STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Douglas Lyons: Writing the World the Way You Want to See It

September 23, 2021 Lisa Hopkins, Wide Open Stages Season 4 Episode 17
STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.
Douglas Lyons: Writing the World the Way You Want to See It
Show Notes Transcript

Douglas Lyons  was gracious enough to take a moment to chat with Lisa  just two days before making his Broadway debut as a playwright with his new family comedy Chicken and Biscuits, there are 25 Broadway debuts in this show which has its first preview TONIGHT Thursday September 23rd, 2021 at Circle in The Square .

Lisa and Douglas dig in and talk about navigating rejection, imposter syndrome, moving and healing audiences and the power of stories and family.

Douglas Lyons is no stranger to the Broadway stage and in addition to his talents as a playwright, he is an accomplished actor, writer, director, composer and teacher. His Broadway acting credits include the original cast of Beautiful and The Book of Mormon and National Tours of  Rent and Dreamgirls. His writing credits include Fraggle Rock on Apple TV, Polkadots Off Broadway and Five Points which is now in development with Hamilton's Andy Blankenbuehler. As a composer/lyricist, he is half of the writing team Lyons & Pakchar. Their work has been featured on CBS's “Sunday Morning Show,” Carnegie Hall's “Voices of Hope Festival,” Lincoln Center’s “Broadway Songbook Series,” and more. Douglas is the founder of The Next Wave Initiative, a scholarship program dedicated to supporting the future of Black Theater artists.

Instagram:
@chocolatehipster
Twitter: @douglassings


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Lisa Hopkins:

This is the stop time podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Hopkins, and I'm here to engage you in thought provoking motivational conversations around practicing the art of living in the moment. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm excited to dig deep and offer insights into embracing who we are and where we are at. So, my next guest was gracious enough to take a moment to chat with me just two days before making his Broadway debut as a playwright, with his new family comedy chicken and biscuits, which has his first preview at Circle in the Square this week. But Douglas Lyons is no stranger to the Broadway stage and in addition to his talents as a playwright, he is an accomplished actor, writer, director, composer, and teacher. His Broadway acting credits include the original cast of beautiful and the Book of Mormon, national tours of rent and Dream Girls. His writing credits include Fraggle Rock on Apple TV, polka dots Off Broadway and five points, which is now in development with Hamilton Sandy blankenbuehler. As a composer, lyricist, he is half of the writing team of lions impact char. Their work has been featured, among other places on CBS his Sunday morning show, Carnegie Hall's voices of hope festival, Lincoln Center's Broadway songbook book series, and so much more. So this will all be in the show notes and places where you can find Douglas and more information. Douglas is the founder of the next wave initiative scholarship program dedicated to supporting the future of black theatre artists. Welcome, Douglas.

Douglas Lyons:

Thank you for having me. What an intro?

Lisa Hopkins:

Well, you know, I really, really appreciate you taking taking the time to join me today. I know this is a busy week for you to say the least. But you know,

Douglas Lyons:

we make it work we make time for the people and things we care for. So we are here.

Lisa Hopkins:

Absolutely. I'm guessing that you're you're somewhere between dress rehearsals now.

Douglas Lyons:

We are in tech rehearsals right now. And for the people that don't know what tech is, it's the technical rehearsal where you put all the elements of the theater together, the lighting, the sound, the wigs, the costumes, and you go q by q to make sure we get through the play to make sure everyone's safe. And everyone can hear what they need to hear. And the lighting, you know, is correct in this specific spot. All That Jazz. So we've actually completed taking the entire play last night and they're doing run throughs now, they're doing one right now. I'm home. But I'm letting them have one. And then I'll go tonight and see the night run. We'll do a similar thing tomorrow, and we haven't invited dress tomorrow night.

