WATCH: TDF's 'for colored girls...' Conversation in ASL
Wednesday, June 01, 2022  •  
Wed Jun 1, 2022  •  
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Alexandria Wailes and Michelle A. Banks on the inclusivity of the Tony-nominated revival

After 26 years of friendship and artistic collaboration, Alexandria Wailes and Michelle A. Banks are thrilled to be reunited on Broadway for for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. As two proud "Black, Deaf women who are claiming Broadway," they are thrilled to be bringing their full selves to Camille A. Brown's critically acclaimed production of Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, which has been nominated for seven Tony Awards including best revival of a play. Wailes portrays the Lady in Purple and performs the role in American Sign Language (ASL). Banks serves as the show's Director of Artistic Sign Language, working closely with Wailes and Brown to translate Shange's powerful poetry into ASL. TDF brought these pioneering theatre-makers together for a chat about how they've been helping to make performances on Broadway and beyond accessible and inclusive for more than two decades. If you weren't able to tune in live, you can watch a recording below. This conversation is conducted in American Sign Language and captions are available. There is also a full transcript under the video.

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Transcript

Alexandria Wailes: Hello TDF fans. My name is Alexandria Wailes. Here's the sign for my name.

Michelle Banks: Hi! I'm

Michelle Banks: and this is my sign. And hi TDF fans. We are thrilled and honored to be a part of today's conversation.

Alexandria Wailes: Before we begin, I will introduce myself with a visual description and share what I'm doing now. My pronouns are she/her. I'm a light-skinned Black biracial woman with dark hair piled high and clear blue light-filter glasses. I have a periwinkle blue short sleeved top. Behind me is an aboriginal painting with a white frame and a dark gray/beige wall. I'm currently in the production at the Booth Theatre of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow isn't enuf. I play Lady in Purple.

Michelle Banks:: My pronouns are she/her. For my visual description, I'm a dark-skinned African-American woman with blond short curly hair. I have big black-framed glasses. I'm wearing brown wooden looped earrings and a large pendant. I would say my top is orangey/red with short sleeves and a black camisole. My role in for colored girls… is the DASL, the Director of Artistic Sign Language. D. A. S. L.

Alexandria Wailes: Awesome! So, let's dive into the questions we have been asked.

Question on screen: During your diverse careers, you've both worked as performers as well as directors of ASL. Have you collaborated in the past or is this your first time working together?

Alexandria Wailes: Michelle… We've known each other for a while.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: I remember the first time we worked together was when the DC company went to Japan. Was that 1995?

Michelle Banks:: Yes, right around then.

Alexandria Wailes: It's been while.

Michelle Banks:: Yes, we go way back!

Alexandria Wailes: Oh my gosh! Yes, way back! Then you were living and working in Los Angeles.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: And I came out for Deaf West's Big River production at the Mark Taper Forum. And at that time you were working on an independent film. Right?

Michelle Banks:: Yes, Always Chasing Love.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. That's the one! Other than that, have we worked together prior to this production?

Michelle Banks:: Yes, and it's always wonderful working with you. You contribute such great ideas. I feel blessed to work with such a remarkable artist as you, Alexandria.

Alexandria Wailes: Thank you. And the feeling is mutual. I want to mention the beauty of collaboration. We are interested in including and discussing different perspectives, exploring what the possibilities are, and really following our instincts. It's really nice to have someone like Michelle who really listens and is able to offer support and feedback, observing from a deep place. That's so important.

Michelle Banks:: Yes definitely. It's important because we are two African-American women in the entertainment industry. That's harder. You have to really support each other in this field. You really need to be giving support as much as you can, whether we are working together or on independent projects.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. It's really nice to check in with each other, make sure we're okay, see if we need anything and offer support. Attend each other's shows. It's very helpful. Next question.

Question on screen: for colored girls… is a woman-centric production—everyone on stage and most folks backstage are female. What's that been like?

