The Jewish Women's Theatre will produce the Los Angeles premiere of Rain Pryor's new solo outing FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES at the Braid, beginning February 16th. Actress/comedian/songtress/writer, Rain performs her autobiographical performance piece covering her early years as the bi-racial child of a broken home, through coping with being a comedy legend's daughter, becoming a performer in her own right, and to her very busy present. We had the chance to chat with Rain between her rehearsals for her Braid bow.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Rain!
You're already in rehearsals for FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES?
I am currently in rehearsals five days a week for FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES. Also, trying to conserve some energy for the opening and the six-week run.
You originally wrote your autobiographical FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES in 2002. Has a lot of your show changed into its present state from its original?
When I originally wrote FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES, I wrote for the purpose of just presenting a showcase of my talents. Over the past 14-15 years, it has become a very poignant piece of theatre.
How did you come up with the catchy title FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES?
The title, (thanks for saying it's catchy) just popped up after calling my show SWEET POTATO & LATKES. Fried Chicken (although cliché) seemed better to grasp the juxtaposition of two sides of my cultural lives.
Which are you better at making - fried chicken? Or latkes?
I love to cook. I would say I can do both extremely well. And that the combination is fabulous.
What was your father's initial reactions to FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES?
My father never got to see me perform this piece. However, I showed him the reviews and asked his permission to play him and do a part of his act in it.
It was difficult not to have Dad come to a show because he came to every show I have ever had. Even came to set.
You're referring to your first TV series?
Yes, Head of the Class.
Did you rewrite any specific sections after hearing your father's comments?
I have never rewritten based on my family's input. I write with authenticity, just as Mom and Dad taught me to do.
What was your mother Shelley's reaction to FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES?
My mother's reaction was, "Ya know, Rain. I don't really talk that way, but as long as you're making money, it's okay. By the way, I'm proud of you."
Did your mother have you Bat Mitzvahed?
My mom never had a Bat Mitzvahee. My mom Shelley's family did not do Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. They did Shabbat and holidays though.
When did you realize you wanted to be a performer?
I think I realized I wanted to be a performing around 4 or 5. I was always imitating family and people I met. I loved to sign big band music and could recite the entire The Wizard of Oz.
When were you old enough to understand, or even see, your father's comedy routines?
I grew up in the comedy clubs with both my parents. I may not have understood the language, but I knew about what was funny.
How old were you when you fully realized how famous and well-loved your father was?
I talk about this in my show. He took me to his Long Beach concert in 1979. I was 9 years old, and 3,000 people were there. I got it - Dad was God! Ha!
I hear you do a mean Richard Pryor impersonation in FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES. What other characters, real or composite, can the Braid audiences expect to meet?
I do about 10-11 people from my life. I hope I bring a realness and depth to them.
Since you wrote about real people in your life, was there any particular person (other than your parents), you were apprehensive getting their feedback?
I don't seek approval from the people I portray. I have nothing to hide, because my intention is not mean-spirited. I create realized real versions of the people in my life. I love them, even the bad teen girl in my show.
You've performed FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES all over the world. Tell us the most surprising response you received from an audience.
I had a show in Harlem where the audience stood up and applauded in the middle of my show. I was taken aback with profound emotion and gratitude.
Was the Beverly Hills community during your childhood there less racially color-blind/sensitive than they are today in 2017?
1970s - there weren't kids like me in my area of Beverly Hills. My mom was a single white Jewish woman, raising a bi-racial child. We had to face a lot of adversity, anger, hatred. We survived and overcame. That's what strong Jewish women do. We endure.
Did you find comedy or singing great weapons in your arsenal to use in your growing up?
Comedy and singing were a huge part of life. You can escape any bad mood with a song or a joke. Well, at least, if you're in my family.
What do you hope your Braid audiences leave with after your curtain call?
I hope the Braid audiences, leave with a sense of hope and action to keep evolving and changing the world for the better. Our kids are the change.
Thank you, Rain! Looking forward to seeing you do your favorite foods!
FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES plays through April 2, 2017. For ticket availability and further info, log onto www.jewishwomenstheatre.org