Lisa Hopkins:

Wonderful. You sound real calm.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah, I I've worked too hard to be nervous. And there's a lot of people I think leaning and depending and trusting on me in this moment. So if I'm nervous and chaotic, that is an energy that will then ripple out in the company. So that can't be and we've dug into the play. You know, I've I've done seven drafts of chicken and biscuits before we started rehearsals for Broadway. And then I rewrote at least 15 pages during the Broadway rehearsal period. And I just sent in new line a couple days ago. So the work never ends. And I really believe in what we're doing and the joy that we're bringing. So I can't be nervous, because if I'm nervous that's going to bleed into the work.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. 100%. And at the same time, you know, I'm not hearing that you're wasting energy trying not to be nervous, either. But you're rather you're rather leaning into just embracing what is.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah, it's it's reason to be excited. It's prayers and dreams and hopes coming true. And so I'm trying to let it wash over me more than be anxious about it, because my anxiety will not help or heal anything. So yeah, I've a couple of weeks ago, I was a ball of stress a little bit, but not because also were still in a pandemic, right. So there's that part where Yes, wasn't just the work itself, it was like, God, I hope that no one gets sick. I hope that everyone's safe. You know, there have been positive cases with this breakthrough, the pop up in places and I just wanted to get through this period and make it to stage without anyone going down. So I've learned with my therapist to just not worry about things we can't control and focus on the work that we can and I think it's giving me a nice equilibrium for this moment.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no 100% that makes that makes really good sense. So on your Instagram, you describe yourself as a multi hyphenate. Right? And oh, and a dreamer and multi hyphenate and a dreamer. It strikes me that not only are you obviously a multi hyphenate with all the stuff that you have done and are doing, but it also strikes me that your dreams themselves are multi hyphenate does that land with you? Yeah,

Douglas Lyons:

I think my father has always said to me, Doug, you're gonna make it too broad. Way, and then that's going to be just one step, you know, one notch in the belt for the next thing. And I was like, okay, black man. All right, like, let's just get to Broadway first. But then he was right, you know, I got here. And I started taking in the business side and seeing who was in the building eight shows a week, you know, doing the labor on their bodies and who wasn't and who was getting the larger checks. And I started writing music out of heartbreak. And then that led to playwriting five years later, and it just felt like there was no reason not to try it. The worst that could happen is that I could suck at it, and then I just want to share it. And I had some confirmation during the pandemic with getting Fraggle Rock. And in that meeting, that initial meeting, the showrunners were like, Yeah, man, we read your scripts, they're really good. And it was the first time I heard from someone not in the theater, who did not know me at all that my work had value, and purpose. And that really landed on me in a way that I was like, Oh, you have to dream bigger. So I feel like every year, my dreams just get bigger. Because though my prayers are not answered exactly in the way that I prayed them, something usually happens that leads me down a new path. And so I just feel like as an artist, I call myself a vessel. And if these things keep coming to me, you know, Broadway was not something that I saw happening. Chicken biscuits was the last thing to be written of all of my projects, and it's the first thing to go to Broadway. So I'm like, okay, I cannot predict the future at all. So I just have to keep readjusting my dreams with what's in front of me.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, absolutely. What challenges have you had to overcome with that was sort of changed. Sounds like you were able to take on that new mindset and and sort of your learning and working in that. What was it? What were some of the biggest challenges of that for you things that you had to let go or things that you had to open up?

Douglas Lyons:

