JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, can you tell me how long have you been acting? What was the first play that you ever worked on as an actor? What did you learn from that experience that remains with you today?
MIRIAM WHITE: Well, I suppose I can’t remember a time I haven’t been acting. I started as a ballerina at 3. When the ballet world transitioned from an emphasis on tutus to perfect body image, I realized that ballet was in fact, not my medium and began focusing on my future career as an actor. I performed in middle school, high school and went to college to earn my degree in Theatre. I remember playing Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. I must have been in 7th grade?!?! Never had I ever experienced the joy of having so much fun on stage… which serves as a good reminder today. No matter what the role, genre, etc…. always have fun.
JL: Why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
MW: Embarrassingly enough, Les Miserables started my theatre addiction. I must have been 8 or 9 years old, maybe even younger. I saw the touring production at the Kennedy Center and was a goner. I remember singing Castle on A Cloud on the streets, certain that a producer would discover me. Ohhhh… man. Embarrassing.
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.?
MW: I just finished performing a show for children at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. Our weekday performances were performed predominantly for school groups. I also had the opportunity to visit the classrooms of many visiting schools as a teaching artist. While I would love to bask in the many strides we have made in terms of race relations in America, I’m reminded how far we have to go when I visit classrooms. I’m amazed at how segregated the public school system still is today. Recognizing that school systems are a reflection of neighborhoods only further proves that in some ways, we still have miles to go towards a de-segregated society.
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?
MW: This beautiful script tells the story and exposes audiences to brilliant but lesser known artists. The play also deals with racial issues and paints a historical picture of what the racial landscape looked like in the 40’s, told through an uncommon lens.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
MW: I’m playing Margaret, Viktor’s wife. While Margaret does not practice her art professionally, she is a singer and cook. She believes in and supports her husband’s vision and is willing to sacrifice to make his dreams a reality. She is a strong woman, who listens and provides critical support to her partner. I hope that I embody the strength and resiliency of this character.
JL: If there is one thing you want audiences to walk away knowing or thinking about after experiencing THE HAMPTON YEARS, what would that be?
MW: I want the audiences to think about the power of art: both for the individual and the community.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
MW: Currently, I’m recharging after a 3-month stint at the Arden. In the spring, I’ll be performing in a new adaptation of Lysistrata at Simpatico Theatre in Philadelphia.
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!