Michelle Banks:: It's been such a beautiful and rewarding experience, and inspiring to be with all African-American women in one room. Strong African-American women. Creative. Talented. Bringing different perspectives. Coming from different backgrounds. But still, one thing in common: we know who we are. A hearing and Deaf cast, with Treshelle Edmond understudying Alexandria, and me. Three Deaf women in the company, the rest are all hearing. There are no words to describe what that's like because it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Especially on Broadway. I think we made history.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes.

Michelle Banks:: Black, Deaf women claiming Broadway! That needs to happen more often.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes.

Michelle Banks:: We've modeled what it can be; now it needs to be there more often. I'd love Alexandria to comment, because it's overwhelming in a positive way.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. Michelle, I think you touched on something important that I'd like to add to. From my experience, I've been very fortunate to be in many different rooms where we have a shared gender identity. And I think what I find so interesting about this experience is that I didn't have to explain or defend myself.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: And the difference of the gaze. As you know, we African-American women, our experiences vary, our journeys are different. But we have an underlying experience that we've shared. And we know we don't need to explain ourselves in this room. It's even more special because of having three Deaf women in a majority hearing space. However, I find there's been a lot of opportunities in this space to be heard, especially with Camille [A. Brown], our director-choreographer for this show. She really listens, attends to experiences that are not her own, as a hearing person. And that was important, also, to create an environment where we can share being ourselves.

Michelle Banks:: Right.

Alexandria Wailes: And acknowledge what we're going through and keep on with the process. Next question.

Question on screen: You've both performed in previous productions of for colored girls... Can you share your favorite memories about Ntozake Shange's landmark play and what it's meant to you?

Alexandria Wailes: This is my second production of for colored girls... I think what really strikes me is the ever-expanding sisterhood of this show. I've had the good fortune to meet some of the original cast from the '70s production, and to see that they're still connected. They still show up. Amazing. To experience this from the last production [at The Public Theater Off Broadway in 20198] and this one. I feel it's because this piece creates lifelong friendships. That is not just a memory I will keep, but more of a profound shift that means a lot to me.

Michelle Banks:: Yes. I was in for colored girls… back in the '90s when I was the artistic director and producer for the Onyx Theatre Company in New York. One of our productions was for colored girls... I brought in Jaye Austin Williams to direct. I played the Lady in Brown. That experience was different because we had four Deaf actresses and three hearing actresses with two interpreters all on stage.

Alexandria Wailes: Three hearing members?

Michelle Banks:: Yes. And, like you mentioned, there was the bond of sisterhood. I always loved Ntozake's work. And in fact, I met her in Philadelphia. I saw her at a theatre event and I told her that we had produced her show and she said that it was wonderful and she would have loved to have seen it, that it was awesome. That is one of my fondest memories, that has always stayed with me, actually meeting the woman who had written this phenomenal play. It's very touching.

The second time I did this play was in LA and at that time I was cast as the Lady in Red. It's completely different playing these two roles. With the Lady in Brown… when I went to the audition, I used the Toussaint segment as my audition piece because that is actually one of my very favorite pieces in the show. It's fun and exciting and mischievous. I felt like I could become a child and relive that experience that all children have imaginary friends. When I was young, I was always talking/signing to my imaginary friend. I connected with it because that was me when I was young. I would always audition with this piece—it's one of my favorites.

And now my third has been with this production on Broadway as a DASL. It's really nice to be involved with it, but also to be able to sit back with the creative team. That is amazing. This is my first experience working with a creative team on a Broadway show, seeing their process and how they work. I'm seeing all the different perspectives, not as a performer but as a DASL. Honestly, even though I've done this play many times in the past, each time I've learned something new. There're so many exciting discoveries and different perspectives being brought to the table. It's been a fantastic experience.

Alexandria Wailes: That's so true. I was thrilled when you said yes, Michelle. I have to thank you not just because of your prior experiences, but because I trust your instincts and your gaze. And for those of you who have not seen this show, it's not too late! You have until June 5 to come see and experience this.

