BWW Interview: Brian D. Coats Talks TRAVISVILLE
Ensemble Studio Theatre is currently hosting the world premiere of Travisville by William Jackson Harper. Set in a predominantly black neighborhood in 1964 Texas, the play imagines the conflict amongst the neighborhood's ministers when a civil rights activist comes to town and forces them to decide between continuing to preserve the peace, and taking a stand against injustice and risking the fallout.
Brian D. Coats, best known for his role in Jitney, plays Elder Alden Hearst. He took a moment to speak with BroadwayWorld about the complicated issues at play and his role both in the play and in its development over the years.
How did you get involved in Travisville?
I've been fortunate to be with this project in various workshop/reading incarnations beginning eight years ago. I was still honored and humbled to be asked by Billy Carden [EST's Artistic Director] to join along with Will Jackson Harper's blessing.
How has the piece evolved since you first worked on it?
Oh my, where can I possibly begin? This piece has been gifted with a slew of incredible artists who were at some point involved with the various drafts (many folk a part of the current cast). So there has been a lot of input in the shaping and reshaping of Travisville by me and others. A lot.
What did you learn about yourself and the dramatic process as the show developed?
That I can be a piece of work when I care as much about a project as this one.
Tell us about your character and his role in the show.
Elder Hearst is a very sick man who is the current leader of the church and Minister's Alliance that is aligned with city hall during a challenging time in Negro civil rights history. He battles with insecurity of what his legacy will be when he passes and whether his motives were pure toward the community he serves to begin with.
What's been the most challenging part of the role?
Eating/drinking while talking!
What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
That social and political views vary within the Black community. Sometimes drastically. And that everybody in the play has a valid point.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel