Coleman Domingo is a tireless and versatile performer. Perhaps you caught his Tony-nominated turn in The Scotsboro Boys, or his performances in Passing Strange or Chicago. You may remember his face from such films as Lee Daniels’ The Butler or Lincoln. You might have seen him imitate Maya Angelou and RuPaul, among other characters during his two-season stint on Logo’s Big Gay Sketch Show. But Coleman Domingo is more than an actor. Dubbed by some as a ‘theatrical overachiever,’ he is also a Lucille Lortel and GLAAD Media Award-winning playwright.
His new play Wild With Happy, which premiered to great acclaim at the Public Theatre in 2012, is currently in production at Center Stage this June. Wild With Happy is a boisterous comedy “that examines faith, the grieving process and the little light in the window called hope.” It follows Gil, an out-of-work actor whose boyfriend has left him while simultaneously dealing with the passing of his mother. Forrest McClendon, Domingo’s Tony-nominated The Scotsboro Boys co-star, takes on the lead role in the production. Gay Life spoke with Domingo about his play, the healing powers of theatre, and what “pride” means to him.
Critics have called your new play “absurdly amusing” and “cartoon-bright,” but it also revolves around what is one of the saddest moments in anyone’s life: the death of a mother. How did you come to this approach for the subject?
It is my experience that with the passing of a loved one there is inextricably a bottomless well of unpacking of emotion, rivalries, planning, and execution of ceremony that leans toward the brink of absurdity.
Do you believe this play has healing qualities?
I hope so. Death is that universal subject matter that we all have to process. Hopefully I’ve written a play that examines faith, the grieving process, and the little light in the window called hope. Theater is a church. It is a place to be in communion and heal with comrades around you.
You began your career as an actor. Did you always know you would eventually write as well?
Funny enough, I was a journalism student long before I became a professional actor. I never imagined a career as an actor up until third year of college after taking a class. I began my playwriting career because at the time I believed and—to such an extent—still believe that there is a deficit in positive tales that come from my experience as a gay black educated man that was raised in the inner city. Most of my stories do not deal with crime, poverty, drugs, et al, because that was not part of my reality. It was something that I saw on television. The reality of my neighborhood was working class people who wanted their children to have healthy prosperous lives. There are such complexities in one house in my neighborhood and I wanted to tell those stories.
What are you hoping that Baltimore audiences will take away from Wild With Happy?
I want them to unpack their own issues with a touch of comedy on how we deal with the process of grief.
What are you looking forward to seeing from Forrest in the role of Gil?
Everything that this magician brings to Gil. Forrest is an incredibly gifted performer with such depth of emotion. A master of language and a close, dear friend and colleague.
Do you have plans for Pride this June?
My Pride will be on set in Atlanta shooting the feature film Selma. I guess in a way as I portray famed civil rights leader Rev. Ralph Abernathy, I am doing my part. Portraying a leader who did all he could for all of our rights as human beings.
Do you think Pride is still relevant to our community?
It is absolutely relevant to our community. I am always too thankful that we have a Pride celebrations around the world for folks to gather at least once a year and say “YES, I matter!” Whether we are showing who we are as men, women, transgender, young, old, married, bi, bi-curious — you name it, we show the world on one day in June and honor those that have paved the way and those that are still in the fight for our dignity. Do I go to pride parades? No. I do my Pride at a quiet hotel bar!
What makes you wild with happy?
Or who. My partner Raul Aktanov. Being loved by someone for almost 10 years is such a blessing. It will make me even more wild with happy when we put a ring on it very soon.
Wild with Happy
Thru June 29 • $19-59
700 N. Calvert St.
Gay Life June 2014