As Broadway begins to reopen its theatres, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Charity Angél Dawson, who will return to the role of Becky when Tony and Emmy nominee Sara Bareilles once again steps into the central role of her musical Waitress beginning September 2 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The actor, who made her Broadway debut in the revival of Side Show, also created the role of Wanda Sellner in the new musical Mrs. Doubtfire, which will resume performances October 21 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Dawson was seen Off-Broadway in Disaster! and regionally in Kiss Me, Kate; Dreamgirls; The Color Purple; and Aida. Her screen credits include Little Voice and Theresa Is a Mother.
What is your typical day like now?
Well, now that we’ve started rehearsals, my days are moving a lot different than they were a week ago! LOL. A week ago I was cooking and doing puzzles and blowing bubbles. Basically trying to stay sane and afloat! To that end, I started a business during the shutdown. It’s called Who Tryna Get A Plate?! It’s a vegan soul food business. I’ve been doing small dinner parties as well as doing weekly menus, taking orders, and delivering food to my customers! It’s been wonderful tapping into a new passion and to be creative in a different way. I’m in the process of figuring out how the business will look now that we’re back to work. I’ll really want to keep it going. Now we’re back in the swing of things in the rehearsal room, and it feels fantastic!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I’ve read and reread Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Her writing is fantastic, and the world she has crafted thrills and moves me to my core. Also, I can’t stop listening to Laura Mvula’s Pink Noise album. Listen to it! Read the lyrics, and gather your blessing! LOL.
The video of you and the Waitress company performing "Opening Up" for the first time is so joyful. What was it like reuniting with many of your previous cast mates?
It was such a wonderful day. What an amazing reunion! I am so ecstatic to be back with so many dear friends creating this beautiful show!
How do you feel about returning to live performances?
I am very excited to return to live performances. I realized I was holding some anxiety about it. Not because I feared COVID, but because I was worried if it would even happen at all. Thankfully I’ve been able to release that and simply enjoy the moment.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
I would say I understand your unease. It’s a funny thing trying to get back to life as usual. We are all doing our part to keep the theatre a safe, secure COVID-free space. The theatre is a sacred place where magic is created, and I hope you have peace to come and share in that magic with us again.
Is there anything about Waitress or your role that speaks to you differently following the past 18 months?
Oh absolutely! My song “I Didn’t Plan It” is about taking a big bite out of life. Betting on yourself and taking a chance to reach out for some bit of happiness and life for yourself. I feel the message so much deeper after this last 18 months. After the hell we’ve all endured, I think it’s so important to bet on ourselves and to hope and dream again.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I want everyone to understand the truth that we are all one. We are all connected. What I inflict on you I inflict on myself. We as humans have created false structures of hierarchy and power that simply aren’t real. Even in the business of theatre. We are collaborators. No one is more important than anyone else. I would like us all to break down the walls we’ve erected and to come back to the truth. Which is love. Love is all that is real. Love is the healer. Love is where we find life and wholeness.
What advice would you give to someone who may still be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I would say you are not alone. I’m with you. We have struggled, and we will indeed overcome these momentary troubles. I try and remember that it is darkest before the dawn. That hope is real. That love and laughter and wholeness is here for us all even in the midst of these trials we’re facing. Reach out to your sources and any support you can to remind yourself of these things. I know that has helped me greatly during this time.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
The Okra Project! I was introduced to this fantastic organization through its brilliant founder, Ianne Fields Stewart. The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans people wherever they can reach them.