An interview with Ensemble Members Jamil Chokachi and DeLance Minefee during rehearsals for On the Flip Side.
Jamil: What first interested you in BrickaBrack?
DeLance: I was brought to BrickaBrack by a friend of mine, Angela Nahigian; she understood my aesthetic, you know, she thought it might be something I would be interested in. I came to the first audition and then sat down with GG afterwards and decided this was perfect, this is exactly what I wanted to do... once I saw what the plan was, the mission, and I jumped right in.
J: What do you enjoy most about working with the BrickaBrack Ensemble?
D: I really love ensemble work. I like the give-and-take, and the trust that builds between artists when we're working together towards a common goal, the creativity when everybody's firing on all cylinders. I like group work... I started out as a jock playing lots of team sports, football and basketball, so I’ve always liked working with the team, there's something about…
J: The unity…
D: Yeah, the unity of it…
J: What's the most memorable postcard you've received?
D: The most memorable postcard... I don't get many; I don't have many people that send postcards. So I guess the most memorable one would be from the first agent... I had an agent send me a postcard when I first moved to Chicago. I had sent all of these mass mailings a couple weeks before I moved to Chicago - and to get the first card from someone interested in meeting me… I guess that was the most memorable card only because, I still have it! But it was just like one of those, "Thank you for submitting, we’re really interested in you…"
J: They don’t normally do that…(chuckle)
D: (chuckle) They don’t normally do that... My favorite card that I've ever received from a friend of mine... We went to college together, she's an amazing actress/director, and she just loves to write. She's very diligent about sending out postcards and stuff like that. She sent me a card when I first moved to New York; it was the first mail that I received in New York. She sent me many cards, but that one really made me realize "Oh, I have an address in New York City!"
J: Cool!… If you sent a postcard right now, to whom would you send it?
D: Hmm... Send a postcard to anyone? Living or dead? I would send a postcard to my mom, just cause, she's my mom and I haven't talked to her in a long time…… Living? I would send it to my best friend, Daniel McElderry, we called him "Pale Face" growing up. He and I were best friends and I always keep in touch with him…
J: Where was this?
D: Arkansas, he's still in Arkansas. He - although he's very creative - he went into plumbing and settled down with a family. He's still my best friend, but we just don't see each other, so I would send him a postcard: "Hey - what's up, how's the kids? From the Big City, waiting for you to come visit!" Yeah Dan McElderry a.k.a. "Pale Face"... (laughing)
J: (Laughing) What profession would you attempt if you had to get out of the entertainment business?
D: If I had to get out of the entertainment business? I think law. That was my initial idea in the first place, I really wanted to do criminal defense. But then I realized, those guys are just actors in a court room with someone's life at stake - and I'd rather not have someone's life at stake while I'm acting. I always thought that I wanted to be a teacher, but I teach some now and I don't know if I would do it knowing what I know now. Probably law, something that makes a lot of money; marketing. I feel - no - I know that if I were in any other field with the drive that I have, the accomplishments that I've made, if that translated to another profession, I would be at the top of my game. Anything where there's competition; I even thought about the military for a while. The hierarchy has always been a draw to me; I like climbing to the top. I like being the best.
J: Do you have a Travel Bucket List?
D: Oooh, Travel Bucket List! Japan is my number one place. When I was a kid Japan seemed like the furthest away from Arkansas. In my head that was the other side of the planet; so far removed from everything that I grew up knowing. I was intrigued by Japan's culture and their theater and cinema... I remember one of first movies that I really watched was this film series called Zatoichi - it's about this blind swordsman who travels from town to town, kind of a vagabond. Like one of those Westerns where the old ranger is walking around doing good but accepting no praise. I remember watching his acting, thinking, "Oh my gosh, to be blind..." Because he's not blind but he's acting like it, and his nuances really intrigued me. And there was some point where I had watched it so many times that I stopped reading the subtitles, and I knew it by the intonations. I don't know Japanese at all but I could just turn the subtitles off and watch the movie. It's always been a goal of mine to go to Japan. There was an essay contest when I was in high school to do a foreign exchange with Japan, to go over there and study for six months. I entered, and they told me that I was the only African-American to even apply. And it came down to me and one other person, and they really wanted to give it to me, but I had too many misspellings in my essay….
D: (Laughing) So Japan is still number one; Seoul number two; number three is probably Brazil. Number four is probably Amsterdam, maybe Switzerland...
J: I love Amsterdam…
D: Number five I guess would be South Africa. I've always liked South Africa... I've always been intrigued, the caste system and the politics - apartheid was a big awakening for me. I found it the same time I found Malcolm X. I'd like to go and study the culture as opposed to a vacation. Know what I mean? Japan is top though... Right before I got accepted into graduate school [DeLance attended the A.R.T. program at Harvard], I had applied to teach English in Japan. I had plans, I talked to the company and had it set up; and then I got the acceptance letter and I was like, "Well, I've got to go to grad school!"
J: No doubt…
D: But if I hadn't gotten into grad school, I would probably still be in Japan.
J: That’s crazy how life turns…
D: Just a complete divergence…
J: Okay, so, last one: If you could send a postcard to yourself right now, to a point in time in your past, to what age would you send it?...
J: And why? What would you advise?
D: Huh, wow….
J: Whether or not it would change anything or enhance anything...
D: Oh I'm pretty sure if I got a postcard from myself from the future I would definitely take heed… I'm a big believer in science fiction and if I got something from the future, it's time to listen! Umm... I think I would send a card back to freshman year of college and I would tell myself, "Transfer to a bigger school in undergrad." I went to Henderson State University, which was a great school. I loved the program and I everything that I got out of it, but I feel like I could've gotten a little bit more had I been at a bigger program in a bigger city. After I graduated, I had to take an extra step to figure out how to live in a city. I went to Chicago first and then came to New York. If I was going to college in Chicago, I feel like I could've skipped the step. But that's not saying I would want to relive my college years. I just think that if I had gone to a bigger school when I had the opportunity, then it might've given me more motivation to do more on my own. Yeah, send that postcard to a younger me in college!
On the Flip Side runs September 14 - 17 at HERE.
Musings by the BrickaBrack Ensemble