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Alumni Duane Richards II on Playing Willie and Simon in ‘Blackberry Daze’ at MetroStage

Alumni Duane Richards II on Playing Willie and Simon in ‘Blackberry Daze’ at MetroStage

Ayana Reed (Carrie) and Duane Richards II (Simon). Photo by Chris Banks.

You attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts. How has your training there helped you to prepare for your roles here and elsewhere where you have appeared on the stage?

I will never be able to say enough about Duke. It’s simply an experience like no other. In the theatre department alone, we learned exercises and techniques from all over the world, in addition to learning how to direct, write, produce, and stage manage. But beyond that, we were able to collaborate with other departments and learn even more about singing and dancing and everything else the school had to offer.

For Blackberry, I think the most influential training for me was our movement work in the Theater Department (taught by Dawn Naser). Specifically, we were taught about how everyone leads with a different body part when they walk, and what this says about them before they say a word. In terms of differentiating Simon and Willie, I pay a lot of attention to what my body is doing. Willie is loose and rough in his movement, the kind of person that you could see is always ready for a fight. Simon is much more straight-laced and clean cut, he walks straighter than Willie and controls his energy much better. Vocally, there are tons of vocal warm-ups and exercises that I learned at Duke and do/use before every show…..

Click here for full article. (DC Metro Theater Arts)