5 questions with entertainer Sydney Charles about her one-woman show, ‘Black Girl Interrupted’
Have you always been a natural performer? Is this something you knew you always wanted to do?
If you ask my mom, she will say I’m natural. I have been an artist since I came out of the womb. I have been involved in music since I can remember. I started playing the piano when I was 4 years old. I sang in the church choir… you know stuff black girls do. I’ve always loved playing, however, I didn’t go to school for it. My degree is in Political Science and Business Communication, but I soon found out that I was extremely unhappy working in this industry. I had my very first real-life anxiety attack while working for a bank, so I quit shortly after. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to do something that involved performance, so with a tattered photo that a friend took, I got on my first audition and my third audition, landed a role and I was on my way. It was five years ago. I did it because I didn’t want to live this life with regrets. I didn’t want to be 64 and say, “Man, I should have tried it once…” So in a way, I guess I was designed and meant to do it because it works.
Have you always been a fan of one-person shows? Support favorites?
Honestly, I can’t say I’ve always been a fan of solo shows, but I love some of the ones I’ve seen here in Chicago recently. I saw Kellye Howard spectacle. It’s a beast! My friend Melissa DuPrey makes her an amazing called Sushi Frito. So I saw all these women do them and it’s very inspiring. Of course you have some of the legendary comedians like Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams who made them. I really admire anyone who can stand up for an hour and talk about anything and everything. There is a fearless quality about it and I am a sharing person. I’m a storyteller if you will and I do it through music. You can watch someone like Stevie Wonder as well as someone who tells their stories through music. So all in all I had a somewhat odd hybrid of individuals who inspired me to do something like this.
What was the particular inspiration that made you decide to take the plunge? What made you decide that you were basically going to bar your soul like this?
I come from the world of musical theater and there is a medium called “cabaret”. This is usually where an artist is just going to sing a few songs to have fun, you know? So for me, I was just having a terrible day. I guess kind of a nervous breakdown and I was trying to think of a way to get it all out. I was like ‘Maybe I’ll just go do a cabaret somewhere.’ I called a few friends to have a group come with me and the next thing I know someone says “It should be bigger than that!” So from what I thought it was going to be to what it’s become now… this thing completely changed shape. It grew up without me trying to make it a full production which is great now because looking back I realize that I want to reach as many people as possible to let them know that they are not. not alone. I just wanted to sing three or four songs about it and now it’s a show in its own right.
Tell us about your show, Black girl interrupted. What can the public expect?
What the public can expect is complete transparency from me. And that includes very delicate subjects. Those whose African American community is often discouraged or afraid to discuss in public forums or even in their homes and churches. That’s basically the topic of the show: delicate issues like depression and suicide and self-medication to cope with pain and those things will all be wrapped up in songs because that’s my outlet. This is how I heal. So it will be joy, pain, laughter, tears. It’ll be kind of a roller coaster, but it’ll be a fun ride because that’s what a roller coaster is, right? Lots of ups and downs and twists and turns.
What’s next for Charles of Sydney?
In November, I will have a role in a new production called The Anthology of Citizens by the company Inconvenience Theater at the Théâtre du Jardin de la Victoire. The production deals with the topic of what to do as a citizen of your city and how to stand up and what to fight for and when to fight for it etc. I will also be attending a holiday concert around Christmas which will feature my alma mater’s choir, Kenwood Academy. I also just booked another show but it’s too early to talk about that in details, but it will go into production next year. And believe it or not, we haven’t even made the Black girl interrupted show again but there has already been talk of expanding it and bringing it to other cities so… .I’m definitely staying busy.
Black girl interrupted will take place on Friday October 9 at Refuge Live located in the South Loop of Chicago at 416 S. Clark. For more information, please visit www.sydneycharlesexperience.com.