SHOWCASING ARTIST: PAE (PERFORMING ARTS EXCHANGE) 2008 JURIED SHOWCASE
The critically praised actor, writer and historian's one-man play brings to the stage the life and death of the man whose efforts forever altered the face of America and the racial makeup of society. From such important figures as Ralph Abernathy, Medgar Evans, Andrew Young, to Sheriff Bill Conner and George Wallace, Scott brings the history and passion of the civil rights leader to the stage in what the Mobile Press called "superb...[Scott's] hypnotic delivery is uncanny." Through speeches, crusades, and re-enactments of important events, Scott enlivens the audience and revisits a time of great violence and turmoil in American history as he leads a new generation through the history that brought the freedoms of today.
BARRY SCOTT’S AIN’T GOT LONG TO STAY HERE GRABS THE AUDIENCE— AND NEVER LETS THEM GO
Gifted Nashville Actor Re-Creates the Civil Rights Era, Conjures the Spirit of Dr. King, and Leaves a Diverse Crowd Much to Ponder About the True Color of Race Relations
First-time audiences for Barry Scott’s Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here might go into it thinking they’ll be experiencing the performance of a Martin Luther King, Jr., imitator. Without question, this one-man tour de force draws a lot of its strength from King’s key speeches and writings, and, when he wants to, Scott—one of the country’s premier actors, African American or otherwise—is capable of finding and dramatically re-creating the great civil rights leader’s stirring rhythms and powerful exhortations.
But Scott is no imitator. He’s a stage veteran gifted with commanding presence and a flexible voice that can croon as easily as it bellows. He uses his broad range to create diverse characters, both black and white, both comic and deadly serious, that offer a mosaic of those critical days in the 1960s, when the struggle for racial equality became a lightning-rod issue that begat protest, violence, in some cases death, and forced the eyes of America to focus on events in the South.
To his great credit, Scott chooses to give us more than only Martin. It is, after all, more than 40 years since Rev. King won the Nobel Peace Prize, and his historic leadership in places like Montgomery and Selma—not to mention his heroic speechifying—are matters of public record, television documentaries, and the history books now. When Scott raises his voice in Kingly fashion, we certainly get the essence of events such as the March on Washington in 1963 and the fatalism of the minister’s final emotional speech in Memphis in 1968 the night before his assassination. But Scott is ultimately after more in his performance than applause for conjuring a great man’s spirit.
More than anything, Scott is willing his audience to listen and observe, to reflect on what’s historical, and then to allow themselves to honestly feel—to search deeply within and express what it all means to them in the here and now. After the considerable applause dies down—there is plenty of that, and a standing ovation no less—Scott engages his audience directly with a sincere round of questions, surmises, and thoughtful discussion-starters that push the boundaries of response beyond the academic and into our contemporary real lives.
“What do you FEEL?” Scott asks audience members, moving eagerly to and fro and amidst a throng of more than 200 people, seated raptly in Nashville’s Christ Church Cathedral. This simple inquiry successfully rouses responses on all levels, from all quarters.
“Sadness,” responds a young black woman. “Hopeful,” says an older white woman. A passel of hands go up around the nave of the church, and suddenly it is clear that everyone has been moved by the show, and everyone is struggling to confront the tales that Scott has told through his minor characters as well as through the famous, galvanizing words of the formidable King.
“I feel robbed,” says a young white man, and indeed this outburst seems to ring true for all. Everyone looks around at everyone else now, and one is struck by the very interesting fact that this audience is almost exactly 50-50 black and white. Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here is clearly not one of those ethno-centric programs designed to appeal only to the automatic audience. There’s too much history in what Scott is doing. His scenarios are known by all Americans of every color, economic class and culture. Finally, there’s too much reality.
The hands continue going up, Scott calls on his audience, and one by one, we get glimpses not only into how these disparate people feel about the importance of the civil rights movement but also how they feel about things today in the world at large and in their own lives. One black woman is induced to expound on her beliefs that classism and economic disparity are more divisive in modern-day America than mere racism. Another expresses beliefs that things are better in the modern world where race relations are concerned, then still wonders why we have still further to go.
Scott picks up the thread of this discussion, which pretty generally leaves one with the feeling that the proposition set before us may be a case of the glass being half empty or half full. In any case, rarely does one witness such an uninhibited display of audience volunteerism. Everyone wants—no, it’s more than that: they NEED—to get on record. Spontaneity rules.
