As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Chalia La Tour, a 2020 Tony nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her Broadway debut as Teá in the Tony-nominated Slave Play. The actor, who also starred in the New York Theatre Workshop production of the Jeremy O. Harris play, has also been seen in Cadillac Crew and The Review, or How to Eat Your Opposition. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, La Tour's screen credits include The Good Fight, The Code, Elementary, The Future Is Bright, Love Repeat, and Three Pregnant Men.
What is your typical day like now?
On a typical day, I usually start off sitting in the garden of my home journaling, having a cup of coffee, meditate in some form, and decide if it's a “sweatpants” or a “wear every outfit in my closet all at once” kind of day. From there the day can vary a lot as I move through a schedule of coaching actors, working on my own creative projects, the occasional existential spiral, taping auditions, calling family/friends/colleagues, some work with some social justice projects, breaking out into songs with my housemates a lot, going on walks with a great playlist, and streaming so many shows.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
So many great stories out right now! Television: Euphoria Part 1 & 2, WandaVision, Veneno, I May Destroy You, and Ted Lasso. Film: One Night in Miami…, Malcolm & Marie, Disclosure, Kajillionaire, and Black Art: In the Absence of Light. Books: Anything by Octavia Butler (especially Parable of the Sower and my favorite, the trilogy Lilith’s Brood), and I’m about to start the great legend Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am. Podcast: I just started listening to Spooked if anyone else is into amazing stories about the supernatural.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
So many of our BIPOC artists having been putting in such revolutionary work in terms of engaging with larger theatre institutions and training programs. I implore everyone to look to our BIPOC legacy theatre leaders as we return to more regular theatre making. These leaders have been the spine of this work and are the most qualified people to seek leadership from. The issues raised in the last year are not new, and there are already generations of BIPOC leaders ready to bring the type of work that has the fullness of humanity included. When we are all able to return in sharing stories together in a live way, let’s start there. Empower and strengthen these companies first such as The National Black Theatre, MaYi Theatre, The Sol Project, and many more. I look forward to Broadway producers and supporters to look here first for who will be leading the future of American theatre. I also look to the leadership that has been showcased by The Broadway Advocacy Coalition (IG: @bwayadvocacycoalition), who has already begun to create immense change in how we will be making theatre from here on out with healing resources, anti-racist practices, and the framework for restorative justice.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I am still learning so many new ways to best care for myself and those around me. I’ve found that my biggest lesson has been opening up my willingness to ask for help from friends, family, and professional organizations. I’ve also found great joy in intentionally defining what alone time and being with myself means and the opportunities for self-discovery and introspection that live here. Also, including mental health and self-care resources into my daily routine whether that’s therapy, communing with elders, spiritual practices, counsel from mentors, doing things just for the sake of joy, or calling on those dear to me who hold solid, loving space with me. I also thoughtfully check in everyday with how I am giving and receiving love, then move accordingly.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Exploring my creativity in new ways has been a real gift during this time. I’ve spent a great deal of time reinvesting in my visual art as well as writing. Also, the gift of more flexibility with time has encouraged me to challenge and investigate the roots of my artistic voice. Slowing my process and getting very curious again about storytelling. The HBO documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light is an incredibly inspiring showcase of some of our greatest visual artists. I would encourage all artists to check it out to not only get the education, but hear the powerfully wise words these artists impart about the integrity of your own voice even in “the absence of light.”
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I would recommend that folks follow The Next Generation Project (IG: @wearetng). I had the joy of working with them twice during 2020 under the powerful leadership of Sis (IG: @ucancallmesis). It is a Black trans woman-led organization that empowers Black and Brown queer and trans artists. The way this community works and the stories they are creating at TNGP are a fierce example of the fire that the next generation of artists are bringing.