After talking with her about her role in “Fela!” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (more on that later), I brought up the “rumored” — a.k.a. confirmed — Destiny’s Child reunion at the Super Bowl.
I have been studiously preparing for this long-awaited event by rewatching all of the group’s music videos, refreshing my memories of out-of-date technology — pagers, AOL e-mail addresses — and reading relevant passages from “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
When asked if the rumblings were true, Williams just said: “I wish I could help you! It’s still up in the air.”
Oh is it now?
Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Web site has already posted in big ol’ red letters that Williams will not be appearing in “Fela!” from Thursday through Sunday. Now, there are plenty of possible explanations for this. She could be headed to New Orleans to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. I suppose she could also have a broken DVR and doesn’t want to miss this weekend’s “Downton Abbey.”
She did say that when Destiny’s Child got back together in the studio to record “Nuclear,” the only new number on the group’s compilation album “Love Songs,” “some of the last words we said to each other was, ‘Dang, we sound good together!’ That’s just the truth. The harmonies that we’re able to do. The connection is so divine. We might not come together again for a while, but it feels like picking things up . . . like no time has passed.”
In related news, Williams had plenty of not-misleading things to say about her role in “Fela!,” which is returning to Shakespeare Theatre Company after a successful run in 2011. She plays Sandra Izsadore, Fela’s lover and mentor.
Fela Kuti was a Nigerian musician and performer, a trailblazer for Afrobeat music, and a political activist who used songs to speak out for human rights and against the military regime in his country.
Izsadore told Kuti, “Have passion about something, absolutely, but be educated about what you’re so passionate about,” Williams said. “Have you ever been in an argument with someone, and they’re so passionate, but they haven’t done any research on it?”
Clearly Williams is new to Washington.
“You can tell when people are just regurgitating what they’ve heard other people say,” Williams said. Izsadore “saw so much in [Fela], and she just wanted him to be the whole package. . . . Fela had every right to feel what he felt. He was living in Nigeria. He knew the corruption. And she also wanted him to know that black people in America were going through the same things that [Nigerians] were going through. So that’s why she wanted to educate him on Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.”
Izsadore’s advice to Williams: “Make sure that I’m strong. Don’t be afraid to tell them how it is.”
Through Feb. 10, Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. www.shakespearetheatre.org, 202-547-1122.
Phillips, Arena collaborate on ‘The Grand Parade’
In conjunction with the world premiere of “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)” at Arena Stage, the Phillips Collection is hosting “Chagall as Theater Muse,” a discussion of the artist and how his work inspired the play. Director Stacy Klein and members of the Double Edge Theatre company will talk about the process behind the wordless performance, which Klein describes as “a living, moving painting” that travels from 1900 to 2000, decade by decade, through video, music and puppetry.
The Phillips event is the second of its kind; the museum and Arena previously collaborated on the Mark Rothko-centric “Red.” “The Grand Parade” program will “offer some insight into the creative process, both of Chagall and of Double Edge,” said Ann Greer, moderator of the Phillips’s theater programs. Double Edge will bring puppets and costumes, and there will be a video presentation that splices scenes from the show with Phillips curators talking about Chagall. The only Chagall work at the Phillips, “The Dream,” will be on display.
“We decided to start exploring the 20th century, which was convenient because Chagall spanned with the 20th century,” Klein said. “The development from rural to urban, the wars, the Russian revolution: All of these things were painted by Chagall. . . . So we started exploring his paintings in relation to the century and to myth.”
“We’ve chosen the things which are most important to us and provided a narrative through media,” Klein said. “It starts with radio and ends with TV and projections.” Actors represent icons — Amelia Earhart, Jackie Kennedy, Groucho Marx — and archetypes, such as a 1950s housewife. The piece runs an hour, with each decade zooming past in about six minutes.
“I think sometimes when people see a production, they sort of see it on the face of it,” Greer said. “What we’re doing is providing a window into what goes into a production. The actors [and designers] always do a deep study, and I think it’s very interesting for people to get a glimmer or that. I think it enriches their experience.”
Thursday at 6 p.m., 1600 21st St. NW. Tickets available at www.phillipscollection.org.
Michael Kahn inducted into Theater Hall of Fame
Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn — along with producer/director Andre Bishop, actor Betty Buckley, playwright Christopher Durang, director Trevor Nunn, costume designer Martin Pakledinaz, playwright Paula Vogel and actor Sam Waterston — was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in New York on Monday. To qualify, hall of famers must have worked in theater for at least 25 years and have at least five major Broadway production credits. Inductees are selected via vote from a list of more than 50 nominees by the 350-plus members of the Theater Hall of Fame and the American Theatre Critics Association. Kahn joins an impressive list that includes Fred Astaire, Edward Albee and Julie Andrews — and those are just a few from the A’s.