen. (4:45)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

>> Stephen: MY GUEST TONIGHT IS STARRING ON BROODWAY IN A

REVIVAL OF GERSHWIN'S "PORGY AND BESS." BESS, YOU IS MY GUEST NOW.

PLEASE WELCOME AUDRA McDONALD.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) HEY, AUDRA, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

>> HOW ARE YOU?

>> Stephen: I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU SINCE WE BOTH PERFORMED AT THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS.

WHAT THAT'S WHAT I DO.

I PERFORM WITH PEOPLE LIKE YOU AT THE KENNEDY CENTER THESE DAYS.

>> YOU WERE AMAZING.

YOU ROCKED IT.

>> Stephen: SPEAKING OF ROCKING IT, NEW THE NEW PRODUCTION OF

THE GERSHWIN'S PORGY AND BESS.

THIS MUSICAL IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT NOT ONLY TO AMERICA BUT TO AMERICA BECAUSE...

(LAUGHTER) IT TAKES PLACE IN MY HOMETOWN SOUTH CAROLINA.

>> YES, IT TAKES PLACE IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, IN CABBAGE THREW IS AN OLD MANSION

THAT IN THE 30s A LOT OF AFRICAN AMERICANS LIVED IN AS A TENEMENT.

AND IT'S ONE OF THE FIRST AMERICAN OPERAS THAT WE HAVE BY GEORGE GERSHWIN.

>> I LIVED ON THE SAME STREET AS CABBAGE ROW.

>> NO WAY!

>> I LIVED ON BATTERRY.

YOU COULD GO UP AND RAINBOW ROY ROW WAS THAT AREA.

BESS LIVE THERE IS IN CHARLESTON AND GOES TO NEW YORK.

I LIVED IN CHARLESTON AND I WENT TO NEW YORK.

>> YES!

>> Stephen: SO THIS PLACE KIND OF... THIS PLAY IS KIND OF ABOUT ME.

(LAUGHTER)

>> WELL, SORT OF NOT BECAUSE...

(LAUGHTER)

>> Stephen: BUT HOW?

OH, BECAUSE I'M NOT BLACK.

>> YOU'RE NOT BLACK.

SERIOUSLY, YOU'RE NOT BLACK.

IT WAS WRITTEN BY CAUCASIAN MEN ABOUT AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE.

>> Stephen: WE PREFER TO BE CALLED WHITE AMERICANS.

WHY

>> WHITE AMERICANS?

SORRY.

IT WAS WRITTEN BY DU BOSE HAYWARD AND GEORGE GERSHWIN.

>> Stephen: A COUPLE WHITE PEOPLE WRITING ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE.

MANY PEOPLE HAVE CALLED IT A RACIST STEREOTYPE OF BLACK LIFE.

>> A LOT OF FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN IN PRODUCTIONS, A LOT OF FAMOUS HISTORIANS AND SOCIAL

HISTORIANS, V SAID THEY ARE STEREOTYPES BECAUSE THEY'RE WRITTEN FROM AN OUTSIDE

ADVANTAGE POINT SO WHAT WE'VE DONE IS WE'VE DONE A LITTLE CHANGES TO HUMANIZE THEM A

LITTLE MORE AND FOCUS MAINLY ON THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY,

THIS GREAT LOVE STORY BETWEEN PORGY AND BESS AND WE ELIMINATED AS MUCH AS THE RACIAL SORT OF

THINGS THAT WOULD THAT I CAN MacTHEM MORE ARCHETYPES AND STEREOTYPES AS WE POSSIBLY CAN.

>> Stephen: SO IF YOU SEE THEM YOU WILL NOT BE A RACIST.

(LAUGHTER) YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A RACIST TO ENJOY IT IS WHAT I'M SAYING.

>> MAYBE RACISTS WILL ENJOY IT AS WELL.

I DON'T KNOW.

>> Stephen: IT'S FOR EVERYONE!

>> BESS IS A LIQUOR GUZZLING SLUT SO I IMAGINE RUSH LIMBAUGH WOULD LOVE IT.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

>> Stephen: AND I'M SURE HE'S HAD HIS SHARE OF ENJOYING THAT.

NOW, THIS IS ALSO... THE MUSICAL WAS A BREAK THROUGH, THIS LED TO THE FIRST INTEGRATED AUDIENCE.

>> WELL, WHAT HAPPENED WAS THE ORIGINAL PORGY, TODD DUNCAN AND THE ORIGINAL BESS, ANN BROWN,

THEY WERE SLATED TO PLAY THE NATIONAL THEATER IN WASHINGTON,

D.C.

>> Stephen: WHAT YEAR IS THIS?

>> THIS IS 1935 OR 1936 AND IT'S A SEGREGATED HOUSE SO THEY

REFUSED TO PERFORM AND THEY WERE THREATENED WITH BEING CHARGED BY THE EQUITY ASSOCIATION AND THEY

HELD THEIR GROUND AND SAID NO,

WE REFUSE TO PERFORM UNLESS YOU DESECRETARY GENERAL GAIT THIS HOUSE.

SO THE NATIONAL THEATER WAS DESEGREGATED FOR THE FIRST TIME FOR "PORGY AND BESS" SO THEY

COULD PERFORM TO A COMPLETELY INTEGRATED HOUSE AND THEN THEY SEGREGATED AS SOON AS THE

PRODUCTION CLOSED IT WENT RIGHT BACK TO BEING SEGREGATED.

>> Stephen: WOW.

CAN WHITE PEOPLE DO THIS PRODUCTION?

IS IT MOSTLY BLACK PEOPLE?

>> I'M GOING TO TELL YOU...

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF CAUCASIANS... WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO BE CALLED?

WHITE MEN?

>> Stephen: WHITE AMERICANS.

WHITE MALE AMERICANS IF YOU WANT TO BE SPECIFIC.

OR WHITEY.

(LAUGHTER) THAT'S WHAT WE CALL EACH OTHER.

YOU CAN'T CALL US THAT.

(LAUGHTER)

>> Stephen: THERE'S A COUPLE OF WHITEYS IN THE SHOW.

(LAUGHTER) BUT THEY'RE SORT OF OUTSIDERS THAT COME IN AND SORT OF STIR UP

A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE.

ALTHOUGH THERE WAS AN ALL-WHITE VERSION IN, I THINK, DENMARK DURING NAZI... THE NAZI ERA AND

IT GOT SHUT DOWN.

>> Stephen: THE NAZIS REALLY CAPTURED THE SPIRIT.

(LAUGHTER) FOLKS, STICK AROUND, AUDRA IS GOING TO DO A SONG FOR YOU IN

JUST A MOMENT AND LET EVERYBODY KNOW WHY THIS IS THE GREAT AMERICAN OPERA.

WE'LL BE BACK WITH A PERFORMANCE F