The Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago has decided to capture Marvin Gaye‘s complex life in their most recent production, The Marvin Gaye Story: Don’t Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend. Rashawn Thompson plays the role of Marvin, whose story is centered around his turbulent relationship with his father and follows his personal evolution into the legend he became. L+T sat down with Thompson and executive director (and Ensemble Theater founder) Jackie Taylor to discuss the challenges they faced in portraying the music icon. Read an excerpt below and get the full Q&A here.
L+T: Marvin Gaye is one of the most revered stars of the Black community – and American history in general – so how, if at all, did that affect how you all portrayed him?
JT: All plays at the Black Ensemble have to be uplifting. They have to be celebratory. And in writing the play, that is the essence of what I wanted to do. I didn’t take into account the fact that Marvin Gaye is loved by the masses. I took into account what the purpose and mission of the Black Ensemble Theatre is, and that’s what guides how I shape my production.
RT: Marvin Gaye was a difficult person to portray, but I did my research. I looked at all his interviews, I read some things on him, I read some things on his family, some deep stuff. I studied him from day to night, all day, everyday. I got him down to a tee because I wanted them to feel like they were really looking at this man. I wanted them to forget that it was Rashawn Thompson doing the part and I wanted them to know that this was Marvin Gaye on the stage. I just wanted to bring those memories back for those people that actually remembered him.
spotted at L+T