I think previous to the pandemic, I felt like an imposter a little bit as a writer, because the writing community, okay, like writing plays off Broadway is its own community. You know, being a Broadway playwright is a slightly different community being a Broadway composer, because I always I also write musicals as well is a different community, being an actor on Broadway is a different community. And I felt like I was phasing out of the actor community, because I was really becoming fascinated with and obsessed with this writing thing. But getting people to take me seriously as a writer, has been a seven year process. You know, where people I'm like, Hey, nice to meet you. I have a script. And I really think you should read it. Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. Uh huh. Great. Email me. Have you read it? Oh, I'm just I'm really busy. Two years later, have you read it? You know, like, that was the hard thing and learning to be my own champion. And getting used to rejection as just a means of the business was an adjustment. But once I figured that out, I was like, you're gonna find your person. And I did during COVID. At the end of 2019, I was followed on Instagram, by this Broadway producer, Hunter Arnold. And I looked up his profile and it said that he was the lead producer of Hades town. I was like, Oh, this is interesting. Hey, man, I don't know if I've ever met you. But I've written some projects. I think, you know, you should check them out. Do you? Do you actually go through new musicals? Like, are you open to submissions? And he said, Yes. And from that fall on, I emailed him or sent him an Instagram message every five weeks checking in, oh, I'm busy. I'm sorry, Oh, I can't write. And then during the pandemic, when he had time, he finally read one of the pieces. And he was like, wow, I got like a five paragraph message being like, I think you have something here. And I think we should talk. And so over the next year, during COVID, we zoomed and read things and recorded and we try to figure out things. And then this opportunity came about because of his relationship with the theater. And here we are.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, that's a great story. No, that makes a lot of sense. I caught that you used the word obsessed with writing. And it's funny because somewhere in my research, correct me if I'm wrong, I read something about you being obsessed with acting or theater. When you first were a youngster basically getting into it. Yeah. Tell me about that.

Douglas Lyons:

So the national tours of cats, and rent, the same rent tour that I would join Three years later, came through New Haven, Connecticut, my hometown, Shubert Theater, and I had sang and danced all my life, never really had acting or official voice lessons. But I was an artistic kid. And I was playing sports like basketball, but I would sing the national anthem at the basketball game, and then go sit on the bench, right? Like I was that kid. But when I got sort of that bug, and I was told, it's called musical theater. I was like, oh, there's an art form. This is a profession, like RIT. If you put these things together, you can study to do this profession. Really, at the top of my senior year, I was a part of this jazz band. And there was this poster for the heart school and it said music theater dance. And it was one of the four programs I applied to. And I got in part was the only place to accept me, but I got a little scholarship. And I entered as a freshman, completely sort of blind and not knowing to the industry itself. We had to wear blacks at heart for acting projects and classes to be neutral. And did I read the syllabus, maybe not I had blacks with me. But the first day of class, I had a first day outfit, you know, as you did in high school, and I quickly had to go back to my dorm, to die. That's how ignorant I was to, you know, the theater. And, and so I got a real Crash Course. But I was obsessed and curious with this thing that I had some of the ingredients to do. I could sing, I could dance. I hadn't had any ballet classes. So I didn't know all the terminology, but I could hold my body, you know, in a facility for the voice. But I hadn't had a voice lesson yet. Right? I didn't know solfege. And I didn't know ear training and theory yet. But I could sing once I learned the song. Right. So it took a while to learn the technical parts of being an actor. But once I did, I was in. And I think initially I fell in love with storytelling in general. And when I realized I could write the stories and still be in the theater, that was the epiphany.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, very cool. great distinction to write between that sort of because obsession tends to have a are can have a really negative connotation. Sometimes candidate Oh, you're obsessed, you know, you do it to my Baba. Whereas I'm hearing you say you you actually it was an awareness and a curiosity with weight. I relate to that. I'm not sure exactly how or how that's gonna work. But I feel it's almost like a visceral thing with you. Yeah,

Douglas Lyons:

it's, they're doing the thing of there that I like. So the only show I did in high school, and in my senior year was West Side Story. I played Tony. I riffed so and appropriately. But I still remember the riffs in there great. This was like maybe a 300 seat auditorium. I put on so much stage makeup. He was think I was playing the Met. Okay. Because I had seen the shows come through. And that's something they did they put onstage makeup, right. And I was like, I'm an actor I need, right. I knew nothing about shading and highlight or anything. I just went to CVS got some brown makeup and some eyeliner and put it on because it felt theatrical. You know? So, yeah, I really didn't know. But I knew I was pulled into this world somehow. And it's just kept surprising me. You know, I didn't I don't play instruments, but I can write music. I was not a lyricist. I don't have an MFA in writing. But I study, I really call myself the study or the art form. And if I don't know it, I will quickly figure it out.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yep. And when I asked you on the guest form, what most people often get wrong about you. You said they mistake my kindness for weakness. I thought that was really interesting. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Douglas Lyons:

