From theatre, film, television, and literature to education, self-improvement, and lecturer, Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins has been entertaining and educating audiences in all facets of life for more than 30 years! On Broadway, she is best known for her Tony Award winning performance in "Jelly's Last Jam" and Tony nominated role in "Caroline or Change." Tonya made her Broadway debut in the original cast of "Merrily We Roll Along" and continued to shine brightly in "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," "Play On!," "The Wild Party," and "Radio Golf." Off-Broadway, Tonya dazzled theatre goers in "Milk Like Sugar," "The House of Flowers," "The Vagina Monologues," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Caucasian Chalk Circle," "Believin'", "My Name is Alice," and "Little Shop of Horrors." Tonya has also taken her talents around the country in regional productions of "Milk Like Sugar," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Caroline or Change," "Jelly's Last Jam," "Play On!," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs," "As Much As You Can," "And Her Hair Went With Her," and "Black Pearl Sings."
Off-stage, Tonya is beloved for her numerous television roles including "Livia Frye" on "All My Children," "Heather Dalton" on "As The World Turns," "Nurse Mary Jenkins" on "University Hospital," "Alama Matobo" on "24," and "Viola Crawford" on "Army Wives." Her guest appearances include spots on "The Closer," "Law & Order," "Cold Case," "Criminal Minds," and "The Cosby Show." She has starred in such films as "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom," "Enchanted," "Love Hurts," "Above the Rim," and "See No Evil, Hear No Evil."
When Tonya is not performing, she is busy inspiring people on lecturing tours and life-coaching to live their best life with her book GET OVER YOURSELF: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve.
On August 27, 2012, Tonya will be moving people with her talent and voice in her one-night only concert at NYC's newest performance space 54 Below (254 West 54th Street Cellar, between 8th & 9th Avenue), performig the music of Ethel Waters! Showtime is 9:30pm, with doors opening at 9pm. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I started out to be a writer. The performer I imitated as a kid was Edith Ann/Lily Tomlin.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Gosh so many people, Brad Pitt, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, Kate Blanchett, my friend Donna Murphy and I haven't worked together in decades, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Lin Manuel Miranda, Lynn Nottage, Richard Greenberg, David Cromer, and so many more.
3. You are performing your first concert since 2005 at 54 Below on August 27, celebrating the life and music of Ethel Waters. With selections from your new show "Hurricane Ethel," what made now the right time to premiere this concert? Why did you want to perform it at 54 Below? The concert was originally going to be a lot of pop and jazz anthems "You Outta Know," "Rolling In The Deep," "Before He Cheats," etc, then I was asked to do HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW. I didn't think I could prepare 3 1/2 hours of new solo material in 6 weeks. And when SPARROW fell through because of creative differences, I decided to create the piece about Ethel that I had been dreaming about since I was fifteen years old.
I wanted to do a concert. I love Jazz at Lincoln Center. I wanted to create something to take there. I love Joe's Pub, but 54 Below asked me to do one night and I said yes. I like new places and things and I thought I'd try a different show than I had been planning for Joe's Pub. Do two different sets in one year.
4. What do you identify most with about Ethel Waters that made you want to co-write a musical about her? Even though I began studying her at age 15 before my life really began, the parallels in our lives are kind of scary. I guess the world hasn't really changed very much. She, like me was a phoenix and a sparrow.
5. How did you decide which songs you wanted to perform from Ethel's catalog of music? The songs I chose were the ones that could be performed and capture different periods in her life. We don't use songs to tell a story except in one instance. All of the songs are done in performance settings.
6. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this concert? I hope audiences are entertained, thrilled, and eagerly anticipating the full dramatic performance of HURRICANE ETHEL.
7. What do you get from performing a concert that you don't get from your theatrical or film/television endeavors? Concerts are scarier for me, I prefer having the mask of a character. But for this concert, I will go in and out of me telling you about Ethel the woman and then becoming her for brief moments and songs.
8. I first came to know you from your performance on "All My Children" as "Livia Frye." Looking back, what did you enjoy most about your time on the show? What do you miss most about it? I watched AMC since I was 7 years old. So it was a dream come true to become a character on a show where I had been a fan.
I miss the camaraderie of the cast. There was a sign in the make-up room "Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated here, however, it will be graded." We just laughed and had so much fun together.
9. In addition to your performing, you are the author of GET OVER YOURSELF: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve & creator of "The Actorpreneur Attitude," giving workshops lectures & life coaching to businesses and individuals. What made you want to get into this kind of work and write about it? My own life has been a series of trials and I have found that when I have shared my story, others have found inspiration in it. I am grateful that painful events of my life have served some good purpose by at least being a beacon to others of what it looks like to rise from the mouth of defeat again and again and again.
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/author/advocate? To quote a dear friend of mine, most of the time in show business people don't want your brilliance, they want you to put your brilliance on their stupidity. I rarely get to use an iota of the capacity for creative expression that is with in. HURRICANE ETHEL is the closest I have ever come to using the fullest canon of my creative abilities. I turn down shows because they aren't interesting or challenging for me. I like to stretch myself and do what I haven't done before.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? This week, it was from a friend, Erik Liverman who had just returned from a month clown workshop in paris. His teacher criticized him one day saying "You are always in a hurry. You rush and never enjoy your self or let us enjoy you. You rush because of your fear. The theater will not cure your fear. Go away and heal your fear. Then come back and show us your pleasure, love us, and let us fall in love with you." Doing the Ethel material is the first time I have ever been able to give and receive that love.
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? A great lover. I've yet to have one.
13. If you could have any super power which one would you choose? The power to stay young, beautiful, healthy, and fit.