Finally, a white middle-aged man stands. He says, without fear, “I feel shamed. I grew up in Mississippi, and I was a young person when all this happened. But I feel shamed that I had no inkling that this was going on at all. I didn’t even become conscious of it till I was much older, and even then I don’t think I understood, or was capable of understanding, what it was all about. What I just saw brought it all into focus for me.”
So there’s another thing that Scott is doing: teaching. He acts; he provokes thought; he teaches. And yet he also does that one thing that every sincerely gifted actor must do: He entertains as well.
Scott’s performance is a solo one all the way, but he’s not completely alone on stage. He has various costumes to accompany his portrayals of preachers, civil rights workers, Alabama cops, Klansmen, and other folks of the era. Rear-screen projections are also there, displaying well-known archival images of King, the movement, the marches for equality, the police brutality, and some of those who died for the cause. The latter include the four young black girls who perished in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Scott delivers excerpts of King’s eulogy on the “democracy of death” over these pictures, and it’s a thoroughly haunting segment.
Adding to the show’s overall effect is a rich soundtrack of piano and strings, which swells and then pulls back into the background, synchronized to the dynamics of Scott’s performance, which runs about 75 minutes in one single act without intermission.
The post-show talk-back session would run that long as well if Scott had more time. And even when the evening’s been officially called to a halt, folks still line up to shake his hand and talk to him about what they’ve just witnessed.
Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here is, without question, something unique. It is theater that brings to the fore visceral human feeling, but it doesn’t end when the curtain rings down. You get your money’s worth of show business, for sure. But what you also get is a chance to exit the experience feeling enlightened—about one’s own self and about where you stand in the adventuresome pluralistic world of the 21st Century.
“What is past is prologue,” Shakespeare wrote. Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here is a perfect example of that. Never have the words of Dr. King seemed more inspiring, more audaciously correct. Never has the history of a social movement seemed more relevant. “Keep moving forward,” Scott cries, echoing his long-late mentor. “Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward...”
And we do. We will. We must. We have to. Only now, the beacon of self-knowledge that lights the way burns a whole lot brighter.
In Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here, Barry Scott successfully channels Martin Luther King, Jr., and for that we are grateful to the actor. But that’s only part of the story. The rest you have to see to believe.
Barry Scott’s “Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
An authority on the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barry Scott created his tribute to Dr. King to teach a generation of students about one of America’s most violent and inspiring times and the man who mobilized a generation of people and changed the world. In this hour long program, Mr. Scott discusses Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in his lecture and actually becomes Dr. King recreating some of his most inspiring speeches. This powerful presentation is followed by a Q&A session. Mr. Scott performed Dr. King’s speeches for President Carter and in performing arts centers and college campuses across the country.
“Different Doesn’t Mean Wrong: Learning about Diversity”
Growing up in the Jim Crow era in the south, Barry Scott vividly remembers the “color line” and the racial etiquette used in the day-to-day affairs between blacks and whites. Today, as an educator at Tennessee State University and dealing with hundreds of diverse college students each year, Scott discusses how diversity has morphed from strictly an issue about race to socio-economic, religious, and gender issues. In “Different Doesn’t Mean Wrong,” Scott focuses on the fact that diversity is not confined to minority groups and is not about agreement, but rather, about respect. Be it a school, in the workforce or in the community, in order to overcome inflexible beliefs about a particular group of people, Scott teaches students how to recognize biases. The first step is to recognize your feelings. Are your feelings based on fact? From where did your information come from? Have you let one negative experience affect all experiences? Once you recognize your commonality with others, bias can be overcome. This interactive presentation is designed to lead attendees through the process of identifying bias, embracing diversity, and creating respect.
“From I Have a Dream to Yes We Can”
An American story about the struggle for equality
With the election of the United States’ first black president in Barack Obama, it is clear that the dream of Dr. King has come a long way. While bigotry and ignorance may still exist, America has now, more than ever before, perhaps faster than anyone thought, fulfilled its promise as the land of opportunity – she shines as a beacon of limitless potential for all her citizens and sends a powerful message to the rest of the world. From I Have A Dream To Yes We Can chronicles America’s struggle for equality through the words of Dr. King and Barack Obama as interpreted by Barry Scott. Scott’s performance is a dynamic testament that the words of these two great Americans are not only important but are the building blocks for remarkable social change.
“The Courage to Lead”
Barry Scott is a regular guest lecturer at the prestigious Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Leadership Seminar. A proponent of fusion leadership, Scott promotes the principle of the coming together of whole individuals to accomplish mutual goals based on shared vision and values instead of the traditional fission leadership style used for centuries. Scott shows how great leaders are those who engage not only the bodies and minds of their peers, but also their hearts and souls. This approach supports personal growth and ingenuity—qualities that facilitate true change. In practical terms, Scott teaches how individuals and organizations can grow together and unleash subtle forces—mindfulness, vision, heart, courage, communication, and integrity—which can fundamentally transform organizations. This interactive program is a growth session that can be presented as a 60 minute lecture or a three hour workshop.
