on a recent bright saturday afternoon in the village of harlem, i was excited to see my friend, elvis nolasco, star in the brief wondrous life of oscar wao. masterfully told by pulitzer prize-winning author junot diaz, this epic novel chronicles the life of oscar de leon, an overweight dominican boy growing up in paterson, new jersey who is obsessed with falling in love, science fiction novels & the curse plaguing his family for generations.
nolasco's solo gig was presented by special arrangement of the american place theatre's literature to life program. the american place theatre is committed to producing high quality new work by diverse american writers. the literature to life program gives students a new form of access to literature by bringing to life the world of the book with performances creating an atmosphere of discovery which spark the imagination.
the event was held at the harlem stage, a wonderfully intimate venue which celebrates & perpetuates the unique & diverse artistic legacy of harlem & the indelible impression it has made on american culture. harlem stage has been at the forefront of the development & presentation of new & experimental works by artists of color for over 25 years. in 2006, harlem stage completed a $26 million comprehensive campaign anchored by the restoration of the historic 135th street gatehouse into a state-of-the-art, flexible performance, rehearsal & support space.
i arrived about 20 minutes before show time, not knowing what to expect. i greeted a few friends & saluted some associates. there was a noticeable buzz in the air. the place was sold out to an inter-generational, multi-cultural audience. needless to say, i was hyped! i've known elvis almost 10 yrs & have witnessed him perform in film & on stage - but not alone, in this atmosphere, with this type of creative pressure.
as i'd not read diaz' novel, i was unfamiliar with the story, which only added to my anxiety & uncertainty. elvis was - in a word - brilliant. he captivated the pensive crowd for about 60 minutes with his charm, passion & wit. the variety of colorful people in the novel came alive on stage for us all to see. we felt their joy & pain. we identified with their trials & tribulations. elvis nolasco was treated to a standing ovation when his set was done.
finally, to every one's surprise & delight, junot diaz joined elvis on stage for a brief question & answer. diaz humbly praised his magnanimous performance. someone asked if a film was in the works. diaz mentioned possibly & he'd welcome elvis in the film upon witnessing his versatility. i was so proud of my friend. i felt like i was in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. his family & friends were there to support him as well.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.