This week Playbill catches up with Stacey Sargeant, who is currently making her Broadway debut as Lady in Blue in the Camille A. Brown-directed revival of Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf at the Booth Theatre. Performances continue through May 22.
A Drama Desk, Drama League, and Lucille Lortel nominee, Sargeant has been seen Off-Broadway in Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of The Future, Nantucket Sleigh Ride, The Taming of the Shrew, Eclipsed, Big Love, Our Lady of Kibeho, The Commons of Pensacola, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Ministry of Progress, and The Wind in the Willows, as well as the first national tour of Legally Blonde. Her screen credits include The Forty-Year-Old Version, Come Sunday, Genius: Aretha, Blue Bloods, Bull, Elementary, and The Blacklist.
What is your typical day like now?
Most of my day right now is spent preparing to do the show in the evening. Once I get up, I have to work the kinks out of my body because the physical demands of the show are pretty high. During my breaks I try to connect with family and friends. After the show, once I get home, I have to cool down and stretch in a warm bath and sometimes, if necessary, I’ll spend a couple minutes in an ice bath.
How did this role come about for you?
For colored girls…has always held a special place in my heart. Though I was a voice major at LaGuardia High School, Ntozake’s words served as my introduction to acting. My high school AP English class had a focus on drama, and I was given the Toussaint monologue to present to the class. It was during that time I got bit by the acting bug. I’d never seen a production of for colored girls…, but I did audition for it when it was going to be revived back in 2008. When I was asked to be a part of the developmental workshop in 2021, I was extremely disappointed because I was unavailable. Obviously, with Camille helming this production, the workshop became very physically demanding, so they asked me to come in during final callbacks. I hadn’t danced like that in over a decade. However, I was thrilled to be able to pull my years of dance training out of my back pocket to book the role! To say I am honored to work alongside the entire creative team and this uniquely beautiful cast of women is an understatement.
Are there any parts of your role or the play that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
It’s shocking how relevant this play is even 46 years after its original production! Firstly, due to the isolation we’ve experienced over the past two years, the act of coming together to have a collective experience is more vital than ever. Secondly, for generations, not just the last two years, Black people have not been seen as multi-dimensional human beings who hold the universe inside themselves. And living in a white patriarchal society, the experience of not being seen is even worse for Black women. I believe it’s partly why Ntozake Shange was moved to explore what it is to be a Black woman in America on the page. This piece validates all the colors and experiences of who we are—our desires, frustrations, joys, pains, unanswered questions, etc.—and by doing so, lets us know we are worthy of exploration…worthy of being seen…because we matter. And there’s no time like the present for us to carry that knowing with us!
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to live theatre?
I understand. My life became pretty isolated during the pandemic. My first time in a theatre since its onset was on my first day of tech rehearsal for for colored girls… There are strict testing and masking protocols in place for Broadway employees and audiences. The ushers are doing a great job enforcing them in order to help keep us all safe. Though nothing is fool proof, I’d say with these protocols in place, it’s the safest you can be, outside of becoming an island.
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 artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
This is a tricky question because by separating “fellow artists” from “those in power,” I believe it perpetuates the belief that artists are without power. Artists have tremendous power, and it lies in our ability to say “no.” It lies in our ability to set boundaries for what we will and won’t accept. The gauge for me is whether I am able to rest easy at night with the decisions I’ve made in my career. I believe as long as you are able to do that, you are standing in your power. It’s the reason why I am only now making my Broadway debut. I have always had a clear vision and boundaries around myself as a performer. As artists and individuals, we teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. If our individual and collective actions demonstrate that we know who we are and value ourselves as artists, we will command respect. We won’t leave ourselves open to being told “no!” by those who aren’t really trying to give us anything in the first place. Remember, when you make demands, you can always be denied.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
I can be a loner at times, so at the beginning of the lockdown my friends were like, “This will be easy for you!” I welcomed the solitude. But I came to realize how crucial in-person socializing is to my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Oh…and that I’m a pretty good writer!
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
This summer, The Public Theater will be producing a 29-hour reading of my autobiographical solo-show, Buh Wha’ Trouble Is Dis? (or The Exhumation of MC Spice). Tackling themes of racism, show business, and body image, and told in verse and prose, it explores how a first-generation daughter of Trinidadian immigrants growing up in 1980s East New York, Brooklyn, can embody her truest self, conquer her demons of self-doubt, and redefine beauty and success for herself despite the societal and entertainment industry norms.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I love Connective, Inc. and G!rl Be Heard. Connective aims to help underserved youth reach their full potential by equipping them with essential life skills. G!rl Be Heard focuses on building leaders, change makers, and activists through developing, amplifying, and celebrating the voices of girls and young women through socially conscious theatre-making, storytelling, and performance. Exposure to the programs these organizations offer is life changing during one’s formative years.