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 E. Clayton Cornelious, who was performing six roles, including Richard Street, in the Tony-nominated musical Ain't Too Proud when the pandemic closed theatres around the world. The actor's numerous Broadway credits also include Beautiful, Wonderland, The Scottsboro Boys, A Chorus Line, The Music Man, Kat and the Kings, and The Lion King, and he was seen Off-Broadway in When It Happens to You.
What is your typical day like now?
I’m trying to keep myself busy as possible. I’m a homebody, so at first I treated this lockdown like a big vacation. It was an opportunity to get some well-deserved rest since my Broadway schedule usually keeps me very busy. I started some home renovation projects and completed some self-motivating projects. For example, I got my website done, Eclaycorn.com (go take a look), painted and renovated my condo, and started a few producing projects.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Oh wow, tough question. Well, unfortunately, I don’t read books unless it’s a script (ha ha)! Golden Girls will always be a go-to—sometimes to have on in the background as I clean. I have discovered some great shows on Netflix: I’m obsessed with Ozark and Money Heist. Podcast? I would say go listen to the Ensemblist’s podcast series: I’m Still Here. I’m a guest on the April 22, 2020, episode. LOL. Good stuff.… I’m getting caught up on all the Oscar-nominated films from prior years.
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?
I’m, of course, getting this question a lot since I am a person of color in theatre. The education should start with you! This is a crucial time in this country, and it’s up to our white allies to do their part in speaking up, getting educated, and diving into BIPOC artistry as much as possible. As a new Black producer/investor to the Broadway scene, I would like to focus my 22 years of Broadway experience to celebrate more BIPOC stories that haven’t been told. I’m producing a new play called Chicken & Biscuits by author Douglas Lyons, and I hope the American audience gets a chance to see this play on a Broadway stage soon.
What do you want them to consider further?
Go support an artist of color, explore another culture other than your own, go to that museum, watch that one movie you didn’t see, support a Black local business, and maybe support an artist by investing in their shows. I have a new producing company called EclayRossie Productions, and we can help guide you if needed.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
What has helped me is utilizing this time to invest in yourself. Get those projects done that you’ve been complaining that you never have time to do. Get that online degree you always wanted. Try to better yourself, and up your game in some way. When this pandemic is over, you will hopefully have something fabulous to push yourself forward in a positive way.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Well, I’m trying as much as possible. I took this time to get a new commercial/VO agent, so it’s been non-stop self-tapes and Zoom auditions.
Has that been helpful to you?
Self-taping and filming is definitely a new skill that I have learned. I now know more about lighting, editing, and acting on camera than I ever did before.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
No, I have been in theatre for 22 years. I’m taking a theatrical pause right now and focusing on TV/film, which is something I’ve always wanted to do more.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I’ve started working with a fabulous organization called Publicolor! They asked me to sing for a fundraiser, summer of 2020, and I have been a fan ever since. (Publicolor is a not-for-profit organization based in New York City. It engages high-risk, low-income students ages 12–24 in a multi-year continuum of design-based programs to encourage academic achievement, college preparation, job readiness, and community service.)