W. TRÉ DAVES: I got into theatre at the encouragement of my high school theatre directors. I was a shy, sensitive kid in South Houston. Although I was a pretty strong athlete, I was pretty realistic about the fact that I wasn't elite. I also understood that sports clubs weren't my true community. I wanted to be funky and hang around girls all day. And if necessary, I wanted to be able to cry in front of friends without ridicule.
JL: Set in Hampton, Virginia in the 1940s, THE HAMPTON YEARS examines the impact of World War II on Jewish immigrants living in the United States and their role in shaping the lives and careers of African American students in the segregated south.Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
TD: Most importantly, I think that if you were to take a national poll, most folks would not be able to identify who John T. Biggers or the other characters in the play are. That is astounding and totally unacceptable. The tradition at Hampton Institute, later university, deserves to be honored by having its story told.
JL: THE HAMPTON YEAR also investigates the various ways in which racism and bigotry negatively impact the arts, academia and military. Where do you feel we are in terms of race relations in the U.S.?
TD: I'd hate to preach to the choir so I submit this: I sincerely doubt that an enlightened white artist, lawyer, or enlisted service man or woman would freely switch their treatment with that of a person of color with the same background, experience, or education. I'll leave it there.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
TD: I play John Biggers. We're astoundingly similar, I think, without ever having had the pleasure to meet him before his passing. I can only imagine that an artist of his pedigree must be sensitive and as I stated above, I am too. I am a fan of his work. I'm inspired by his acceptance of the matriarchy after his initial trip to Africa and I find myself moving from the patriarchy and closer to the former.
JL: What do you hope audiences walk away thinking about after experiencing this play?
TD: I fundamentally believe that we should entertain. If a piece doesn't entertain then you cannot hope to achieve any of your practical goals. I would hope that the audience gets a clear story that challenges their understanding of the topic while allowing them to draw their own conclusions. And the goal is that they will have a few laughs and tears along the way. And of course, an appreciation of the glorious artwork that these artists contributed.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
TD: I'll be running back to NYC to audition. If you watch NBC's Shades of Blue, you may see me get gangsta on an episode of that soon. My website, wtredavis.com, will be back on line soon. I'm very fortunate to need to do a lot of updates on it. :)