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Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jordan Mahome
March 11, 2013

What is your job on this show?
ACTOR.

What is your show about?
On Rikers Island, 2 inmates struggle with their relationship with God, their guards, a lawyer and most intensely, each other, while coming to terms with the murder(s) they committed.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
There was a time when it was all about the classics for me----Shakespeare, Chekov, Ibsen. But I have come up in a time of incredible new work by folks like Marcus Gardley, Tarell Mccraney, Katori Hall and Dominique Morisseau. Working on plays by these great new writers has made me realize where my heart is. New works that tell the Black American and global Black experiences are what really gets me going.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that...?
...has comedy, drama, the criminal justice system, incarceration, murderers, drug addicts, God, salvation and a pretty young lawyer from Queens.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of the most prolific and fascinating writers of our time. So many people love his plays but they are not produced so often in NYC. They have been, but most of them were done several years ago, so many folks have read them and not seen them. Being apart of a resurgence of his work is appealing. But truly, I would do this play even if not in NYC. The play is transfixing, but it's really the role I play that makes me ecstatic. It's raw, real, unnerving, and so complex. A "suicidal, multi homicidal, drug addict" as he calls himself. Can it get any more layered? And it's a very physically demanding role. A great challenge.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
SURPRISING. No relationship is clear cut, no scene leads you down an obvious path. But it is also so SMART. And the cast is SEXY so I guess you have a lot of S words.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
I go to the theatre all the time. Sometimes four shows in a week. When there isn't much diversity in what I see it can still be worth it if the acting, writing and directing are on point. Or at least two of the three. Ha. Still, I watch and wonder why couldn't this have been more diverse?! And simply to support a friend or colleague makes almost any theatrical experience worthwhile. But why are Black actors, Hispanics and Asians still so widely underrepresented on our stages? A great story is universal, but within the telling of that story I prefer to see people of diverse backgrounds. I believe it's crucial that theatre tell ALL folks' stories and that we support those stories. For me, theatre is usually so much more interesting and charged when there is diversity. People of Color bring something to the stage that is invaluable and underrated----the innate complexities and internal life of marginalized people bring forth the richest stories and in my opinion, make the best theatre.