In preparation for FIU Theatre's reading of THE HAMPTON YEARS at GableStage as part of the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow exhibit at the Coral Gables Museum, I connected with actress Makeba Pace, who will be portraying painter, sculptor, and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett, about her career in the theatre and the relevant themes of the play. Click here to learn more about the reading and please enjoy this wonderful interview.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
MAKEBA PACE: When I was working on my Bachelors the dean at the present time saw me working on something with the African-American Student Union. She suggested I talk to the Theatre Department. I never looked back.
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?
MP: It is a reminder of war, culture, art and discrimination, and how it hasn’t changed. There is a want for change but, we as a nation is treading slowly.
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.?
MP: Presently there a lot of events that are thrown in our faces as a nation; women’s rights, the Ebola epidemic in Africa and the racism that occurs every day that happens in the U.S. The list goes on. It continues to be misplaced or misunderstood. As a nation, I feel as though we are taking two steps forward and four steps backward.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
MP: My character is Elizabeth. I really like her passion and drive. She believes in what she is doing, loves her students and continued to stay realistic of the times and the truth of the world during the 1940’s. I believe our common belief is to do what you love. No matter who sees it, you did it. It is yours and no one can take that away from you.
JL: What do you hope audiences walk away thinking about after experiencing this play?
MP: “To thine own self be true”. I liked the relationships. Viktor always wanted John to paint his truth his vision. Initially that is what empowered John. In addition, Samella suggests to John you can always find another way to do something. Be true to yourself.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
MP: In December I will be working on Sunset Baby at The Andrews Living Arts. You can follow me on Facebook.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!