BWW Interview: SO NOW YOU KNOW with T. Oliver Reid
You may know T. Oliver Reid as an in demand Broadway performer, TV actor, MAC Winning Cabaret singer, a MetroStar Challenge winner and a Professor at NYU. He is an artist that wears his heart on his sleeve in all that he does on stage or screen.
T. Oliver has been lucky enough to appear in 13 shows on the big white way with his glorious singing voice debuting in KISS ME KATE and most recently appearing in the 2019 Tony Award winning best musical, HADESTOWN, where he understudied BOTH Hermes and Hades. Timothy Oliver Reid, known to most as T., has built himself quite the extensive theatrical resume. Along the way, T. has appeared on the small screen in Sex and the City, Girls, The Blacklist, and Ray Donovan. Quite a feat if you simply stop there.
T. does not stop there though. His generosity of spirit comes through in full force in his
weekly internet show entitled "Wakeup". The Facebook live/Instagram live show is part TMZ, a dash of Church with a touch of Project Runway and a sprinkle of World News Tonight.
T. welcomes all to the show, by name, at the speed of T. Quick, sincere with a bit of how's your mama? If you are lucky and you hear him do his multi-octave warm up during the show, you know that a soulful version of Happy Birthday is coming that would make the late, great Aretha Franklin jealous. The show continues for about 45 minutes with the hot topics of the day, what celebrity is trying to pull what in addition to a little bible passage, with a church choir in the background for good measure. Talk about going full circle!
In addition to appearing on stages around the country, T. Oliver has had time to put out a solo album, entitled "Do I Love You". As anyone can see, T. Oliver always has a project or two under toe. What is he working on, creating, writing, singing during this quarantined time, you'll have to tune in to "Wakeup" to find out!
NA: Who is your mentor and what would you like to say to your mentor?
TOR: Interestingly enough, I never felt like I had mentors in the way that most have
them. There are many people who have guided me, by the words and work, over the years but not someone that I went to and talked through things or asked questions. I am a watcher and a note taker and that's how I have learned.
The people who in many ways have helped shape me as an artist...Brian Stokes Mitchell and how he treated everyone and led by example on my first Broadway show, KISS ME KATE.
Donald F. Smith, who was my champion when I first started working in the cabaret community. He would leave me massages, either voicemail or email, and would say, "Tim I'd like to talk to you about..." and that was always enough for me to do some research and make a decision without him telling me what to do. He also was the person who told me to take a moment and take in the room and make yourself one
with the space.
Melissa Hayden, former Prima Ballerina at NYC Ballet. She was an instructor while I was at UNCSA and I watched her classes as often as possible. She'd said something regularly that has always stayed with me, "Technique is great for class, but no one wants technique on stage. They want a performance." So trust the work that's gone into the process and then let it go!
Then you add in kind words from Chita Rivera, Ken Page, Andre De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Blythe Danner, Harriet Harris and so many others. Opportunity is necessary for artists to really grow into themselves.
NA: What has this business given you and what has it taken away?
TOR: It's given me a platform to share my talents and shaped me into the human being I am. How to communicate with others on many different levels. I always say to people, because there is such a disparity in how people are treated in this business, "I don't want you to treat me the way you treat Audra, I want you to treat Audra the way you
treat me." By this I mean - I don't need/want to feel special by you but I want you to treat everyone with respect and honor everyone's gifts...not just the star.
This business has taken away nothing that I didn't freely give. I have enjoyed every moment, but I also know when to say, enough is enough. Life has to be lived.
NA: What is the hour like before you go on stage?
TOR: Quiet time to put on makeup and drink lots of liquids. I'm fairly self-sufficient and can dress myself, then a bathroom break, a prayer then a few minutes of silent breathing with mouthful of water. I like to keep the water until the very last minute. Quiet time is key for me, again to connect with the space.
NA: If you could experience one performance over again, which one would it be and why?
TOR: Wouldn't repeat a thing. I want to keep moving forward, learning from the past but not reliving a moment. I took the notes!
NA: What are you most proud of?
TOR: I love teaching and am so happy I get to share what I have learned of vocal technique and breath control and truly using a lyric with actors in two graduate programs. I am also proud that I remember who I am and from whence I have come. The lessons that my grandparents and parents instilled, the spirituality that I have, the technique that I have maintained, and hopefully have been able to share with others.
NA: What was it like performing on the TONY Awards the first time?
TOR: Fast and furious! That week is such a whirlwind of shows and rehearsals that you can easily miss moments. The most exciting part is seeing who will be seated where and knowing that they will all be cheering for you and your show.
NA: You've been a swing on Broadway. Have you ever gone on mid-show? If so, what was that like?
TOR: Yes, I've gone on mid-show. I swung my first Broadway show, KISS ME KATE, and went on mid-show when Jerome Vivona got sick. I had taken the time to make sure everyone got on stage, then watched most of the first act before finally having my dinner, baked ham and mac-n-cheese when he called out and I went on for him, doing 'Too Darn Hot with a belly full of food.
I also went on mid-show for Phillip Boykin, who played Ton Ton Julian in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. He was onstage, there was a button to a number and when the lights came back up, I had tagged him out. I saw a few quizzical faces as we are different sizes.
I don't get nervous. My rule is "you have to do this, so do it!"
NA: How did "Drop Me Off In Harlem" come about?
TOR: I was researching and planning a show based around songs and poetry coming out of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and came upon the caricature map of Harlem and the nightclubs. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I knew that I had to go in that direction, the material kept coming and I knew it was something that hadn't been done. It's a work still in progress. I want to mount a limited production of it. Stephen Holden of the NY Times said it deserves one and I agree!
NA: What is the best advice you could offer someone who has their sites set on performing on Broadway?
TOR: Whatever you do best, whatever is your money shot, make sure you are also working on the other areas. If you are a great singer, make sure you are also working on your dancing and acting. Shows are expensive and you have to be able to do everything these days, sometimes even playing instruments. Be able to say yes to anything asked of you and enjoy your life! Broadway can be all-consuming be ready for that.
NA: Who is the most generous and kind performer you've shared the stage with.
TOR: Honestly, most of the community is that way. It is rare that you find yourself dealing with someone who isn't generous. Stokes and Sutton Foster always took the time to visit all the dressing rooms even with their own shows to prepare for. It really helps everyone feel a part, but generosity is all around. We live our lives together and kindness has to be part of that.