I'm, I'm a sweet and loving guy. But I'm also a passionate visionary. And some and you know what, this is an interesting story. So one day, my agent had to sit me down and say, Douglas, I love your passion. But I want you to be able to dial it and taken the rooms temperature so that people don't use your passion against you as someone that's difficult to work with. And I had to learn how to navigate spaces where I'm aware of what I want, but how do I have to walk through this space to get to what I want, right? Yeah, I think sometimes people take my personality and my energy and my exuberance as like, okay, but he ain't really about it. But when things hit the fan, I can I can show up with my words. I can I can stand my ground. Because again, I study, right. And I and the older I've gotten, I've learned to really make informed decisions and statements based on things that I really know to be true. And they're not just emotional. So I've just learned during the pandemic, that there were some some folks that thought like, Oh, I'm gonna come for Douglas, and he's just gonna sit there and that's just not the case. Hmm, yeah, no, no, no.

Lisa Hopkins:

I also read somewhere that you said, when you said it earlier today. I always rewrite every rehearsal every preview.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah, so the work is never done. We're always discovering and I think the most important person in the room is the audience. Like on Thursday, I will be In the back of the house with my phone or a pin pad and like listening, because you write a thing to reach, and to effect an audience, not to affect yourself, because you can't buy all the tickets every night to make the show go on. So if a moment that I'm desperately in love with is not landing, it is my job to find out a way to keep it and make sure it lands and or try something new. Yeah. And writing theater writing television writing, in general is the exercise. It's an exercise of trying to figure out how do I grip, grab, move and heal this audience and question them and stir them. And that is that something I'm very in tune with. So if I need to keep rewriting, I will do that until it lands the way I want. during rehearsal, we found a scene that had been there for three years, has a new ending, has an uplifting, emotional release that had never been in the play. But this rehearsal period, like punctured that out, in a very beautiful way. And I'm excited for people to see it, I there may be tears in screens, there may be silence, I don't know how it's gonna land. But that's the exciting thing of why we do what we do.

Lisa Hopkins:

It strikes me too, that it's not about perfection, it's about possibility. It's about growth.

Douglas Lyons:

It will never be perfect, because perfect to one is not perfect to the other. There's no idea of a perfect because the world is an opinion. So I just have to make sure my intentions are perfect. That what I wanted to say. And the way I wanted to say it was perfect in my voice, whether you'd like it or not, that's on you. But there is a perfection and making sure I'm articulating what I want to get across.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yes, in that moment. Yes. Because 10 years from now, you might look back and rewrite, or ...

Douglas Lyons:

Art changes Art changes. And it should because the world changes. And if, as Nina Simone says, you know, the job of an artist is to reflect the times, you got to listen to where we are like I have a new play invisible that I'm developing. And it speaks to the microaggressions of white people towards black and brown bodies. It's not accusatory, it's just fact. It's just going, Hey, when you do this thing and makes us feel this way, you're not a horrible person. But you should be aware that when you do this thing, maybe you just want to think about it. Have a good day, go have some ice cream, that's the play.

Lisa Hopkins:

Well, yeah, and it exists, right? I mean, that you're talking about, you know, being real right and saying something that actually is real. It's and I love that you said you know, it's not accusatory, it's not you know, you're not standing on your on your soapbox, you're just speaking your truth.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah. And that's where healing happens.

Lisa Hopkins:

Indeed, indeed. Amen. Yeah. No, that's, that's brilliant. I love that. Can you share with us where you were on March? I always say March 12. Because that's when Broadway went dark. But, but you know, when the pandemic really shut us down.