I didn't have a chance to meet Ntozake in person, but from what Michelle just said and what others have told me, her spirit still influences us. She created a great many pieces, but I think this choreopoem offers us the opportunity to express who we are as individuals and to bring that into the work. Because poetry is open for interpretation.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: It's not interpreting but it's open to interpretation—where you connect with it, where you place it in your body. And it's movement—singing and moving and poetry. It's an incredible experience.

Michelle Banks:: Absolutely. And in LA, the NAACP Theatre Awards named us best ensemble, that was in 2003. Amazing.

Alexandria Wailes: That's incredible.

Michelle Banks:: And I hope this production will win several Tony Awards. We've been nominated at Broadway.com for the Audience Award for favorite play revival. Yay! Thanks everyone who's come to see us. Next questions.

Question on screen: What's it like being directed and choreographed by the fabulous Camille A. Brown?

Alexandria Wailes: This is actually the second time I've worked with Camille, but this is the first time I've worked with her as a director. In one of our early conversations, I mentioned to Camille how the choreographer's vision and the director's vision are the same. Different, but they're similar because of how you communicate your vision and collaborate with different people. So, I told Camille with her wealth of experience choreographing and telling stories and collaborating with people, directing is just another layer. I feel blessed to know someone like Camille and work with her. And it's exciting and an honor to witness her journey.

This is the first time a Black woman has done this in 65 years. The first in 21st century, but the first time in 65 years that a Black woman director-choreographer has worked on Broadway. So that alone is historic and important. I think about the many layers of this production. And I just really appreciate her grace, and her giving us permission and sharing what she envisioned—what she wants and what she's feeling. And also giving us a space to work through it and understand how it feels and have the permission to have a conversation and say, maybe we could shift it in a different direction. It's a nice feeling to have that level of trust. Because the director is asking us basically to trust her and vice versa. Now I'm curious about your perspective on the creative team.

Michelle Banks:: Working with Camille, what can I say? Her soul gleams through. She's just a genius and she has a vision that she holds for the stage which is mind-boggling. And she's incorporating sign, dance and spoken language. I listened to her describing her vision and I watched where she was going, and I tried to take that in and have it inform my translation. Because I knew what she wanted the stage to look like. That helped me figure out ways to better support the ASL performance on the stage.

She allowed me to share my ideas. She allowed me to show her what I wanted to do. She allowed me in the process. She trusted me. And that's an experience I have not often had with hearing directors, that level of trust. Often there's a distance or lack of trust, due perhaps to difficulty in communicating or not knowing how to work with a Deaf person. But she was very open to try new things. She'd try something I offered and would tell me what worked and what didn't correspond to her vision. I loved her honesty and her directness. She would just say it didn't match her vision, and that was really helpful.

I so appreciated working with the team. And I would love to continue working with her in any production she does in the future—and working with Alexandria as well. I would love to see more work like this. Especially with Camille.

Alexandria Wailes: I agree. Next question.

Question on screen: for colored girls… has some lovely and intricate choreography and blocking. Have there ever been any amusing on-stage mishaps?

Alexandria Wailes: Well, we had a couple of really minor jewelry mishaps. Say it falls off the body or a hairpiece moves out of place, but that's basically it. I would say with a show like this—because there's a lot of information and we really rely upon each other and support each other—from the minute we go on stage until the curtain call, we're all very present and very aware and very supportive of each other. So far, we have not had any major incidents on stage at all.

Michelle Banks:: Yes, maybe minor mishaps like some jewelry that has fallen off.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes, or minor costume issues. But nothing major.

Michelle Banks:: Thank goodness.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes!

Question on screen: While there are moments of joy in for colored girls…, the play also explores many heavy themes. How do you shake it off after a performance?

Alexandria Wailes: Well, there's a way I have of preparing to get into character before the show. And after the show, I want to take that character off and get back to myself. But this show can really overlap with life because the character, the Lady in Purple, as much as it's her own world, it's also me inside it. So, for me, honestly, when I get out of mic and wig and costume, I take a few minutes to breathe. And in my dressing room is where I can go back to myself. But the themes that come up—there's a lot of joy, but there's also a lot of sorrow and heaviness. And, unfortunately, the issues remain today. So, there's no shaking it off. We see it out in the world, unfortunately.

