Celebrate Eartha Kitt's 93rd Birthday Over MLK Weekend with DOWN TO EARTHA
Actress, singer, author, and activist Eartha Kitt might be best known as the singer behind "Santa Baby" and "C'est si bon," or as the third Catwoman on the sixties Batman TV series. However, a government-led blacklisting following anti-war statements she made at a White House luncheon halted her career for an entire decade. The infamous blacklisting forms the basis for Down To Eartha, the AUDELCO nominated one-woman show which will hold a four-show run at the Dwyer Cultural Center (258 Saint Nicolas Ave. in Harlem), January 17th through the 20th this year. January 17th marks what would have been Kitt's 93rd birthday, as well as the 52nd Anniversary of the White House incident. Tickets for opening night are on sale now for $35, with the remaining dates on sale ranging from $20-$30.
"I simply loved her as a young girl growing up in the theater," said Down To Eartha producer and director Marishka Phillips. "After seeing her comeback performance in Timbuktu! I knew I wanted to be a part of this business."
The play, which premiered last year at the WOW Cafe in Manhattan, was written by Dierdra McDowell, who also stars as Kitt. McDowell has since been nominated for Best Solo Performance in the 47th Annual Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Recognition Awards.
"I was first inspired to play Eartha Kitt by acting coach Susan Batson, in 2010," said McDowell. "After performing an animal exercise in class, she simply stated, 'I see Eartha.' From there, I felt the need to tell Kitt's story."
Many will be shocked to discover the measures the CIA took to silence Kitt following an incident at a White House luncheon in January 1968. Kitt's anti-war statements on that day personally insulted First Lady Lady Bird Johnson so much that she urged President Lyndon Johnson to blacklist Kitt from working in the United States. The government succeeded in doing so for the following ten years.
Down to Eartha explores Kitt´s personal re-encounter of that fateful day in detail, while also delving into her personal journey of power and freedom. Stemming from a life ridden with years of child abuse, Eartha´s personal journey proves to be at times a nightmare of a hurdle. It is one that could only be conquered by the power of love.
"In today's political climate, the right to be heard continues to resonate," said Phillips. "Kitt's outspoken views are just as relevant and inspiring today as they were in 1968."
Kitt, who for decades has endured a large LGBTQ following, stated in a 1992 interview, "We're all rejected people, we know what it is to be refused, we know what it is to be oppressed, depressed, and then, accused, and I am very much cognizant of that feeling. Nothing in the world is more painful than rejection. I am a rejected, oppressed person, and so I understand them, as best as I can, even though I am a heterosexual."
This production is in association with The Dwyer Cultural Center and is sponsored by Miss Jessie's. Down to Eartha will begin its run at The Dwyer Cultural Center in January 2020. Shows will run January 17th-20th at varying times.
MPTP Productions Int'l & The Dwyer Cultural Center Presents Down To Eartha
Where: The Dwyer Cultural Center | 258 Saint Nicolas Avenue at 123rd Street/Ruby Dee Place and Ossie Davis Way (recently dedicated)
When: Friday, January 17th @ 8pm (Ticket link)) | Saturday, January 18th @ 8pm | Sunday, January 19th @ 5pm | Monday, January 20th @ 7pm (Ticket link))
Ticket Prices: January 17: General admission $35 | January 18-20: General admission $30 | Senior admission $25 | Student admission $20
ABOUT MARISHKA S. PHILLIPS:
Broadway actress, accomplished director, and thespian guru, Marishka S. Phillips is an actor's actor with an extraordinary wealth of talent.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Marishka began performing at age of eight, and by the time she was thirteen, was cast in the European tour of Raisin, a musical version of the popular play A Raisin In The Sun. Upon graduating from Springfield Gardens High School, Mariskha honed in on her skills at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School of Dance, the Broadway Dance Center, and Fordham University, where she studied theater arts.
Marishka's big break came at the age of nineteen when the budding actress landed a feature role in the Broadway musical, Uptown: It's Hot. Directed by the legendary Maurice Hines, Marishka found her niche on stage, and would go on to star in a host of other musicals, including Bubblin' Brown Sugar, FAME: The Musical, The Wiz, and The Me Nobody Knows.
During a quick stint in Los Angeles, in 1991, Marishka made the move to television, scoring bit parts on the last two seasons of The Cosby Show and it's spin-off A Different World, but by 1997, Marishka found herself back on stage, and spent the next ten years touring Europe in big budget plays and musicals. Covering over eight countries, Marishka performed various roles in productions such as Tribute to the Blues Brothers, Ludwig: The Musical, and Teatro Piazzo. In between stage work, in 2002, Marishka released a musical recording on Hinterland Records entitled The Hike, and in 2007, released At The Waterfront on Mole Listening Pearls.
Under the mentorship of renowned acting coach, Susan Batson, Marishka returned to New York and continued studying the art of acting. In 2005, Marishka obtained the lead in an all-female cast of Othello, but by 2006, Marishka earned the lead in Absolute Fight at the NY Fringe Festival, and received an Audelco nomination for her role in Woody King's production of Sweet Mama String Bean, as a young Ethel Waters. The talented actress would go on to star in Stage & Screen, a play directed by Tony Award winner Hinton Battle.
As an acting coach, in 2011, Marishka founded the Marishka Phillips Theatrical Preparatory. Having coached and trained some of the Hollywood's biggest names, including Nicole Beharie, Deborah Cox, Kerry Washington, Terri Vaughn, Nafessa Williams, Tasha Smith and Elizabeth Rohm to name a few. Marishka's ingenious acting method combines the traditional art of storytelling through a spiritual connection.
As a director, Marishka studied at the Los Angeles Community College, and has directed two highly revered off-Broadway productions: Box produced by Stuart Films LLC, and Precious written and directed by Damian Bailey. On screen, she made her directorial debut with Love Always, Eartha, a short film that takes an in-depth look at the life of Eartha Kitt in 1955, which has won 8 awards.. Since she has directed numerous other films including her self-penned MELINDA.
Marishka lives and resides in New York City
ABOUT DEIRDRA MCDOWELL
Dierdra McDowell was born in Brooklyn, New York...with Panamanian roots! Being the first American born in her family, they often joked about her "celebrity status". Little did they know the power behind this choice of words!
She surrounded herself early on in the area of the arts, and attended the high school of Art and Design. Following, she completed studies at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and FIT in NYC. While in high school she gravitated towards the school's drama club as part of her extra curricular activities. It was here she found her passion!
Years later, Dierdra continued to study acting at several well acclaimed establishments, such as the Susan Batson Studio (formerly Black Nexxus), the T. Schreiber Studio, and the Marishka Phillips Theatrical Preparatory (MPTP). Her dedication to this art form led to her appearances in many commercials, television shows and films in the years to follow. She has also done lots of print modeling work and is often spotted in magazine and billboard ads for various commercial products.
As an actress, Ms. McDowell is honored to claim guest star appearances in current television shows, such as POWER, Odd Mom Out and Mr. Robot. She is honored for work in feature length and short films...such as the noted film 4:44 directed by Abel Ferrera and starring Willem Dafoe (as his ex wife). She remains proud of her work in commercials for Verizon Fios, Time Warner Cable, Pearle Vision, Home Depot, Spray and Wash, Wii, and Allegra D to name a few. She is delighted to have worked with Susan Lucci, (Erica Kane) on the former hit soap opera All My Children. It's not a bad trail to leave behind...but Dierdra says. "it's just the beginning of the road!"