Checking In With… N'Kenge, Star of Caroline, or Change, Motown the Musical, and More

Interview   Checking In With… N'Kenge, Star of Caroline, or Change, Motown the Musical, and More
 
The actor, vocal coach, and producer will also be part of a virtual reading of Black Butterfly, which she co-wrote with Mary McCallum.
N'Kenge
N'Kenge Matei Marian Mihai

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 N'Kenge, who was playing The Moon in the Broadway revival of Caroline, or Change when the pandemic closed theatres around the country. Also seen on Broadway in Motown The Musical and Sondheim on Sondheim, the actor, vocal coach, and producer conceived the Broadway-aimed musical Dorothy Dandridge: Hollywood's Sepia Goddess, which features a book and score by Robert Mitchell.

Amas Musical Theatre will present a virtual reading of Black Butterfly, which N'Kenge co-wrote with Mary McCallum, beginning February 3 at 7 PM ET. Billed as a "surreal dramedy TV series with music," the virtual presentation, which includes a Q&A with the company, will be available through February 6. Click here for more information.

READ: Checking In With… Ain't Too Proud's E. Clayton Cornelious

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N’kenge Joseph Marzullo/WENN

What is your typical day like now?
Each day changes depending on what project I’m working on, but it’s crazy busy just the same. I’m usually up at 7 AM getting my daughter ready for school—i.e., making breakfast and lunch for her, organizing her school work, etc. Once I’ve dropped her off, the hustle begins. LOL. I’m working on developing scripts, in the recording studio recording demos for my projects, designing show decks for my shows for investors, and preparing music for concerts that I’m in. I then pick up my daughter from school and drop her off at any number of activities that she’s usually in throughout the week—i.e., gymnastics, her tap, hip hop, and/or ballet classes, and piano. While she is in these classes, I’m usually home teaching privately (voice or piano) or my public speaking and leadership classes or my Broadway musicals, and more. On my downtime I’m either having family time or attending a board meeting for either CAAPA, Amas Musical Theatre, or at The Players, where I also chair the EDI committee.

What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I just finished watching Bridgerton and Greenleaf, both on Netflix. Loved them. I’m looking forward to binging on a few more. I also am a big fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I would recommend all of the shows.

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?
Re-education is indeed the key word. We all need to re-educate ourselves so that the vision is not blurry. The vision of a world of theatre that brings more of a spotlight on BIPOC stories with BIPOC artists creating those stories. The vision of a world of theatre that doesn’t just have more BIPOC on stage in leading roles but also behind the table making the decisions on all areas.

What do you want them to consider further?
We need nore BIPOC in the costume rooms, the hair rooms, the administration offices, and so on. In order for this to happen, everyone from all fronts has to be united as one in making this a reality. Making this re-education available to everyone as well is very important. Financial corporations are very involved in bringing outside consulting firms to address EDI topics, and I think theatre companies could indeed benefit from that practice as well.

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N'Kenge Ben Hider

What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I think it is important for all of us to take care of ourselves first. One is unable to care for others if they are not caring for themselves. I’m talking about self-care, self-love, self-everything. We have to be fearless in everything we do. Now is the time to get involved in things that are important to you that you may normally not have had the time to do. If you’re feeling alone and need help, ask for it. Sometimes even the savior needs saving.

How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I am creating on a daily basis. This time has opened things up in a big way. I will always be a performer, but having everything shut down like it did allowed me to freely pivot to the creating and producing side of things.

Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Yes!! As I await for Broadway to open back up so I can re-join the amazing cast of Caroline, or Change at the Roundabout Theatre, Amas Musical Theatre is presenting a virtual benefit reading of my new TV show Black Butterfly on February 3 at 7 PM ET. The book and music has been completed for my Broadway-bound Dorothy Dandridge musical, and I will be bringing my Forever Summer: Tribute to Donna Summer to Carnegie Hall next season to name a few of the exciting projects I’m performing and producing.

What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
There are so many organizations doing such wonderful work, but my top four choices at this time would be Amas Musical Theatre, CAAPA, The Actors Fund, and Color of Change.

READ: Checking In With… Girl From the North Country Star Kimber Elayne Sprawl

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