WDAS-FM’s Frankie Darcell Talks “God’s Trombones”
By Monica Peters
105.3 WDAS FM’s afternoon drive host Frankie Darcell once again brings her talents to the theater world. Darcell is the producer and director of James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones” which hits the stage Nov. 9-11 at Penn’s Landing Playhouse at Independence Seaport Museum.
“God’s Trombones” is the twenty-fourth stage production that Darcell has produced and directed. Her resume includes the success of several Philadelphia shows of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff,” “12 Angry Men,” and performances of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” benefitting shelters for women of domestic violence and their children.
Now, Darcell is gearing up for her latest stage production this weekend presented by Diva at the Stage Door Productions. She talks with the SUN about her passion for the production and why she prefers to cast talented local actors for her productions.
SUN: You have produced multiple theatrical productions, what made you decide to direct God’s Trombones?
FD: I am a huge fan of the Harlem Renaissance, the challenges and major successes of Black People in the early 1900’s in light of living in such a segregated America. James Weldon Johnson’s vision to write works like “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which became the black national anthem spoke to my vision to do intellectual theater and keep that era of great literary work alive.
SUN: Tell us about why you prefer to choose a local cast for your productions and your process for discovering and identifying star talent?
FD: There are amazing actors right here in Philly. They have just not had their big break yet. Several of the actors in this production I’ve worked with before and I personally invited back because of their incredible talent and commitment to the arts. After many years in radio meeting and working with the industry’s top talent, I think I have developed a keen eye for spotting excellence even if it needs to be developed. I also recognize the better the talent, they stretch me to grow as a producer and director. I do know that I would rather work with a raw underdeveloped talent who wants to learn than a seasoned talent that’s difficult. Moving forward, however, I am looking at bring in more celebrity actors from entertainment, stage and television.
SUN: What was the process for preparing for this production? How many hours of rehearsal did you set aside to prepare for showtime?
This has been a five-month process with 4-hour rehearsals twice a month then twice a week leading up to the show. As we get closer to opening night we do what’s necessary. My team is awesome after casting we’re 24/7 in the process to get ready.
SUN: What do you enjoy most about the Philadelphia audiences that come to your productions?
The Philly audiences that enjoy a “Diva” [Diva at the Stage Door] production is theater savvy, well read, inquisitive and love to be entertained. The Philly theater culture is smart and know good performances when they see one and they expect excellence. And, when they love you, they really fall in love.
SUN: What drives you to direct and produce plays as well as write books?
I love theater and looking forward to doing so much more. Getting bigger and better which every play. After writing two books within a ten-year span of each other I thought it was time to expand on the craft–so I’m working on my own stage play. I started writing it on my journey earlier this year during my trip to South Africa. I’m taking my time but expect to be done in 2019. Producing is like birthing a baby watching it mature into opening night. I get such an awesome rush watching all our hard work come to life. It’s amazing!
What do you want the audience to take away after seeing “God’s Trombones”?
That as much as we’re alike we’re very different– but that we have more in common than indifference. The Trombone is a metaphor for the voice of the preacher all with different methods but similar message which is singing God’s praises and speaking his words to truth and life. I hope the audience takes away a sense of one with him!
The SUN is a media partner for “God’s Trombones.”
God’s Trombones runs from Nov 9-11 at Penn’s Landing Playhouse (at Independence Seaport Museum), 211 Christopher Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106.