JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
LOLITA MARIE: My mother took my brother and I to see our first stage play ever – Shout Up a Mornin’ when I was about 13 years old. We took a special trip from Hampton VA to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC (the big city) to see it. The way that I recall this play about John Henry is that it featured a 30+ person strong cast and was filled with high drama, beautiful songs, and fabulous costuming. That it made me at some points want to cry and then others to jump out of my seat to shout in triumph made an impression on me. I wanted to be a part of that magic one day. Some 17 years later, I had an opportunity to dip into my wish list and tried out for my first show. I haven’t been off the stage for more than a season ever since. It is my passion.
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. This play 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.?
LM: We still struggle with race relations in the U.S. This is clearly evidenced with stories that plague the news every day, though it is certainly not as overt as lynchings. What is even more disturbing to me however is the bigotry that exists within the African American community against ourselves. It saddens me that in some instances we have bought in to the prevailing stereotypes and perpetuate them often without even realizing it.
JL: THE HAMPTON YEARS also celebrates and honors such extraordinary artists as John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, Viktor Lowenfeld and Charles White for their bold and courageous ability to overcome these challenges and create beautiful, powerful and lasting works of art. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today audiences?
LM: This play remains relevant because at its heart it is simply about people striving to better themselves against adversity. This is a universal theme that applies to anyone and everyone trying to create a better world for themselves, their family, or the world. What do you do when you face obstacles? Are you a trail blazer like Samella? Someone who works within “the system,” to create your reality like Victor? Or, perhaps someone who is willing to fight (literally and figuratively) for the cause like Charles?
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
LM: I play Elizabeth Catlett, a Gleaner, and the Creole woman. The research indicated that Elizabeth was very concerned with creating art that was reflected the “real” world. She often sculpted bodies of women that were curvey, with proportions to scale, likewise with children. When acting I attempt as well to not create a caricature but to infuse each person that I play with “realness” and “truth.”
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
LM: I have nothing lined up yet, however, please feel free to stay in touch at www.lolitamarie.com.
LOLITA-MARIE (Elizabeth Catlett) There is only sweet nostalgic joy in being a part of The Hampton Years. Lolita-Marie was born and raised in the Hampton Roads area. Her son Brandon, along with many family and friends are proud to have been a part of the Hampton University collegiate family over the years. Recent acting credits include: Hard Bargain Players: Hoodoo Love, The Colonial Players: Going to St. Ives, Constellation Theater: Blood Wedding, Elden Street Players: Ain’t Misbehavin, Port City Playhouse: No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs, andTheater J: Something You Did. For a full resume please visit www.lolitamarie.com.
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!