Douglas Lyons:

So I was auditioning a production of this new musical called the moon in the sea, with my buddy Creighton irons, and Josh Rhodes, the director, and we were having final callbacks. And we were hearing murmurs of this, you know, Coronavirus thing. And some people would come in the room with masks on and I didn't have I was like, What is going on? I, you know, I sort of stay away from the news. But there were text messages going out that Broadway might shut down. I was like, What Broadway won't do with the amount of money that needs to be made is shut down for anything. Yep. And it did six, the musical was opening that night, canceled opening. And we made it through the auditions. And the executive director Taryn sacrament, the Queen's Theatre, because chicken and biscuits, the world premiere was running. We were supposed to have a performance that night. And she was like, I really just don't think you know, out of the safety of health that we should have a show. And I was sad. But I also realized everything was shutting down, you know, and the show had to open and so I was just grateful that I got to see opening. But everyone's like, well, we back in two weeks. Okay. We weren't. And that night, I think that Friday, I went out dancing or something. And my buddy was like, you should not be out this thing is really serious. And I was like, Okay, okay, and the by the weekend, I was like, this thing is really serious.

Lisa Hopkins:

It's crazy, isn't it? Because on the one hand, a lot of people that I spoke with early on early days, were like, actually, you know what, this is a this is a blessing. I really needed a break. So many people said that to me.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah, I I think I needed a break from my mind. I think I needed a breaking open of a reality that I was not really privy to doing. eight shows a week and being so busy running around the city, that I was not paying attention to the world, paying attention to climate change, paying attention to racism, paying attention to my industry, right? Like, I would go back to where we were to bring back the 600,000 people plus that have died from this thing. But I also feel like our world in our country needed a moment to stop, think and reevaluate ourselves. And if anyone has left this pandemic, the same that they were before, I don't think they got the lesson.

Lisa Hopkins:

What do you think was your I mean, it sounds like I mean, it kind of comes through without even this question. But is there anything else you'd like to add about, like, greatest personal discoveries, things that you learned about yourself through that through your waking up,

Douglas Lyons:

um, my experience as a black man is not shared by all black people. And there will be disagreements within my community based on where people were raised. I'm from New Haven, Connecticut, I was not raised in what is still very much a attention filled racial pot that parts of the South are and so my tolerance and understanding of race relations is different than someone who grew up in Georgia or Alabama and was called names at five years old, you know, that I wasn't right. And making space for that understanding and having dialogue about the differences, even internally, within the black community. And that being okay, and those being difficult conversations. But understanding that we are not monolithic, and we are allowed to disagree, but also can we heal, that's always my question. Can we heal? And how do we do that?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. And if I hear you even deep, if I'm hearing even deeper, it's not even can we heal, but we can heal? And how do we do

Douglas Lyons:

that? Yes, yes. How do we do that if we want to?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, yeah. No, I mean, I really I hear you, I hear that there's a belief that we can. And there's no, there's no sort of end game on that. It's a process, isn't it?

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think I always try to encourage that healing in my work. I write the world that I want to see, and the resources of my experience, and my blackness and my queerness. And I put it and I pour it into the stories, hoping to leave a legacy that will inspire so many behind me.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hmm, I love that. I love that. What do you what do you know will be true about you, no matter what happens?

Douglas Lyons:

I will always believe I will always believe I'm a believer. When I first started writing chicken and biscuits, one of my very close friends said to me, haven't we seen this before? And I'd like to remind him of that as we prepare to go to Broadway. I will believe I will believe when I'm told that it's impossible. I will believe when people don't. I will continue hope I will try to show up for people. And yeah, I'll try to keep going. But I probably will not throw in the towel. It's very hard for me to do that.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, I can see that. I can absolutely see that. What what? Well, two things. It's interesting what you just said, because when he said when your friends said, I haven't seen that before, what was your What was your gut reaction to that?