Michelle Banks:: Right.

Alexandria Wailes: So, I find the importance of acknowledging that. And I've had those conversations with my classmates and with people outside of the production. And really being present, aware of how I feel the moment, acknowledging the space we have on stage with each other and with the audience, that is sacred. And off-stage, how I take care of myself is also sacred. That is my process.

Michelle Banks:: I always check in with the actors. Not just with Alexandria, but with everyone. Making sure everyone's okay before and after. Well-being is important. Because, yes, the show has joy but there are heavy themes that get talked about and brought out from your inner soul and that can leave you exhausted. So, I'm always there offering support to everyone, and talking about it if somebody needs to. If there are tears, giving that space. Making sure there is space to be regenerated when putting the show aside and returning to the self, whoever it may be: Alexandria, Kenita, Treshelle. So that's what I do I: check in. That's important for me.

Alexandria Wailes: That's appreciated because that's an element of care as well. Even though the show opened a month ago, still those periodic check-ins are meaningful. It means a lot.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: Next question.

Question on screen: Alexandria, you've been an ASL interpreter for the National Anthem at the Super Bowl and Michelle, you founded the Onyx Theatre Company. Can you share some of your other career highlights?

Alexandria Wailes: I don't know if I would say I was an interpreter. I was more of a performer, an ASL performer.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: Other highlights from my career… I'm very fortunate that I have a great many I could mention. But definitely this show is a career highlight for many reasons. Another one is performing in Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Mother Courage and Her Children. That was back in 2006, I believe. A while ago. It was an outdoor performance with an amazing, brilliant company. And honestly, that was my first time performing in a show… It was interesting actually because the character is Kattrin, the daughter who doesn't speak. So, the director, George C. Wolfe, was interested in casting a Deaf actor and focused on the movement in his staging. There's a lot of movement and a lot of visual listening that occurs in that world. And there was one point in that production, closer to the end… let me clarify: Throughout the play, every section had titles explaining what would occur in the next scene. It's a very Brechtian device. So, the captions or titles would appear, and an actor would come out and present themselves in front of the audience as themselves in that moment. For a great many of the audience, they had no idea that I was Deaf until the moment when I came out giving the information from the titles. So, what was interesting is that they saw me as an actor first, and then realized I was Deaf. Because typically, they see that I'm Deaf and then their brains close down and they can't see me as anything else. So here, they were able to see who I am and just process the experience of me, and then I came out with Meryl Streep and I was signing and Meryl was speaking the information that was on the titles. That was a really powerful moment, to see two women sharing the experience together in that space. Astonishing. And I have so many other moments, but I know time is precious, so I will turn it over to Michelle.

Michelle Banks:: I also have a long list of highlights. Yes, I did found the Onyx Theatre Company right after I graduated from SUNY Purchase. I was 22-years old at the time.

Alexandria Wailes: I love it.

Michelle Banks:: But I really appreciated the experience at that time with Onyx because we broke through a lot of barriers. The company did not just use Black actors, we had actors of color who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Alexandria Wailes: That's pretty amazing.

Michelle Banks:: I led that organization for 11 years when I was in my twenties.

Alexandria Wailes: Amazing

Michelle Banks:: Yes, I would say that was a career highlight. And then as an actor, well. I knew that I wanted to focus on my personal goals as an actor and an artist. I moved to LA and got involved with acting. And a career highlight was being in a TV show: the series Soul Food. Not the movie, the TV series. I had watched the show and I was thinking it would be great to have Black Deaf characters in it. So, I sent an email to the producer of the show, and we went back and forth for a good year until finally he said, "OK, guess what? Come in. I have developed a roll for you." Which was astonishing.

Alexandria Wailes: Wow!

