On the World Stage is a new column on Break The Proscenium which focuses specifically on Trinbagonian born and/or raised practitioners, and their work regionally and internationally. Are you one of these practitioners, or have one of them working on your project? Contact Us to be featured in this column.
Trinidadian American actor; Noel Arthur, stars in TAR; a brand new play by award-winning playwright, Tom Jacobson. This production, presented by the Playwrights Arena had its World Premiere on Saturday 9th June, and will continue till July 2, 2018, at the Atwater Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Also starring Adrian Gonzalez and Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt, with direction by Edgar Landa; “TAR is set in Los Angeles, 1939, on the night Count Basie is to be one of the first African-American headliners at the Palomar Ballroom. Zenobio Remedios (Adrian Gonzales), and Amen Headley (Noel Arthur) are stuck at work next door. Attendants at Bimini Baths, they have accepted a delicate after-hours assignment: removing the tar from a drunken Donald Walter (Tim Meinelschmidt), recently fished out of the LaBrea Tar Pits. But as the two men of color work to remove the stain from the white man’s skin, they reveal the blot of hatred in his heart. Amen, an aspiring actor, uses his wit and imagination to tease out the shocking story behind Donald’s dive into the LaBrea ooze. Deciding what to do with that information leads to a confrontation between Amen and the fearful Zenobio with unexpectedly explosive consequences.
According to a Stage Scene LA review “Tar’s trio of Angelinos represent a microcosm of race, ethnicity, and culture circa 1939, a time when Mexican-Americans like Zeno were allowed just one day a month to swim in the Bimini Baths (the day when the water was at its dirtiest) and African-Americans like Amen were limited to serving whites and dared not even think of swimming in a Caucasians-only pool.
The Trinidad and Tobago Performing Arts Network caught up with Noel for a brief interview. He shared that doing a period piece in America that has to do with race was refreshing. He explained,
Most of the roles I do these days is film and TV, set in the present, where at this point I’m not playing primary characters; we don’t talk about race, and people of color (POC) parts are marginalized if you’re not a main character.
Native Son was a very intense play; we all said after Native Son we needed to go to Disney Land to detox and decompress from the weight of it. TAR on the other hand still deals with race, but it had some humour. I was attracted to staying in the era, talking about race, but having some levity.
One week before opening in TAR, Noel wrapped ‘Native Son‘; another play about race, set in the 1930’s.
Noel also revealed that TAR is also about a gay back man living in the 1930s. With June being Pride Month, he said it is great that he is talking about issues that people of color (POC) don’t usually talk about, and supporting his brothers and sisters in the LGBT community.
When considering the role, having never played a gay character before, Noel admitted it was outside of his comfort zone, but also noted that it was also a reason he was attracted to the piece. He said,
Being in an uncomfortable place is what I like to go toward. If it is uncomfortable, there is going to be newness to it; there is going to be discovery for yourself as an actor and also as a human being.
Noel, whose default accent has remained distinctly Trinidadian (to our pleasant surprise), said he still views the work he does through a Caribbean lense. Of this project he said,
A lot of times young kids in the arts who are struggling with their sexuality don’t find a hub, especially in the Caribbean where the stigma of being gay is still alive and well. I think it is important to talk about this […] getting persecuted for being black and [having] to be secretive about your sexuality.
I am also aware of the race issues that have started to deepen in Trinidad over the years but then segueing back into sexuality, what a life it must be to live in a very conservative country in certain ways where religion is still very primary in many people’s lives, and homosexuality is something that is still a pariah.
He concluded with
Hiding who you are, not being able to live your fullest life is a parallel between what was going on then, and what is happening in today’s society.
Noel Arthur performs in TAR June 9 to July 2 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets are $25 (online) and $30 (at the door). Student, Senior and Group Rates are available.
Regular schedule: Sat 8 PM, Sun 4 PM and Mon 8 PM.
For more information and reservations go to www.playwrightsarena.org or call 800-838-3006.
ABOUT NOEL ARTHUR
Noel Arthur was born in Manhattan, New York, but grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies until the age of fourteen and had had a love for the moving image from a very young age.
He says: ‘Movie magic; losing yourself in a character; moving an audience to emotional highs and lows; it all still makes me happy.”
Now, living his dream as he continues to appear, in moving image, on countless tv shows including SCRUBS, GLEE, NCIS, NCIS: LA and in various movies opposite Nicolas Cage, Michael Shannon, Charisma Carpenter and Chloe Sevigny to name a few, He is happy to be of service sharing his wealth of On Camera knowledge with individuals and businesses on their path for similar on-camera success!