BWW Interviews: Banks Brothers Productions' Vincent Victoria Talks BLACQUE TCHERIE
I talk to Banks Brothers Productions' Vincent Victoria, the Houston playwright responsible for BLAQUE TCHERIE. BLAQUE TCHERIE chronicles the creation and launch of the first black "girlie" magazine. See the play this weekend and you'll find yourself whisked away by some of history's most famous black stars and beauties, including Moms Mabley, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and Dorothy Dandridge.
BWW: You seem to focus on women's stories often. Is that intentional?
Vincent Victoria: It is. Growing up as a kid, here in Houston, I was fascinated by female stars. Actresses and female movie stars played a big role in my growing up. I was always reading books about [actresses like] Marilyn Monroe or Dorothy Dandridge, so I think it's easier for me to write for women. I've always liked larger than life female personalities. That's the reason why.
BWW: What was your inspiration for the play (BLAQUE TCHERIE)?
Vincent Victoria: I was reading a book about the 1950s called The Fifties Chronicle by Margaret Truman Daniel. There was a small blurb in one of the sections of 1957 of this man named Dan Burly who created Duke Magazine, which was the first African American "girlie" magazine. It just caught my attention instantly. I said, "That will be a good story for a play." That's where the whole idea came from, just a little short article in a book. I changed the year to 1954 because that was the year Playboy was founded. The lead character in the show happens to see the first issue of Playboy on a newsstand and that gives him the inspiration to start Blaque Tcherie.
BWW: While it is nice to highlight black beauty, sometimes black women are oversexualized in media. Did you worry about that when you were writing? Is it addressed? Or do you think it's not a problem?
Vincent Victoria: I address it a little bit. I don't think it's a problem. For centuries and centuries, black women were considered unattractive by the mainstream media. We were presented as nannies and maids. Nothing that was really positive. That's my purpose in this. It's not necessarily focusing on the salaciousness of nudity. There's none in the show actually. I want to focus on the beauty of black women of the past.
At the beginning of the show, there is a choreographed number showing black women starting as seeds in Africa and growing into beautiful flowers. But over the years, because of slavery and segregation, that beauty was denigrated. That's how I feel about the subject. There's not anything that exploits black women at all [in the play]. The show is there to uplift the beauty of black women, I think.
BWW: You're the director and the writer. Is that a challenge or an advantage?
Vincent Victoria: It's an advantage, because I know the work and I know how to present it. No one is going to know my work or what was in my head when I was writing it better. And I can change dialogue on the drop of a dime if I think something is not working. Or if I think there is something I want to enhance. As the writer, I have that liberty. I find it liberating. When you're directing another person's piece, you have to go through different channels. I think it's easier for the actors too, because they can come to the source of the material.
BWW: Why should Houstonians come to see BLAQUE TCHERIE?
Vincent Victoria: Because it shows the beauty of black women, the hidden beauty of black women, beauty that you may not have seen before.
The run of Banks Brothers Productions' BLAQUE TCHERIE ends THIS weekend! Performances are at Midtown Art Center, 3414 La Branch. The show will play Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. For tickets or more information visit www.banksbrothersproductions.com or call Vincent Victoria at 281-832-6380.