Barry Scott Biography
Barry Scott is recognized as one of the most versatile practitioners of his art. He is widely known for his successes as an actor, writer, producer, director, motivational speaker and voice over artist. The founder and producing artistic director of the American Negro Playwright Theatre at Tennessee State University, where his parents and grandparents graduated, Scott has become one of the leading theatre artists in his home town, on top of his impressive acting credits nationwide, including television’s I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Actor’s Equity Association, American Film Radio & Television Association and serves on the board of the Tennessee Arts Commission.
An authority on the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Scott wrote and starred in Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here as a tribute to Dr. King and to teach a generation of students about one of America’s most violent and inspiring times, and the man who literally changed the entire nation. Scott is so convincing in his portrayal of Dr. King, that Coretta Scott King once cornered him between acts of a play to compliment him on his realistic and honest depiction of her late husband. He has performed excerpts of King’s speeches for the Humanitarian Awards Ceremony honoring President Jimmy Carter and was recorded on the March On album benefiting the National Civil Rights Museum. Just a few of the prominent venues in which Scott has recreated Dr. King’s speeches include: the Beacon Theater in New York, the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the Seattle Children’s Theater, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Boutwell Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the Masonic Temple in Memphis, the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, and the Actors Theater in Louisville.
Scott’s professional work as a writer include the plays Lisa’s Story, Harlem Voices, An American Slavery Play, Stones of Promise, Joyful Noise, When I Grow Up I’m Gonna’ Get Me Some Big Words, Oh Freedom, A Man Named York and The Last Negro.
Scott’s film and television roles include appearances in I’ll Fly Away and Rescue 911, and a recurring role as a minister in the successful series In the Heat of the Night. Many people recognize him as the disabled Vietnam Veteran in the award winning Travis Tritt music video trilogy, Anymore. He also co-starred with Jim Varney in the Touchstone picture, Ernest Goes to Jail. Scott’s talents were tapped as Script Consultant in Slam Dunk Ernest and he was featured in the role of Captain Jackson in The Expert, starring Jeff Speakman.
He has performed for the Tennessee Repertory Theatre in many productions including Fences, Macbeth, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Blood Knot, Man of La Mancha, Camelot, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance, Evita, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Big River.
He has conducted workshops on acting and has received several awards including the Ingram Fellowship Award for Theatre and the Partnership in Access and Appreciation Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. He also won the Ralph Edmondson National Award for Play Writing for Lisa’s Story, which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in.
Scott is a much-requested motivational speaker, lecturer and orator. His leadership speech Courage To Lead is a regular part of the curriculum at the prestigious Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.
Scott created the Living With Theatre program – a forum to discuss important social issues with school aged children. He was the moderator for the Let Me Speak and Be Heard program for the Metropolitan Nashville School system. He also wrote and directed the video series, Stones of Promise, an inspirational teaching tool celebrating the black family for United Methodist Communications. He wrote Oh Freedom, a play with music that starred Scott and Grammy award winner Patti Austin along with the Nashville Symphony. Scott was recognized for his altruistic work by being named Nashvillian of the Year in 1993.
In 2004 Scott received rave reviews for his performance in the play Looking Over The President’s Shoulder directed by Emmy Award winning actor Mr. Robert Guillume. In 2005 Scott was named Best Actor by the Nashville Scene Newspaper for his starring role in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson directed by the Tony Award winning producer-director Mr. Woodie King Jr. In an interview with the Tennessean Newspaper Mr. King commented that “ Barry Scott is a brilliant artist. He easily moves from actor to playwright to director. In a unique world of theatre, Barry has mastered each, and he is so giving. He shares his knowledge with younger blacks who want to be a part of the black theatre. He always brings new insights into a rehearsal.”
Scott’s voice can be heard on commercials and PSA’s around the country. He has voiced work for ESPN (the National Football Leauge - Regular Season Games, Playoff Games & the Super Bowl, The National Basketball Association - Regular Season Games, Playoff Games & the Championship Finals, Professional Baseball – Home Run Derby, the NHL, and the PGA), CBS, ABC, NBC, Disney, SPIKE TV – TNA Wrestling,The Discovery Channel, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, McDonalds, The American Heart Association and many more.