By Collin Kelley
I interviewed Jasmine Guy during the snow and ice storm in January. We were both trapped at our homes, so we had plenty of time to talk about her career as an actress, dancer, choreographer, singer and director.
Guy is best known for role as spoiled Whitley Gilbert on the hit show A Different World, which ran from 1987 to 1993. Since then, she’s remained active in television, including Dead Like Me and The Vampire Diaries and guest spots on That’s So Raven and Drop Dead Diva.
Now living full-time in Atlanta after 30 years in New York and Los Angeles, Guy has become known for her stage work in the city, most notably with True Colors Theatre. When we spoke, she was in final rehearsals for the Kenny Leon-directed Broke-ology and was preparing to direct The Colored Museum, which opens this month.
“I didn’t know what was here for me,” Guy said. “What was I going to do in Atlanta? Kenny Leon is the reason I’m here.”
Leon cast Guy in Swimming Upstream, a series of monologues about the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and she received raves for her performances in Blues for an Alabama Sky and Miss Evers’ Boys at True Colors. Of the latter, Guy said it was one of her defining moments as an actor.
Then Leon asked her to direct the hit revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf at 14th Street Playhouse.
“That was the production Tyler Perry saw and decided he wanted to make the movie version,” Guy said. “I was just flying under the radar and trying to get my directing chops.”
Although she had written directed episodes of A Different World, director for the stage was a new challenge. “I got the calling to be a director before I realized I loved doing it,” Guy said.
That new calling also helped propel her direction of last year’s world premiere of the Martin Luther King Jr. musical, I Dream, at the Alliance Theatre. “I got the directorship in April and performances began in July,” she recalled. “It was like jumping on a moving train, but the show had its own spiritual drive, so I was thrilled to be part of it.”
The Colored Museum will be another opportunity for Guy to flex her directing muscle with its controversial characters and storyline. The play features 11 vignettes that satirize African American culture and Guy said “some people may be offended, but people will laugh” at the stereotypes and parodies presented in the show.
“There’s an angry black man, a Bible-toting lady, an angry queen, a sassy black girl,” Guy said. “The play is edgy, but it’s funny because it’s true.”
Now that she’s living in Atlanta with her young daughter and near her parents, Guy said she plans to stay. “There’s so much going on with theater, film and television now in Atlanta, that I don’t have to leave to work.”
Guy also encourages theater-lovers to go outside the city to seek work. True Colors is primarily based at the Southwest Arts Center, but The Colored Museum will be staged at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center at 3181 Rainbow Drive in Decatur from March 25 until April 17.
“There is great theatre happening all around Atlanta,” Guy said. “Go see everything you can.”
For more information and to purchase tickets for The Colored Museum, visit truecolorstheatre.org.