Interview: Thomas Sadoski & Brittany Bradford Share Why WEDDING BAND is One of the Great Honors of Their Careers

Sadoski & Bradford discuss the importance of the play, acting for the stage versus acting for the screen, and more.

By: May. 06, 2022

Interview: Thomas Sadoski & Brittany Bradford Share Why WEDDING BAND is One of the Great Honors of Their Careers

TFANA is currently bringing to the stage the first New York production of Alice Childress's Wedding Band since the show's premiere in 1972. Directed by Awoye Timpo, this American classic will run through May 15.

Wedding Band is set in 1918, in Charleston, South Carolina, in a small, protective micro-community of Black women, in which a newcomer reveals a long-term relationship with a white man. Wedding Band subsequently traces the devoted couple's caustic confrontations with anti-miscegenation laws, vicious family racism, community disapproval, and finally deadly disease and their own long-buried feelings.

Wedding Band's cast includes Brittany Bradford as Julia Augustine, Rosalyn Coleman as Lula Green, Veanne Cox as Herman's Mother, Rebecca Haden as Annabelle, Brittany-Laurelle as Mattie, Sofie Nesanelis as Princess, Renrick Palmer as Nelson Green, Phoenix Noelle as Teeta, Thomas Sadoski as Herman, Elizabeth Van Dyke as Fanny Johnson, and Max Woertendyke as Bell Man.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Thomas Sadoski and Brittany Bradford, about why starring in Wedding Band is one of the great honors of their careers, and more.

This is the first time that Wedding Band has been performed in New York since its New York Premiere in 1972. How does it feel for you both to be starring in this production now?

Brittany: This production, it means so much to me. I love the play immensely. I have a big responsibility to it, to Alice Childress, and to the performances, and to this company. I think it's a beautiful piece, I think it is very progressive, and challenging, and transgressive, and it deserves eyes, and people thinking about it afterwards, and on subway rides, or car rides, or over pasta next door.

Thomas: It's one of the great honors of my career. It's very rare that you have the opportunity to introduce a classic. The word I keep coming back to, and I'll beg your patience if I overuse it, but it's a bit shameful that it's become our responsibility to introduce a classic of American theatre to the American theatre audience. I wish people were as interested in hustling out to see classics of the American theatre as they are to rush out and see new pieces of British theatre, but we'll fight one battle at a time. And right now, I think getting to put this piece of theatre, this exquisite, important piece of theatre, in front of hearts and minds every night is really, truly one of the great honors that I've ever been given. And to get to share the stage with Brittany Bradford every night is a joy unlike many that I've had in my career, and frankly, the rest of our extraordinary cast.

Brittany: I feel the same way, I feel like these are the best scene partners that I've gotten the chance to have. I think that once you see the play it puts a lot of things in context. Because once you see it, you're like, "Wait, this hasn't been done in New York in 50 years?" And then you start thinking of every other show that you've seen done however many times in the last 50 years. It makes you think not only about how incredible this piece is, but also, what is our relationship with the types of things we're willing to produce and to put up on stages, and what responsibility does the audience have in that, and can help to change that and shift it? Because if more people see things like this, potentially you're saying that we can shift what that narrative is, and what other theaters want to put on. I think it has the potential to say a lot.

Can you tell me about the characters that you both play in the show?

Thomas: One of the beautiful things about this piece of theatre, as transgressive as it was andInterview: Thomas Sadoski & Brittany Bradford Share Why WEDDING BAND is One of the Great Honors of Their Careers continues to be, is that this show provides characters who are constantly being completely in the world of the moment in which they exist, and what makes that so important is that this was written about 1918, and it is simply as relevant, if not more so, in 2022. Not only was it relevant in 1918, not only was it relevant 50 years ago when it was first produced, here we are 50 years later in the only other New York production of it that has been done, and these characters are as relevant in their struggle to rise above the limitations of their time, in order to figure out how to exist as human beings in love. And what that actually means in terms of being a person. I think that, for me, I could give you the run-down, "Oh, he's a baker and his name is Herman," but what is actually more important and interesting to me about these characters is what they represent historically, what they represent in the moment, and why it's important that they're still being written and performed to this day, and why it's so important that people come and listen and give themselves over to the stories that are being told by these characters.

Brittany: I feel like there is something really amazing about the structure of the piece, that Alice Childress has crafted all of this to happen in a backyard, and it's a lot of collisions. It's a lot of people that have no choice but to be in with each other. You have to connect. There is nowhere to run, there is no where to hide, and every single person is complex. There isn't necessarily a villain and a hero, everybody is on their own journey, and it's all about how do you communicate with one another? And I think it's the same thing that we're trying to deal with now. How do we talk to each other? And what are we guided by? It just feels very relevant, it always is.

Thomas: The word that comes back to me when you say that, Brittany, is relationship, they're in relationship constantly to each other. And everybody in the play is. They're not only in relationship to each other, they're in relationship to the world around them. It's such a palatable character in the play, the world outside this backyard. And I think that's what's part of what makes it so important, such a wonderful piece of theatre. At no moment is somebody not relating deeply, profoundly, and on a complicated level with the other person that they're onstage with.