Douglas Lyons:

It was hurtful. But when we talk about the monolith, that is not blackness, you may have seen the image before, but not the recipe. And so I have learned that I have my own voice, you may take eight characters and give them to the same five playwrights, but you're going to get five different stories with the same characters, right. So you may have seen it before, but you have not felt it in this way necessarily. And I it was a good it was a good lesson because comparison is real. You know, especially when it comes to black images and media. We like to compartmentalize and, and compare and, and the little newness, and even in the title chicken and biscuits, people have been like, Oh, it's a stereotype. And I'm like, no, it's your stereotype. Because for us, it's heritage, it's tradition. It's stories and recipes passed down through conversation never written down. It's laughter It's hugs, its kisses. It's late nights. It's communion. It's something that in the black community actually, is a beautiful thing. Your imagery of what you think it to be is on you. And so it's actually reclaiming the fear around it and owning it as a beautiful thing.

Lisa Hopkins:

Mm hmm. I love that and two things come up for me is that one is when someone says I feel like I've seen that before or heard that before. in a way that's Good thing because you're like, so you feel connected. Nothing, you know what resonated with you? You know, cool. Yeah. I love it again. Yeah. You know, come check it out and see how Yeah, see how you fit into the story. And, and also like he's, you know, as you well know, as an actor that no no two actors play the role the same way, nor do they play the same role each night the same way.

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And there's just so much to be evolved, I think in his art form. I've done a lot of panels recently with Lynn, Nottage and Antoinette from Passover, and talking about what stories are on the Broadway stage and what audiences are being brought in, you know, you maybe have seen it before but not in this space. You have not seen a Gen Z multi color, you know, haired no at all intelligent black girl on a Broadway stage recently. And her fullness, you haven't seen that. You may have seen it in TV and film, but not on Broadway. And that's exciting to me the opportunity to break open this space and say, our stories belong. Our ratchet Auntie who brings Hennessy to the funeral belongs on your Broadway stage because she has a heartbeat and a story to tell. And you should come see it. Yep. And it may relate and make you laugh and make you call your aunt actor who you should have called three months ago.

Lisa Hopkins:

Hell yeah. And you know, it, we all have family, we all have relationships as a matter of color for our skin. We all got stories, we've all got tradition, we've all got, you know, to me, it just sounds like an opportunity to share and commune and learn and laugh and, you know, kind of look at ourselves. I mean, I'm sure I mean, I can feel I know. I mean, I haven't seen it. I don't. But I know that you know, as an audience member, I would be feeling like, yeah, I want to call them if I want to get together with my family. I want to fight. You know, I want to laugh. Yeah, yeah,

Douglas Lyons:

yeah, I have a good friend, her husband, I call him my brother in law. Because when I get around him, I know we're going to disagree about something. And that will be around for 20 minutes, and then it'll come up, whatever. And it's something new every time. And then we'll go over I'm like, Oh, this is why I came over. You don't I mean, there's there's something fun about that. Yeah, it's comforting

Lisa Hopkins:

in a way cuz you know what's gonna happen? Yeah. Yeah. And you got enough in the bank to know that it's not going to ruin anything. You know?

Douglas Lyons:

Yeah. It's, it's, it's how do we, I guess my lesson from COVID to is how do we disagree and move forward? How do we end the relationship and move forward? How do we come back and say, you really hurt me when you did this thing? But I missed you. Like, what is lost in the pain and the divide of everything? Yeah,

Lisa Hopkins:

absolutely. What would you say? What's your definition of living in the moment?

Douglas Lyons:

gratitude always. And if we are living in that space, like being on this podcast right now, having time with you, I've never met in person. But like, this is something to be grateful for. If you are grateful for every living breath. If it goes, if you go before you were meant to gratitude was one of your last things. And so I just try to stay in that space. And it keeps me humble, and it keeps me fed emotionally, spiritually and mentally, because I try not to get too excited or, you know, beefed up with all the things and all the possesses. I'm not that's not what I'm here. I'm here for the work. I'm here to love. And, and it feels good. And then I don't have to worry, because I'm not worried about what people think. I'm just worried about those that love me and the stories I'm trying to tell and what I'm trying to accomplish on this earth.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, that's so beautiful. You shared with me earlier that there are over 25 Broadway debuts in this play.

