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BWW Interviews: Nikkole Salter and REPAIRING A NATION AT Crossroad's Theatre

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Nikkole Salter's Repairing a Nation is a new family drama that exposes the deep unhealed legacy of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. The show will be on stage at Crossroads Theatre Company for a limited engagement from February 26th through March 8th.

Repairing a Nation is the story of the fictional Davis family of Oklahoma, whose holiday celebration in 2001 becomes tense when Lois Davis pressures them to join a class-action lawsuit that seeks reparations for the historic riots that destroyed the family's livelihood 80 years earlier. We had the opportunity to interview Nikkole Salter about her career and the show before the opening at Crossroads Theatre.

Salter's career has encompassed acting and writing. As an actress she has considerable credits including her role in Gavin O'Connors feature film Pride & Glory and was most recently seen starring as Imani, et al. in Ami Brabson and Andre Braugher's NYC premiere production of Oni Faida Lampley's play, TOUGH TITTY. As a dramatist, Salter has written 6 full-length plays, been commissioned for full-length work by 6 institutions, been produced on 3 continents in 5 countries, and been published in 12 international publications.

Amid an emerging acting/writing career, Ms. Salter's deep sense of social responsibility led her to found and serve as Executive Director of THE CONTINUUM PROJECT, INC., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that creates innovative artistic programming for community empowerment and enrichment.

Salter is an active member of the Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Dramatists Guild. She received her BFA in theatre from Howard University and her MFA from New York University's Graduate Acting Program under the tutelage of Zelda Fichandler and Ron Van Lieu.

We asked Salter about her earliest interest in theater. "Tell me about your earliest interest in the theater." I first became interested in theatre as a child to prevent my mom from putting me in another sports activity. I'm tall, and my mom figured I'd have a good chance at a sports scholarship for college if she groomed me in basketball or volleyball or softball or gymnastics, or soccer. I would cringe at the sight of a ball. I told her I didn't want to do that anymore to which she replied, "Well, you're not going to do nothing. What do you want to do?" I found an opportunity - a summer conservatory program initiated by one of my television heroes (Danielle Spencer of the show "What's Happenin'"). I was cast as Cinderella in a an adapted production of the same title and was officially bitten by the bug. I took theatre classes in my hometown (Los Angeles) through high school, did a little commercial television acting as a teen, went to Howard University for theatre and got my masters from NYU's Grad Acting program.

Salter has been inspired by performances she has admired. "I think the initial inspiration came from a production of Dreamgirls my mom took me to as a kid - Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holiday! All I wanted to do was imitate them, then I realized I couldn't "sang,". LOL. I then became more influenced by performances at Marla Gibbs Crossroads Arts Academy and the Vision Theatre in L.A.... local playwrights and actors (who were also on TV!)... one play (I forget the title) ended up being the basis of Marla's show "227". I loved that play! There are too many theatrical and cinematic performances that have inspired to begin to name."

She told us about some of her significant mentors. "So many women in the business planted seeds of arts activism in me. They had commercial success, but established a deep appreciation in me for the power of dramatic storytelling and the responsibility that accompanied the role of actor and playwright: Deirdre Weston, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Al Freeman, Jr. And my current NJ colleagues Cheryl Katz and Marshall Jones, III."

Salter is both a playwright and actress. We discussed how these roles compliment her career in theatre. "Training as an actress made me a better dramatist. I understand what is playable. I understand the relationship between the performers and the audience. I understand the mechanics and limitations of playmaking and film making from the inside. Playwriting definitely makes me a better actor. I understand the role I have in the exploration of theme. I understand how to make choices that support the play's purpose."

Salter talked about her inspiration for Repairing a Nation. "I wanted to talk about reparations beyond the staunch opinions and concerns about whether or not it was feasible or who would pay for what. I wanted to talk about why it's so difficult - the complexities of inherited wounds, the nature of apology, healing and reconciliation. Are they linked? Is one satisfying without the other? Are there injuries that can be committed that are irreparable?"

Salter discussed her experience working with Crossroads Theatre Company. "They are great! I think it's important to have culturally specific institutions whose missions are to preserve, promote and share cultural specificity, and I'm proud to be in a mutually beneficial relationship with such an institution. I think, in a diverse country, it is important to celebrate diversity with everyone. Crossroads staff - Marshall, Amie, Susan - is warm and competent. The legacy is impressive. It's an honor."

Salter was enthusiastic when we asked her about her plans for the future. "Immediately, I'll be starring in the west coast premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's new play HEAD OF PASSES at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, CA. Then there's the upcoming completion of my Woolly Mammoth commission, tentatively titled GAME OVER. Beyond that, there'll be more theatre! More film. More commissions. More community. More partnerships. More programs. More performances. Lots!"

We asked Salter if there was anything else she wanted Broadwayworld.com readers to know. "They should come see the show! They will be in for a treat!"

Repairing a Nation will be at Crossroads Theatre Company from February 26th through March 8th. The theatre is located in the heart of the city's vibrant theatre and restaurant district at 7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Tickets are $25, $35, $45 and $55 for opening night show and reception. For more information and online ticket purchases, please visit www.crossroadstheatrecompany.org or call (732) 545-8100.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Nikkole Salter


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