I recently lost a great friend of mine. His name was Charles E. Drew Jr. and he was one of… NO. He was THE MOST creative and prolific artist and writer I have ever known. Charles wrote plays and musicals the totals of which are still being tallied. Not only did he write because that’s just who he was and what he did but he also produced and directed his plays, constantly sharing his work with other artists and audiences all over America. His writing was a manifestation of his huge, multi cultural, magnanimous soul.
He told stories about people from all walks of life and from many differing cultures. The subjects of his plays varied from football players and cheerleaders “Somewhere in Texas” to getting “86’d” from an 8th Avenue, Port Authority NYC Hustler Bar to the story of”Jacob and Sara”‘ a newly married Orthodox Jewish couple living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn then “Back to the Barrio” and the bodega and cuchifrito culture of Spanish Harlem all the way overseas to an Italian family of circus clowns in “November 10th, 1989”. His plays captured the universal humor and pathos of humanity but he also celebrated the subtle nuances of each culture also. His characters were young, old, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Italian, American heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, black, brown, white, off white but always colorful.
Charles’s writing was bold and unapologetic yet sensitive and subtle, full of heart and soul and never ever without humor. As a writer he was the best gift any young actor looking to do meaningful work in the NYC theater scene could ask for. I do not know where I would be as an artist if I hadn’t linked up with Charles and became an honorary “munster” of his Absolute Theater Co. Charles challenged me to expand and grow as an artist by giving me creative opportunities and roles that point blank scared the shit out of me.
In his epic play “Jacob and Sarah”, I play a man who develops feelings for his co-worker Jacob Feldman, a young Orthodox Jewish man who is paying my character to pee on him. Yup, you heard that correctly. That role and play in particular was witnessed by Al Pacino who was so inspired by Charles’s writing and the play that he made a financial contribution to the Co. which allowed us to take that play and others to Los Angeles, which I personally was able to parlay into finding a manager and subsequently transitioning into the film and television industry.
Charles provided 100’s of people like myself the opportunity to create and thrive as artists. His Absolute Theater Company’s annual Urban Fairy Tale Theater Festival provided so many actors the opportunity to sink their teeth into juicy meaty material . He was always encouraging those around him to draw from their own soul’s experiences and to write down their own stories. He appreciated and celebrated people for who they were with all of their unique “munster” idiosyncrasies and foibles and not who he wanted them to be. He was an enigmatic spirit with a huge loving heart in a big lumbering body. He was a lot. He was loved a lot and by a lot of different people. I have never been this personally close to someone who has had such a profound emotional and meaning full effect on so many people in so many different ways . And it has made me so much more aware of the importance of legacy.
What are we going to leave for others to reflect upon after our time in this body is through. Whether you are an artist like Charles or an inventor whose creations actually change the plight of the world like Steve Jobs or you might just be a simple, kind, generous, loving, loyal family member like my dear (little grandmother) Abuelita who had such a profound effect on family, friends, and total strangers in her life alike. What we do, how we choose to live, the actions we take to create our lives moment to moment from birth to death will continue to be felt and produce a resounding wave of meaning and significance in the wake after the wake.
I’m so grateful and thankful for all of the inspiration of Charles E. Drew Jr., Muhammed Ali, PRINCE and all of those who passionately lived and created and who were unapologetic about celebrating their unique god given gifts , creative powers, and soulful re-evolutionary perspectives.
Blessed with this magical breath of life, I pledge to live my life with passion and compassion and to continue to create new realms of positive creative possibilities.
WE MUST CELEBRATE WHO WE ARE IN ORDER TO CREATE WHO WE WANT TO BE!