Douglas Lyons:

There are it's so exciting. It's so exciting. So Zhailon Levingston is the director. He's the youngest African American director in Broadway history. He's 27 years old, and he brought along with him. lighting, hair, sound and set are all debuts. A lot of associates are debuts There are nine out of 13 in the cast that are debuts. It's my debut. It's Jalen, his debut. And there's an energy of electricity behind the production because you have young black designers who have been told Oh, there just aren't that many out there showing up with beautiful work and blowing it away, blowing us all away. And so there's no excuse now, as we go forward to say, oh, they're just not out there or they are because chicken and biscuits was completely a black design team. So you know what I mean? That that is His revolutionary legendary and just darn exciting, I'm just, I'm excited to be a vessel that the story could break open a historic moment on Broadway. It's huge. It's so huge. And the careers I know from my acting perspective, knowing that when people discover these actresses center stage that they have not witnessed. They're going to want to work with them. And that will become their next TV job and their second Broadway show. That that's the beauty. That's exciting to me.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, my God, it's it's like, living legacy like, well, it's just, it's just happening. You're creating legacy. Like, it's so cool. It's not like you've died and this happened. It's like you are putting it on the stage. You know, what are you 34 years old? Yeah. You know, you're putting out on the stage. You've providing all these opportunities, man, when I picked that when I just said that, oh, you wrote There are over 25 abuse of the play your face lit up. I mean, it was unbelievable. The joy coming out of you. Yeah,

Douglas Lyons:

I remember getting my Broadway debut my final callback for the Book of Mormon. It was such a drawn out process, but it was between me and two other guys. And combined. They had seven Broadway credits, I had zero. And I had done the Dream Girls tour. And when I got out of the final callback, I had a voicemail from my music director. At Dream Girls, he said Steven Remus called me as a reference to see how you were to work with. And I gave you a glowing review. It took 48 hours. But when I got that call, I was like, wow. And I remember that elation. And I want to give that elation to so many deserving artists. August Wilson did it for Viola Davis and into Washington with his work. And he's getting his flowers now, but he's gone. And there are many ancestors who were talented writers who were not able to be seen or allowed in the space because of their race alone. I was watching some recap from the Emmys. And Debbie Allen was honored with the governor's award. And I think it was the Houston ballet. She was like a prodigy when she was 12 or something like that. And they didn't let her in the first time because of the color of her skin. Debbie Allen. Yeah. Yeah, so it is my responsibility. And I take it very seriously, that as a 34 year old black man, if I'm able to get in this space, I got to tear it down, I have to stamp it out. I have to make it a moment. Because a moment will then become a standard and a standard will then become every day. And that's what we aim to do.

Lisa Hopkins:

Well, what stands out with you is you're doing it through from a beautiful place. You're not doing it from a confrontational place. No, at all. Like to me, to me as a white white person. It's it's joyous. I mean, it's like no, this is this is the time this is what I can do this is and and I think what's amazing, too, about this particular cast in this particular show, is that it happened really quickly if I understand in terms of it's suddenly being brought,

Douglas Lyons:

the family really came together and we found what I like to call unicorns in casting people who bring their own sauce to the test. And it makes it better and it's different. It's maybe different than what I intended, but it's special and it lands. And that's what you want. Yeah.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. No 100% real quick. What I like to do is I just say what makes you and I say a word and you say what comes to mind? It doesn't need to be rapidfire it can be it doesn't need to be great. So what makes you hungry?

Douglas Lyons:

I can't say I can't say that. Um I'll say greenery. Okay. Did you get it?

Lisa Hopkins:

I think but you want to enlighten me.

Douglas Lyons:

I will leave that one to the ether. Enjoy.

Lisa Hopkins:

Okay, perfect. Fun. love to be in your head what you're really thinking. Right and what makes you what makes you sad?

