Research Catalog

[Interview with André De Shields : raw footage]

Title
[Interview with André De Shields : raw footage] [videorecording] / [directed by Michael Kantor]
Publication
New York, 2003.

Items in the Library & Off-site

Filter by

2 Items

StatusVol/DateFormatAccessCall NumberItem Location
Videocassette 1Moving imageRestricted use NCOX 2152 Videocassette 1Performing Arts Research Collections - TOFT
Videocassette 2Moving imageRestricted use NCOX 2152 Videocassette 2Performing Arts Research Collections - TOFT

Details

Additional Authors
  • De Shields, André, 1946-
  • Kantor, Michael, 1961-
  • Hunt, Mead
  • Broadway Film Project, Inc, donor.
  • Thirteen/WNET, donor.
Description
2 videocassettes (VHS) (78 min.) : sd., col. SP; 1/2 in.
Summary
  • Raw interview footage used for the documentary Broadway, the American musical. Actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, and college professor André De Shields discusses the American musical. De Shields speaks about his childhood in Baltimore, Maryland, and his early aspirations to be a performer, nutured by his weekly attendance at that city's Royal Theatre. There he saw many prominent Black entertainment acts, and had an ephiphany after seeing John Bubbles' performance in Vincent Minnelli's 1943 motion picture Cabin in the sky. De Shields goes on to discuss his role in the 1968 musical Hair, directed by Tom O'Horgan, whose multi-racial, non-traditional casting, De Shields believes, set a precedent on Broadway that is finally being embraced today. De Shields discusses his attempts to land acting roles during the 1960s, and his experience being cast in the all-Black Broadway musical The Wiz, based on The Wizard of Oz. De Shields discusses the difficulties in mounting the production, the signficance of its re-interpretation of a "White" story from a "Black" perspective, and how television advertising for The Wiz drew Black audiences to the theater. He discusses his role as The Wiz and the ballad he sang called Believe in the magic of your heart. De Shields then speaks about his decision to leave the show after a year, and his tryouts for a lead role in Ain't misbehavin,' a musical based on the music of Fats Waller. The show opened on Broadway in 1978 and featured an ensemble cast of five, which included De Shields, Nell Carter, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard, all of whose performances regularly stopped the show. De Shields discusses his role in that show, specifically his song and dance number Viper's drag. He also speaks at length about Carter's ability to interpret Waller's sexually charged music, and her qualities as a performer who brought forth a "uniquely Black" richness in her singing that conjured the roots of African American culture and music.
  • De Shields goes on to discuss the health of Broadway, and his views on the meaning of theater. The theater, "is life enhanced" and "you can go to no other place for that kind of entertainment." He speaks of the performer's mission to affect the theatergoer positively, and the musical's "promise" to make the audience happier when it enters the theater. "Diversion," De Shields says "is a religion to us. We will do whatever it takes to make you feel good." The conversation next turns to Al Jolson, a popular 20th century White performer who often performed in blackface makeup. De Shields discusses the birth in the 18th century of blackface minstrelsy, an indigenous American performing art which featured White performers who wore blackface makeup and portrayed Blacks in stereotypical, often disparaging ways. The Broadway musical is inseparable from its history, De Shields believes, which includes Vaudeville, music hall, and minstrelsy, and he feels it is necessary to understand and embrace minstrelsy "in order to move forward." He goes on to discuss the role of blackface minstrels who "parodied us and dehumanized us," in creating an appreciation of African American entertainment, on which Black performers ultimately were able to capitalize. Discussion ends ca. 48 min. on tape one and resumes on tape two.