Brittany: And everybody is listening. The characters are. There is a moment when everybody wins, and everybody loses. Not one person gets to skate by and not be challenged on something. And sometimes even the person that you don't want to have a good point has a good point. But there is so much listening that has to happen, and that's such a gift as an actor, you're always looking for the script like, "What's new for the character that can be new for me? What is that thing that I need to hear that makes me say that next thing?" And you don't always get that sometimes. But this, you have to throw yourself in, you have to be present, you have to get on the train and go. And it's just an incredible gift. It's my favorite piece that I've ever gotten the chance to work on, I feel that deeply about it.

Alice Childress wrote this play during the Civil Rights movement, and it takes place during 1918, and it's still so relevant. It's a positive that audiences are going to absolutely be able to find ways to connect to it, but in some ways it's a negative that the same issues are still running through this timeline from a hundred years ago to now. What do you think about that?

Thomas: I would rather use the term it is honest. If you remove positive and negative, you no longer allow your audience any place to hide. And I don't want my audience in anything that I do, if I can help it, which more often than not, I can't help it, but when I have the chance to help it, I don't want to provide the audience an opportunity to hide, because then we can't have a real, honest conversation. So, the relevancy of this play is just true. It just is. And when you start there, you can then get to have the rest of the conversation. Remove the judgement from the positive and the negative and just start with the baseline truth that it is relevant, was relevant, and continues to be, now let's talk about it.

Brittany: On the surface it seems like it's a story about an interracial relationship in South Carolina in 1918. But it's so much more than that. And I think about a lot of Zen or Buddhist teachers who talk about the hardest thing that we can do as humans is identify too much with qualifiers in this world. And we think we're talking about things on a racial level, or a gendered level, regionally, and really that's just a base qualifier of a thing that tricks us into thinking that's what the conversation is, but really, it's what's underneath all of that. And a lot of that is fear and love and something that is so basic and human that we all deal with, but it gets cloaked with everything else. And I think what makes Alice Childress such a genius is that she sees the underbelly. She sees what's underneath it all, what gets hidden.

What do you hope that audiences take away from this production? What do you hope they walk away with?

Thomas: A playbill [laughs].

Interview: Thomas Sadoski & Brittany Bradford Share Why WEDDING BAND is One of the Great Honors of Their Careers Brittany: I was gonna say that they see it! Everyone that I've known who's come and seen it, afterwards I tried to talk to them about it, and I'm like, "Why are you trying to talk to them about it?" It's too much. There's so much and you can't parse it out right away, it's a lot. So, you'll come, and you'll get it. You've just got to come, that's really all it is. Once you get there, it's all there. And it will make you think about how you are in relation to others and how you find your own space within community.

Thomas: I think it's entirely up to the people who come and see it. What you're going to take away from it is what you're willing to take away from it. And I think that in that very truth right there is quite a discussion. Because it's going to affect different people differently, and I've seen it happen even amongst couples who have come and seen it. In a way that only really great art happens, you get out of it what you're willing to get out of it. Nobody is spoon feeding you any morality. Nobody is spoon feeding you any answers. Nobody is holding your hand and walking you through anything. You're going to get out of it what you're willing to put into it. And great art demands of its audience just as much as it demands of its artists.

My hope is that we have a community that after two years of being away from the theatre, is willing and ready to come back to art. Our community that sustains the dream of the American theatre in this place, this hotbed of where it all is supposed to happen, I want our community to show up and give a shit because this is actually what it's all about. This play. Brittany's performance by itself is worth the price of admission! But the play is the thing, man! That's what it's all about, it's why we love what we love, it's this thing right here.

Brittany: The writing is unmatched.

Thomas: It's a classic! How many times do you get to introduce a classic? It's incredible.

And you two are some of the most talented and busiest actors around. Brittany, you're starring in Julia on HBO Max, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Brittany: Julia was just so fun, it was cotton candy all of the time. It was these amazing theatre people coming together, eating delicious food and hanging out in Boston for a few months. It was the first TV gig I ever booked, period. I was doing theatre, and that was the first thing. I just had huge gratitude that it was even happening. I love the character. It's a black woman who was a producer in the 60s, and people don't talk about that perspective a lot, so I feel very honored that these are two very different people, but they are real people. They are real and they are in the world, and I hope I can do justification to these women, because they are real, they are our ancestors.

Thomas: Brittany, now that you're juggling between TV and the stage, how is the love? Does it translate equally for you? Or do you have the funky little thing with the camera? I ask, because I do.

Brittany: That's what I was so nervous about! I spent 6 months sitting in front of the Criterion channel and watching every classic movie, truthfully, and really zeroing in on, "How much are their lips moving? Their eyes? How much are they blinking?" I was so invested in studying it because I was terrified that everything was going to be too big! Because that's who I am as a person, and I didn't know if there would be a space. But it was a pretty natural transition because there were so many theatre people, it was created by a theatre person. Yes, it was a weird transition, but I only know how to speak about it energetically, Tommy. I feel like energetically, doing theatre, I feel it everywhere. I feel like the energy has to come from every part of us to do it. And then, in TV I feel like I actually oddly still have that same energy it's just like, my belly. It's contained. It's different.

Do you feel the same way, Thomas?

Thomas: Oh yeah, for sure. I will tell you, my first years of working very occasionally, I think for good reason very occasionally, in television, I was mortified because I felt that I couldn't express the way that I had been trained and had been given the opportunity. You're not performing to the balcony, your face is going to be blown up to the size of a building.

Do you have any final thoughts about Wedding Band?

Brittany: You'll be so mad if you don't see Wedding Band. You'll be kicking yourself! That's truthful.

Thomas: She said it best.