Douglas Lyons:

homelessness. People who are struggling because they are not loved. They have good hearts and good intentions. But they live in a very sour Spirit because they're not loved. It makes me sad.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. What What inspires you

Douglas Lyons:

Like Debbie Allen's speech, I love watching award winning speeches because the work it took to get to that moment and all the people that surround that person are spoken in that moment. And that's really, you know, Debbie Allen in her speech, she said, You know, I grew up doing X, Y, and Z. And she ended the speech with, and now it's your turn. that inspires me, because I felt like, Oh, yeah, I was eating. I was like, Oh, yeah, Debbie. Oh, yeah, it's my turn. Let's go check it a bit. Like, let's leave a legacy. You know that. That was really exciting for me. The ancestors inspire me. I have James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Cicely Tyson on my writing wall.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yep. Yeah. Brilliant. what frustrates you.

Douglas Lyons:

Racism is so stupid. It's just, it's a concept that has ruined the fabric of what this world could be. It's so stupid. And it's ruined so much of our humanity. It's fresh, it makes the hate of it makes no sense. To me.

Lisa Hopkins:

Agreed. What m kes you laugh?

Douglas Lyons:

senseless videos of joy and family. I think family is a component that I will always go to in my work. There's something about the layers and the ugliness and the messiness and the healing of family that I'm just dropped to.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, no, I love that. What makes you angry,

Douglas Lyons:

inconsiderate New Yorkers? The ones that stand in front of the entrance of the subway car and don't move when you're trying to get in? Or that step in before you get I scream, I scream at them.

Lisa Hopkins:

What do you say?

Douglas Lyons:

Move? Can I get up move? Let me off this train. What is wrong with you people.

Lisa Hopkins:

And finally, what makes you grateful?

Douglas Lyons:

Life, this moment The opportunity to be an artis full time is such a gift There's so many people that wan to do this thing. And canno because resources or access, o time or family or whatever. An so to call myself an artist 36 days a year is a gift that is blessing. And I do not take i for granted

Lisa Hopkins:

What are the what are the top three things that have happened so far today?

Douglas Lyons:

I had an interview panel with Antoinette and Lynn for a CIA Columbia talk. I'm speaking with you and my roommate had a final callback for a Broadway show. And so I'm I'm crossing I said a prayer for him. And I'm crossing my fingers that it happens because he's worked so hard.

Lisa Hopkins:

Beautiful. What's something that you're most looking forward to?

Douglas Lyons:

a vacation? I'm not good at vacations. I will work through my vacation. Because I do writing you know, by myself anyway. So but I need when we open. I need to go away the next day. My mentor Charles Randolph Wright had booked a flight. I think either the opening night or the following morning of Motown just he didn't read the reviews. He just escaped. And I feel like that's the healthy thing I need to do. But the actor in me. I don't know if I'll be able to do that. But when I put my phone away and like if they're not great reviews, I'm just like, Don't talk to me. feldspar

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, yeah, I know. I know. Fair enough. Oh, my gosh. Douglas has been really an absolute pleasure speaking with you today and getting to, to know you a little bit. Really, thanks so much for spending the time. Thank you for having me. Oh my god, it's my pleasure. I've been speaking today with Douglas Lyons. I am Lisa Hopkins stay safe and healthy everyone. And remember to live in the moment. And while you're at it, be part of history and go see chicken and biscuits on Broadway on Broadway. Congratulations, man. I'm so excited for you. Thank you so much. Yes, married and it's gonna be amazing and love to the to the cast and crew and everybody.

Douglas Lyons:

Um, I'm i think i think it could be some I don't know. We'll see. We'll so

Lisa Hopkins:

it'll be something. Either way. Exactly. Enjoy the ride in music stop time in that beautiful moment where the band is suspended and rhythmic unison supporting the soloist to express their individuality. In the moment, I encourage you to take that time and create your own rhythm. Until next time, I'm Lisa Hopkins. Thanks for listening