Darryl Maximilian Robinson ( A Veteran of Chicago, St. Louis And LA Stage Productions ) Enjoyed One Of His Finest Supporting Roles Ever When He Portrayed The Historic Black Educator, Orator and Adviser To Presidents Booker T. Washington In The Kentwood Players of Los Angeles' 2013 Revival of "Ragtime"!
"...Darryl Maximilian Robinson a tower of strength as Booker T. Washington..." -- Don Grigware, Kentwood Players Stage Melodically Rousing RAGTIME, BroadwayWorld.com March 20, 2013
Veteran Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles stage actor Darryl Maximilian Robinson has had the honor of playing multiple black historic figures on the stage during the course of his 46-year-long career in The Performing Arts. By far his most personal favorite was the famed and historic black educator and orator Booker T. Washington ( April 5, 1856-November 14, 1915 ) whom Mr. Robinson had the great joy of playing in the 2013 Kentwood Players' staging of the Tony Award-winning musical "Ragtime" ( based on E. L. Doctorow's novel ) at The Westchester Playhouse in Los Angeles. With an award-winning Score by Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Book by Terrence McNally, "Ragtime" is an American musical theatre masterpiece addressing issues of race, immigration and women's rights like no other!
The Kentwood Players' revival was wonderfully choreographed by Victoria Miller, expertly musical directed by Bill C. Wolfe, and superbly staged by the brilliant director Susan Goldman Weisbarth.
It's large, gifted and talented cast was highlighted by fine performances by the dashing Deus Xavier Scott as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. ( whom Mr. Robinson was delighted to play his most important scene as Booker T. Washington in the show opposite ), the lovely and charming Jennifer Sperry as Mother and triple-threat musical theatre pro Bradley Miller as Tateh.
For his preparation and research for the role of Booker T. Washington in "Ragtime," Darryl Maximilian Robinson listened to recordings of his fine and eloquent speaking voice and read Mr. Washington's acclaimed biography "Up from Slavery" which related his struggles being born under the yoke of slavery in America before The Emancipation, and how after he gained his legal freedom, he worked hard and studied hard to better himself to such a degree that he became one of the most revered and respected black citizens in the country who would also go on to serve as a Special Advisor on Race Relations to two U.S. Presidents and create The Tuskegee Institute ( later Tuskegee University ) which would be called by many "The Capitol of Black America."
A life-long advocate of justice, fairness, education and economic opportunity for his fellow African-American citizens, Booker T. Washington secretly ( to avoid losing financial donations to Tuskegee from his white supporters ) spent his own money to help in legal cases of unfairly charged black defendants and to assist organizations ( including the newly-formed NAACP ) that strived to improve conditions and civil rights for African-Americans.
During the last months of his life, before his premature death on November 14, 1915, Booker T. Washington joined several black and white leaders around the country and the world in condemning the release of the technically-brilliant, but notoriously racist silent screen epic "Birth Of A Nation" directed by white supremacist D. W. Griffith.
The negative and horrifically stereotypical depiction of blacks in the film ( several of them played by white actors in black face "minstrel show style" ) caused race riots, protest marches and boycotts around the country.
Do any of these events sound familiar?
The film also helped as a major screen propaganda tool to restart the then disbanded Klu Klux Klan ( who are portrayed as the heroes of the film as they were in the racist film's basis novel the Reverend Thomas Dixon's "The Clansman" ), aided to continue to justify unfair Jim Crow Laws, and encouraged multiple barbaric, racist lynchings and vicious and brutal murders of black American citizens ( men, women and children ) around the country.
"Birth Of A Nation" would also prove the "casting template" used by the vast majority of white producers and directors and writers for all black actors and actresses in Hollywood and Broadway for nearly a century, which would relegate performers of color ( no matter how talented, gifted, knowledgable or skilled ) to submissive, unintelligent, stereotypical and demeaning characterizations of blacks for the full-length of their careers.
Fully-aware of the power of cinema, and the damage the Griffith film would no doubt do to African-Americans in their ultimate pursuit of equal opportunity and economic growth as well as his own efforts to advance the progress and hopes and dreams of his people, when the film was released, Booker T. Washington had a response.
With his trusted and skilled personal assistant, Dr. Emmett J. Scott, Booker T. Washington was making plans to create a silent screen adaptation of "Up From Slavery" as a response to Griffith's racist ( and extremely financially-successful ) film. But with his death, a screen version of "Up From Slavery" ( which would have portrayed "the most famous negro in the country" and other successful, well-spoken, well-educated, black citizens of America in a positive light ) never came to fruition. Alone, Dr. Scott would go on to produce a completely co-opted, flawed, racially-sabotaged and irrelevant film called "Birth Of A Race," which was soon forgotten.
To this day, in 2020, in our culturally-enlightened, technologically-advanced, United States of America, there remains no single, full-length, comprehensive, screen depiction of the historic and well-documented life of the educator, orator and adviser to U.S. Presidents Booker T. Washington from Hollywood. Sadly, systemic racism really is present in The Arts, too.
Darryl Maximilian Robinson earned fine notices and a 2013 Los Angeles Kentwood Players' Marcom Masque Theatre Award nomination for Best Actor In A Major Supporting Role for his performance as Booker T. Washington in "Ragtime."
Booker T. Washington was and is one of Mr. Robinson's great American heroes! And playing him in "Ragtime" was a true honor!