  • De Shields then addresses the question of whether Broadway is racist or not, and discusses the history of racism on Broadway. He then speaks about his role in the 2001 Broadway production The full monty, and the impact of integration and non-traditional casting on that show; the significance of the 1921 musical Shuffle along, one of the first Black musicals to open on Broadway. Composed by Eubie Blake with lyrics by Noble Sissle, the show featured the talents of leading comics Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. It introduced syncopated ragtime and jazz dancing to the Broadway stage, and importantly, proved that White audiences would go to see Blacks perform onstage. De Shields then speaks about the changes on Broadway since the early 1970s. We now have "installations," De Shields says, refering to shows which run longer than a decade, and tickets are more expensive. Although Blacks have been fully integrated into Broadway casts, in comparison with the 1970s there are fewer Black musicals or plays being produced on Broadway, and Black theatergoers make up only three percent of the audience. Thus, according to De Shields, exclusion still exists. The musical is essential to the Broadway industry, and De Shields believes Black musicals will make a comeback. The discussion then turns to Bert Williams, the preeminent Black entertainer of the early 20th century, who performed in blackface makeup in order to gain acceptance onstage. De Shields speaks of Williams' genius as a performer who made audiences understand not only what it was like to be Black, but what it meant to be human. He speaks of the triumph and the tragedy of Williams' career, which suffered from racism, yet paved the way for the Black entertainers who succeeded him. In conclusion De Shields speaks about seeing his first Broadway show on tour in Chicago in 1969: Hello Dolly! with Pearl Bailey, whose performance he found deeply affirming. He also speaks about the significance of the production by African Americans of successful Broadway shows.
Alternative Title
  • Broadway, the American musical
  • Broadway: the American musical
  • Broadway: the American musical : André De Shields, Marvin Hamlisch
Subjects
Genre/Form
  • Documentaries and factual works.
  • Musicals.
  • Unedited footage.
Note
  • This interview is one of a group of interviews with 90 individuals used in making the documentary Broadway, the American musical. The completed production is available on NCOX 2058.
  • Credits for completed production from pbs.org: A film by Michael Kantor ; produced by Jeff Dupre, Michael Kantor and Sally Rosenthal ; written by Marc Fields, Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon, and JoAnne Young ; directed by Michael Kantor.
  • Time code on frame.
  • Contains various takes, at occasional brief intervals, audio continues without sound.
Credits (note)
  • Cameraman: Mead Hunt.
Performer (note)
  • Interviewer: Michael Kantor. Interviewee: André De Shields.
Event (note)
  • Videotaped in New York, N.Y. on May 12, 2003.
Biography (note)
  • Broadway, the American musical, which aired on PBS in October 2004, is a documentary chronicling the entire history of a unique American art form, the Broadway musical. Each of its six episodes covers a different era in American theater history, and features the Broadway shows and songs which defined the period. The series draws on feature films, television broadcasts, archival news footage, original cast recordings, still photos, diaries, journals, first-person accounts, and on-camera interviews with many of the principals involved in the development of the genre.
Call Number
NCOX 2152
OCLC
140469090
Title
[Interview with André De Shields : raw footage] [videorecording] / [directed by Michael Kantor]
Imprint
New York, 2003.
Credits
Cameraman: Mead Hunt.
Performer
Interviewer: Michael Kantor. Interviewee: André De Shields.
Event
Videotaped in New York, N.Y. on May 12, 2003.
Biography
Broadway, the American musical, which aired on PBS in October 2004, is a documentary chronicling the entire history of a unique American art form, the Broadway musical. Each of its six episodes covers a different era in American theater history, and features the Broadway shows and songs which defined the period. The series draws on feature films, television broadcasts, archival news footage, original cast recordings, still photos, diaries, journals, first-person accounts, and on-camera interviews with many of the principals involved in the development of the genre.
Local Note
Gift of Broadway Film Project, Inc. and Thirteen/WNET, 2005.
Connect to:
Request Access to Theatre on Film and Tape Archive Special Collections material
Added Author
De Shields, André, 1946- interviewee.
Kantor, Michael, 1961- interviewer.
Kantor, Michael, 1961- director.
Hunt, Mead, cameraman.
Broadway Film Project, Inc, donor.
Thirteen/WNET, donor.
Research Call Number
NCOX 2152
View in Legacy Catalog