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The Female Voice: Traci Tolmaire


Posted March 27, 2012

Traci Tolmaire

Photo: Bethanie Hines

red, black and GREEN: a blues has been a blessing in my life because it has caused me to look at myself, family, community, art, and “going green” in unexpected ways. I now know that art is everywhere and in everyone, community is alive, family is more than your blood, and people are recycling and reusing without even knowing it. rbGb opened my eyes to new people and new art. For example, Cleveland “The Flower Man” Turner lived on the streets of Houston’s Third Ward for seventeen years before getting sober, riding on a bicycle decorated with flowers, and getting a house and decorating it with other people’s “junk.” The Flower Man is himself both a work of art and a leader in the green movement. As an added bonus, the rbGb cast and crew have become a family during our residencies. As we travel together we share creative ideas, personal stories, and do our best to perform a piece that honors the people and cities we represent.

Speaking of representing, as the only female performer in rbGb I am lucky to be able to rep the ladies and to show that a woman can play a man in an unexpected way—no wigs, props, or costume changes. I play men (artist/activist Rick Lowe and The Flower Man) and women who are physically the opposite of me in terms of gender, age, and race. The goal was to portray their essence with a few of the mannerisms I learned by watching video interviews of them during the Life is Living festivals on which rbGb is based. Initially, I wanted to add props or at least one costume piece to show that I was becoming each character, but we decided not to and it challenged me to rethink my approach to character development. Thankfully, I had the support of my rbGb family. So far, I have not yet been asked why I play two men when there are three male cast members. In this piece, you don’t have to be a replica of someone in order to tell his or her story. (Now that’s nontraditional casting.)

Having the opportunity to hone my craft is a welcome result of being the only female cast member. (Along with getting my own dressing room . . . talk about a blessing!) But perhaps the biggest blessing of all is being able to perform in my hometown, a city that is also a key player in rbGb. I’m a proud Chicagoan, a south side girl, and a Whitney Young High School graduate. My love for dance began in this city. I see Chicago in all of its fullness and beauty. Despite this, rbGb reminds me of Chicago’s tragedy. We have lost and are losing scores of our children, teenagers, and young adults to gun violence. Recently, two “Chicago sons,” whom I grew up with, were shot to death. Every show, I think of them—Thomas Wortham (Tommy), Lenwood Cameron Hearon (Cam), and all of those who have been gunned down. I think about their mothers who, like the Sudanese mother I portray in rbGb, are trying to renew themselves and their communities after the indescribable pain and heartache of having your child, your beloved, your baby, murdered. They know that we are all connected and that we are all family needing support, encouragement, respect, and love from one another. I have the honor of dedicating this show to them and to all of those who are doing their part to “go green”—to preserve the value of human life and their environment. They embody red, black and GREEN: a blues.

  • racing

    Even the noble Ayatollah Montazeri spoke out against these massacres and genocide and for this reason lost his position as the successor of Supreme Leader. He was a man who actually had morals, dignity, and self-worth as a human being.

  • Hana

    It is profoundly refreshing to hear The Female Voice explore the complexity of the trans formative nature of art. it is amazing that in the barest of states – sans wigs, costume pieces, and props – that Ms. Tolmaire is most able to connect to the honesty and truth of the many characters she portrays, both male and female. “In this piece, you don’t have to be a replica of someone in order to tell his or her story. ” I LOVE IT! Isn’t that at the core what theatre is all about? finding and reflecting truth. renewal and reflection. Thank you Traci for sharing your thoughts and experiences and for inspiring the rest of us female voices in this business.

  • Lou Sterl

    Let me just say I saw red, black, and GREEN: a blues at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. I must admit that not having read the reviews, I did not know what to expect prior to the show. Nonetheless, some of the stories: going green and violence were all too familiar to me. While the first one brings me joy, the latter is just a reality of having grown up in the inner city of Chicago and to this day still being apprised of the violence that is sadly taking place. As a member of the audience, I was sincerely impressed with how the cast of rbGb dealt with these stories. This is a must see show and I sincerely recommend it! The ever talented Traci Tolmaire, a native Chicagoan, was awesome in her multiple performances. Kudos!

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  • Robert Uribe.

    This article prompted me to reflect. On the one hand it’s amazing that women can play male roles, but on the other hand everyone can do the same thing. Many people forget that both men and women are created from the same material and in the depth they have a common nature.
    As for the violence and killings. What can I say … Unfortunately, some people forget that no matter what gender, skin color or nationality we really working for the common good. Killing another human is harm to yourself!

  • Peck People Of The Lie

    How can you say that Reuben really?