Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 10, 1975 · Page 88
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 88

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 10, 1975
Page 88
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Page 88 article text (OCR)

Actress Veronica Redd: the new Cicely Tyson? By Martha Smith WATERFORD, Conn.--Veronica Redd doesn't believe in the big break or the myth of being found sipping a soda at the counter in Schwab's. That's why she has been preparing for success nearly all her life; studying and perfecting her craft. Veronica Redd is an actress. For nearly half the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Center here, she was the only black actress in the company. She believes she would be outstanding if the entire company were black. She isn't immodest, just openly self- confident. "I'd heard a lot about the O'Neill," she says. "Several of my friends had worked here. I've been trying to get here for three years. T^e first year .1flunked out because I couldn't do a West Indian accent. Last year I had another job in New York. I knew if I didn't make it here this year it wasn't meant to be." After two small roles in early productions here, Veronica Redd moved into the spotlight as the hardbitten matriarch of a streetwise black family in the play "Debts." Her performance was worth the three years' effort to enter the O'Neill company. Intense, strong and commanding on stage. Veronica Redd lends herself to comparison with Cicely Ty-; son, her predecessor at the O'Neill. I;H%r statuesque appearance also has much of the.Tyson look to it, a quality that makes an audience take note. Off stage, the Redd personality is - one of warmth, sincerity and determination. "I've been training all my life for a career as an entertainer," she explains. "I'm from Washington, D. C. and I studied classical piano and dance 15 years. I had a private drama coach from age 11 to 14." Veronica Redd became a dropout at 19, got married, had a baby and was divorced. Her only regret about leaving Juilliard, she says, was the disappointment to her mother who. as a concert pianist, was denied acceptance to the conservatory. "I felt performing was more important than the classroom," Ms. Redd explains. "My first job in New York was with Voices. Inc. I did The Believers' off-Broadway in 1968." She went to Paris for a year, performing with a trio at the Olympia Music Hall. "I had an invitation .to stay." she recalls, "but Europe always has been a way out for black artists. I didn't be an expatriate." She returned to New York where she helped conceive the New York Shakespeare Festval production of ."Sambo." performed in the theater's mobile unit. She also worked as a singer-dancer w i t h Leon Thomas and picked up a Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of Mavis in "The Sirens." Since "Sambo." Veronica Redd has been active in the development of black theater, which she describes as an "instant theater process." The spontaneity of black experimental theater has prepared her for the three-day production time given to new works staged at theO'Neill. "I have a great deal of respect for this place." she says of the O'Neill center'. '"It is a good experi- ence and those who get to come here are highly select. Everybody who has been here has gotten some kind of renown. Everybody here works hard." One thing that has worked here this summer is the Redd charisma. Veronica Redd has captured the imagination of playwrights and directors. Her versatility and willingness have warmed audiences. Her joy of performance and her drive seem a winning combination for a career destined to climb. Flashing her frequent broad smile. Veronica Redd, voices her dream as an actress:;"Ultimak'lv, I want to be recognized lor what 1 am. I want to be the first entertainer on the moon. I want to go as high as possible." Veronica Redd.' At age 14, Ms. Redd entered In- terlocken as a drama and dance major, with minor studies in piano and voice. By age 16 she was back in Washington immersed in serious vocal studies and performing on television and at the Washington Theater Club. She entered Juilliard straight out of high school--one of only five students without prior college training--and discovered she didn't like it. She was a young voice major, unaware that her. classmates had four years of college experience behind them. "I got kicked .out of an opera class there after one day," she recalls with a laugh. "The situation as presented in the opera was static and unreal. There was a love scene, with two lovers singing away from each other, not even close. I objected and the teacher didn't like my objection." 'The Manhattan Transfer" will premiere at 7:30 p.m., today on CBS-TV. Dick Van Dyke will host "Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy" on the "Wide World Special" at 11:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 15 on ABC-TV. 20/n CHARLESTON ft. VA. August 10,1975 ;

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