By: Monteque Pope-Le Beau
Edited By :Colleen Page
*Images By: Ms. Lonnie Calvin
The Art of Monteque got a chance to sit down with the phenomenal Ms. Lonnie Calvin as she prepares to showcase her second theatrical production of “Miz Bonnie’s Band”. The first was in March 2013. Ms. Lonnie Calvin is indeed an extraordinary woman, who’s childhood in Chicago was full of abuse and neglect by parents suffering from substance addiction. But instead of giving into the endless cycle of hopelessness and drugs, Ms. Lonnie Calvin chose a different path. She was empowered by her love of books and a strong belief in herself. This took Ms. Lonnie Calvin into the field of health care, allowing her to be a world traveler, but beyond that it helped her rise above circumstances.
Thank you, for allowing us to do this interview with you.
Lonnie Calvin: You’re most welcome. I must say the pleasure is all mine.
Likewise. This is your very first theatrical production?
LC: Yes, it is!
What is this production about?
LC: MBB – Miz Bonnie is an aspiring song writer, whose truth-telling lyrics in one of her songs, places her at odds with her mother. The song exposes family secrets, dysfunction, and give insight into Miz Bonnie’s healing and personal triumph. Meanwhile, Miz Bonnie’s Band members deal with drama, success and failures, in old and new relationships. They are a ‘family’ who laugh, cry, work, and play together.
This story sounds very close to your heart.
LC: It is apart of me. It is a labor of love.
Why did you want to do this production?
LC: Because of my love of live theatre, storytelling, varied music genres, I wanted to showcase these art forms in the most inclusive format possible.
Why is it so special to you?
LC: Miz Bonnie’s Band uses comedy, music, songs, and dialogues to broach some important but sometimes uncomfortable subject matters, such as the impact in adulthood of children’s exposure to abuse, trauma, and neglect. Viewers see how some people find redemption, forgiveness, and courage to rise above their circumstances.
What are the things that you have had to overcome during the production?
LC: I had to overcome the fear of releasing my day job as a healthcare professional, to pursue my dream job of writing and producing my own songs and plays.
What is the theme of your work?
LC: The evolutionary, triumphant, and forgiving nature of the human spirit when it is inspired, compelled, nurtured, and cultivated.
What do you want the audience to walk away with?
LC: I want the audience to leave with the thoughts that negative words and actions can have a long lasting impact; just as positive words and deeds can inspire compassion, healing, and meaningful change.
With all you had gone through, what made you want to be an artist?
LC: I think I’ve always been an artist as I’ve always been a writer of poems, short stories, essays, etc. What made me want to be a ‘full time’ artist is the realization that the stories I want to tell, the plays I want to see, and the music I want to hear, is up to me to create.
What does art mean to you and what is your definition of what makes an artist?
LC: To me, art is the soul expressing itself. The artist is compelled to create and is a better human being for their membership in this tribe. Art is an expression of sounds, sights, thoughts, and feelings that has the potential to expand one’s Spirit and the ability to inspire change and growth in others.
What or who influenced you?
LC: I first fell in love with the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks and the novels of Donald Goines, and Maya Angelou. Their stories and characters strongly resonated with me as the people they wrote about were related to me and lived in my community. Later, Christine Houston’s stage play ‘227’ which became a hit television show and the portrayal of Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley, performed brilliantly by Whoopi Goldberg, in a one woman stage show influenced me to continue writing my stories and eventually, my own play.
What are you passionate about?
LC: I am passionate about making meaningful connections with others, helping support causes I believe in (ie: breast cancer awareness/prevention, public health, etc.), supporting the arts and artists. I enjoy traveling, learning, teaching, spending time with seniors, dancing like no one is watching, and sharing my art with the public, in hopes that others will learn, evolve, and be inspired.
Being a women of color how do you see the role of women in the arts which seems to be dominated by men; especially in the theater?
LC: I see there is room and a need for our stories, in our voices. There are also audiences who want to hear and see our shows. There is a need for us to inspire, influence, and encourage other women to share their visions and voices. They will be the shoulders that our future women will stand on just as we stand on the shoulders of those before us.
How do you see the Arts role in society, especially with all of the attacks which have been placed upon it?
LC: Art is necessary as artists create truth, light, and beauty. Art challenges us to think, feel, take action, and evolve as human beings.
If you are having a dinner party and you could only invite six guests, who would they be and why?
Christine Houston – While we both were attending Kennedy King College in Chicago, she wrote the first play I ever fell in love with, ‘227’ which inspired me to believe, I too could do the same. I would also like to thank her for inspiring me.
Whoopi Goldberg – Not only do I think she is a creative genius, she is a socially conscious humanitarian who has raised millions to help others. I would also like to thank her for inspiring me.
Oprah Winfrey – I would like to interview her, to know what other goals and dreams she has. What continues to inspire her? I would also like to congratulate her on her many successes, and thank her for being an open vessel to be used to shine God’s light into millions of hearts and minds, including mine.
Kandi Burress – singer, playwright, and Grammy award winning songwriter who is someone I would love to mentor me as she has already achieved so much of what I’d love to.
Tyler Perry – I know I would learn so much from him because he also started his playwright journey as humbly as I have, in small theaters, in front of small audiences, and with his own resources.
Bishop Desmond Tutu – His passion for peace, justice, love, & dignity for all humanity inspires me. I would like to learn from his teachings.
That is a very interesting list?
LC: Indeed! The list of my dreams.
Can we come?
LC: Sure! Why not… We’ll have a feast!
What advice would you give up and coming artists?
LC: Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. You will be a better artist and person for doing so. Cultivate meaningful relationships, as you will need genuine supportive connections on your journey. Work whatever job you need to, to save money to do what you want to do. Have money reserved for the lean times. Support other artists in general and humanity in particular. If you work for causes bigger than yourself, the Universe will provide for you. Continue to study, learn, & grow as a person and artist. Bless and Release negativity, it will not serve positive ambitions. Above all, treat others as you wish to be treated. [TAOMR]
Here is the behind the scenes of “Miz Bonnie’s Band”
Here is a invitation to see “Miz Bonnie’s Band” this Sunday June 15 by Ms. Lonnie Calvin. Please come out and show your support.
Miz Bonnie’s Band delivers drama, comedy, and substance, set to original songs and music! Miz Bonnie is an aspiring songwriter and one of her songs puts her family on blast, which places her at serious odds with her mother’s desire to guard family secrets. Miz Bonnie then has to choose between her dream and her Mom. What would you do?
Prepare to see the drama, laugh at the comedy, learn the secrets, and jam to the music of Miz Bonnie’s Band! One show only.
Sunday, June 15th, 5pm at the beautiful Celebrity Center in Hollywood, 5930 Franklin (parking lot around the corner on Bronson) Get your tickets Today!!
For more information go to www.we-have.com
* Please note Ms. Lonnie did not take the Images. Only provided them for the article.