While theatre has been on pause, Adrienne Walker has built a space of transparency and freedom.
What is life like for a performer after the curtain comes down? Walker examines the answer through her new platform, 32 Bar Cut. The theatre is an industry rooted in creative expression, yet artists often feel like they can’t fully express themselves offstage for fear of potentially losing out on future call backs, jobs, and more. This issue is rooted even deeper for artists of marginalized identities, who have to navigate the additional layers of long-ingrained stereotypes, labels, and systemic lack of opportunities. This culture of silence and sacrifice was a concern that Walker recognized, leading her to create a platform where her colleagues and friends could freely share their truths.
Walker launched 32 Bar Cut as a blog in September 2020, and has now transformed it into a multimedia platform with her husband Austin Cook, expanding into multiple video series and podcasts. 32 Bar Cut is now home to three different video series: 32 Bar Cut: The Show, 32 Bar Cut: The Curtain Call, and Broadway Banter. Broadway Banter is now the video format of Walker’s original blog, discussing her own experiences as a stage performer, offering advice and encouragement to those pursuing a career in the performing arts. 32 Bar Cut: The Show and 32 Bar Cut: The Curtain Call work in tandem—The Show is where Walker and Cook explore the inner-workings of Broadway through raw, unfiltered conversations with their fellow theatre artists, while The Curtain Call, which is exclusive to subscribers, could be considered the after-party, diving into deeper topics.
Walker and Cook have a wealth of experience to draw from for these conversations. Walker, made her Broadway debut as Nala in The Lion King and starred as Hattie in Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2019 revival of Kiss Me, Kate. Cook has worked in the music departments of shows such as Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton, and is currently creating his own work, including his play Sessions and a music/story LP entitled Jonah and the Deep.
Get to know Walker more in the Q&A below.
What project(s) are you working on currently?
Currently I’ve been working on any and everything that has to do with 32 Bar Cut. It is a full time job some days. What I’ve learned most about creating and growing 32 Bar Cut is that you can really do anything you put your mind to. It may sound scary or frightening at first, but with each day, with each success, and with each affirmation it get easier to charge ahead. If not for this break from theatre, I never would’ve started 32 Bar Cut, so in spite of everything, I have a lot to be grateful for.
In between that, I’ve been auditioning for TV and film quite a lot and I have some exciting developments that I hope to share in the fall. I’m also working with Roundabout Theatre Company and Lilli Anne Brown on their virtual reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s Spunk! I am very excited to take on the role of Ruby.
Where are you finding inspiration?
I am so inspired by my friends! I have some amazing and dynamic people in my life who inspire me and build me up when I need it most. I’ve been chatting with a group of friends—Brenda, BA, and Travis every Friday since about April of 2020, and it has been so inspiring. We are all spread out from New York to Chicago to Atlanta to all the way in Berlin! Getting a chance to see their faces every week has brought me so much joy. Even when things have been tough, they are always the respite I need and I find that the world seems a bit lighter after our weekly chats.
How has your artistic credo evolved in the past year?
I wonder if I even had an artistic credo before this pandemic landed on our heads. I think my motto for my career pre-2020 was: “Just do your best and make sure you have something lined up next.” Not very creative. Not very artistic. Also, not very fulfilling. Now, I find myself seeking and thriving off anything that brings me joy. I am more giving of my time, but also more selective, too. I am fulfilled by a Q&A for kids with no pay, just as much as I am fulfilled by a paid private concert for a corporate group. I am excited when a new audition comes my way and I get to read a new pilot or explore a new work before its hit the ground running. So I guess my artistic credo is ever-changing, ever-evolving, just like me. But I like my creative headspace right now, and before 2020, I think it was fizzled down to non-existent.
What perspective do you bring to the artistic landscape?
My perspective is that of a super-grounded, but head-in-the-clouds-while-no-one-is-watching, Southern Black girl with Baptist roots. I want to help others as much as I can. I want them to see that anything is achievable. I want them to know that they are enough even on their worst day. I am fueled by helping others see the beauty in themselves and utilize that recognition to achieve their goals in this industry. This industry is tough. It can be tough on all of us, and even tougher on those who don’t fit the standard mold. Let’s break those molds. It starts with how we think of ourselves.
How do you navigate working in a field where you are constantly subject to critique?
Ha! Well let’s see. I overthink a lot. That’s not great for this field. But I have an excellent partner in Austin, and he lets me express all of my negative thoughts and then helps me really put things into perspective. It’s a lot of what I say on 32 Bar Cut—you just have to be yourself. I forget that sometimes too. I navigate this industry by balancing—reminding myself that I’m enough and then also working towards doing my best so that if I don’t get the part, I know there was nothing left to give. I can be at peace with that.
How do cultivate joy in your life when you’re not creating?
Long walks with my Bella. I love my morning walks, especially when the weather is great. I don’t listen to music. I don’t talk on the phone. I just walk. It is so refreshing for me and it helps me release any anxiety that I’ve held in during the night. I also love a great TV series. Austin and I are constantly on the hunt for something new to watch. I also set boundaries. I have times in the evening when everything that is work, business, or stressful is off limits. I have had to learn to set these boundaries so that I can recharge, and reset for the next day. It has done wonders! Morning yoga and meditation doesn’t hurt either.
What do you want to bring to theatre when it returns?
Authenticity. My Black self. And joy. I want to breathe in the joy. I lost that somewhere along the way. It’s back and I want to bring it back into the theatre with me. So above all else, definitely a lot of JOY.
Watch the trailer for 32 Bar Cut below: