ART: Q&A with Lemon Andersen
I caught the last performance of Lemon Andersen’s autobiographical one-man show, ‘County of Kings,’ at the end of 2011. Hip Hop Theater Festival presented the December performance of this powerfully insightful piece by an exceptional and unconventional Brooklyn playwright and poet. I remember the first time I saw Lemon on stage and what an impression he left on me and the audience on hand for ‘County of Kings’ debut at the Public Theater a few years ago. He eventually took the show on the road, then came full circle to close it at El Museo del Barrio in Harlem. Word of thanks goes out to this talented man. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation following the play at El Museo and after-party held at Camaradas.
Check out the Q&A below for what Lemon’s working on next.
TFM: When did you know it was time to move on to your new theatrical project/production? What can audiences expect and why is it relevant now?
The next production, which is Toast, has always been haunting me. Once I had finished writing my play County of Kings, the new piece, Toast, automatically started to come to me. I took a break physically from writing plays but not mentally. I went back in and I started to shape the piece as a script as an actual play. And is it relevant to what’s going on now? Yeah, I’m not looking for anything outside of portraying the human condition and the threat to that. Without giving too much away these characters are human beings and we still live in a world where human beings still exist and this play is a reflection on the heart. Toast is about human beings on stage and what comes out of them from their upbringing. My job is to find the history, geography, and economy of these characters and bring it together in one setting and see how they relate. One of my major rules of theater to have people walk away with an experience and our job is to deliver that.
TFM: What primary message do you hope to convey via your poetry? What keeps you grounded?
Somebody’s gotta be dangerous; I’ll take the job. You know I don’t mean nothing by it. I’m not going against this government. I’m not trying to challenge anything, except the human spirit. And there’s a dangerous side to that and I like it and I understand it, I like it in my poetry. I’ll leave the rest to these other guys. They got politics down, I don’t have politics down, all I know about is human beings and they are full of beauty. Being a playwright keeps me grounded ’cause there’s nothing Hollywood about being a playwright. Being out in Hollywood and having all these major producers around you there’s nothing grounding in that. Being an artist trying to get by doing what I can is what keeps me humble. There’s no real financial gain out of being a playwright, the only gain you get out of being at playwright is that it challenges you to be a great storyteller. That shit will humble you. You don’t put a play to make money you put up a play to compete in storytelling. That’s why we do this, because we gotta to get this out of us. That will ground you.
TFM: How essential is music and dance in your life?
Music is a big influence. I listen to music to hear language, to study lyricism, there’s a lot more poetry in music then there is in film so I listen to music to hear poetics. Dance is not a big influence on my work currently I barely go see it, but I did ballet as a kid so what dance taught me as a kid was how to be graceful. But I channel that energy from dance to gracefulness as a writer. So I didn’t lose those skills, I just took them from dancing and moved them to writing.
TFM: What are you reading these days and which books influenced you the most?
I am reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, it’s a great book. I’m also reading this great Russian poet, she’s remarkable and super amazing.
El Museo del Barrio: http://www.elmuseo.org/
Hip Hop Theater Festival: http://www.hhtf.org/
Public Theater: http://publictheater.org/