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Danny Glover regales Triad audience

by Amy Kingsley

It was a scene unlike any in Danny Glover’s entire cinematic career: More than 150 well-dressed Greensboro residents packed the Triad Stage lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of the award-winning actor.

The crowd filed into the theater a few minutes before Glover’s scheduled appearance. Desks, lamps, chessboards and bric-a-brac from Sleuth, the current production that had been suspended for an evening, were cleared. Audience members had a direct view of two overstuffed chairs – one for Glover and the other for Johnetta Cole, former president of Bennett College.

The occasion was “A Date with Danny,” a fundraiser for Triad Stage some two years in the making. The theater recruited Glover for an hour and a half long “Inside the Actor’s Studio” style conversation with Cole, a longtime friend. Cole and Glover entered upstage at the appointed hour, hand-in-hand, and crossed under a flight of stairs to thunderous applause.

“My grandmother,” Glover said. “She never could figure out what I did.”

He talked about visiting her in Louisville, Ga. after the release of The Color Purple, and how he stopped to sign autographs for town residents. Later on, his grandmother stared at him and said, “Son, you must be some kind of important.”

Glover and Cole went back and forth for more than an hour, settling more than once on the subject of social justice. Glover, whose latest project – a film about the Haitian slave revolt – is being financed by the Venezuelan government, referred to his vocation as “cultural work,” not acting.

“We have to assume there is some value in the work we do,” Glover said.

Even the Lethal Weapon series tackled issues like drugs, immigration and apartheid.

“When Lethal Weapon 2 came out in 1989, Mandela was still in jail,” he said. “We were banned in South Africa, which is the highest sort of affirmation that you’re doing something important.”

Glover, who has been an activist since his undergraduate years at San Francisco State University, explained the root of his activism.

“My activism began because I felt so strongly that I’m a citizen,” he said. “If we are going to talk about real democracy, we all have to be a part of that discussion.”

Throughout the interview, Glover flexed his ankles and stretched his hands past his knees. He complimented his interviewer on her accomplishments and cited her as an influence on his activism.

Glover, who starred on Broadway in Master Harold and the Boys, said playwright Athol Fugard facilitated his growth as an actor.

“He gave me a framework to learn the craft of acting,” Glover said. “He gave me an opportunity to say what is important to me in the world, to say whose side I’m on in the world.”

The current state of cinema is discouraging, he said, because producers spend more money on fewer projects, which limits opportunities for actors, directors and technicians.

“I no longer accept that our story has one aspect, the inner city or rural poverty or however it’s been portrayed,” he said. “We need to tell our story in all aspects. But we work in an industry that’s driven by what’s on the bottom line.”

Consolidation has also changed the theatrical landscape too, he said.

“You used to have a lot of small theaters,” he said. “And that really propelled the learning process for an actor.”

In response to a question from the audience, Glover said the film he’s proudest of is Places in the Heart, the 1984 film about a Southern widow. On the same day he learned he’d gotten the part, his mother died in a car accident, and he dedicated his role to her memory.

After the interview, the audience drifted upstairs for a catered reception in the theater’s renovated third floor. Glover and Cole received well wishers in the part of the room furthest from the spread. Outside the window the streets of downtown Greensboro came alive.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com.

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