Michelle Banks:: So, after this long exchange, he decided to go for it. And that was really meaningful, an important journey for me because that helped guide me to other work in TV, in the show Girlfriends. Because the director of Soul Food was the spouse of Mara Brock Akil, the creator of Girlfriends. So, he mentioned me and I was submitted. I didn't have to audition or anything. So, I learned that connections are really important.

Alexandria Wailes: And persistence. You were very persistent in continuing that ongoing communication for a year. Amazing.

Michelle Banks:: Definitely. And then there was Compensation directed by Zeinabu irene Davis, who's a fantastic person. Very cool. She saw my work in Minnesota when I was performing with the Onyx Theatre Company and said she had to have me in her film. And that was my first full-length feature film in which I had a leading role. I threw myself into the role, and the film actually went to the Sundance Film Festival where I was able to make more contacts and network. So, it was inspiring as an actor to feel appreciated. And I continued working and developed my one-woman show, which I performed in LA and then toured. So, those are just a few of my career highlights. But I feel that I grew as an artist. And I expanded my skills not just as an actor, but as a director, a DASL, a writer, a producer. So, I feel good about that.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. I think what you're saying is something we have in common. Speaking for myself, I am always filled with curiosity. I want to know what those other jobs are like. What are they doing at the creative table? What do they see? My job an artist is to deliver. But I like having an appreciation from the other side, seeing how actors think and how we can collaborate with the creative team. And the willingness to be open to new experiences I think pays off because, look at you now. You're very busy and I'm very busy. Doing a variety of things. And I think that's so important that we give ourselves the opportunity. Sometimes we may not know if it's going to work or not, but then we can try it and recognize it as an option for the future. Next question.

Question on screen: Alexandria, you were an ASL teaching artist and interpreter for TDF for many years, and Michelle, you founded Visionaries of the Creative Arts to support Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists. How important is inclusive arts education to you?

Alexandria Wailes: Perfect segue.

Michelle Banks:: I founded Visionaries of the Creative Arts (VOCA) in 2019 after directing A Raisin in the Sun at Gallaudet University in 2018. Now I need to tell you I was born and raised in Washington, DC, and Gallaudet University is in DC. I returned there in 2007, yes 2007. A lot of things were going on at the time. And after directing the show I realized that we didn't have a theatre in the city specifically for BIPOC Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists, which was astonishing. It was mind-boggling and I recognized that I had to create VOCA in DC. And maybe it was part of growing but I think what helped, sad to say, was the Black Lives Matter movement. The tragic event of George Floyd's death brought to light the racist system of life in the US.

So, there was a lot of unpacking and recognition of racism at that moment in time, and they were giving space to BIPOC people in both the hearing and Deaf communities. There was an outpouring. So VOCA came to be at the right time. And we've moved forward with other productions, even though in 2020 our production was not able to be offered due to COVID. But we realized we could use an online platform and Alexandria, you were one of our panelists. We hosted several panels with discussions of what was occurring across the country. Bringing more attention to and spotlighting Deaf and hard-of-hearing BIPOC artists. With VOCA visibility increased and people are now aware of VOCA and what we're doing. And now it's my third season with VOCA. We just had our first staged production last December titled Ism, which was great. We had five Deaf BIPOC actors who discussed their experience of oppression and discrimination in society due to the isms: racism, ableism, autism, classism. They wrote and told their own stories on stage. I directed it. I think that was one of my best works that I've ever done. To this day people are still talking about it.

Alexandria Wailes: I'm disappointed to have missed it. I hope you'll have another production. Please.

Michelle Banks:: As a matter of fact, this fall it will be produced at Gallaudet University and in Boston. But I hope to bring it to New York.

Alexandria Wailes: We'll have some conversations and figure out a way to do that. Please, continue.

Michelle Banks:: I'll let you talk now.

Alexandria Wailes: Michelle, while you were talking, I was thinking how important art is. Art has to do with expression, creativity, imagination, confidence, life skills, social skills, how we interact, how we communicate. All of that is art. Everything keeps returning to art. In my journey as a teacher, I have entered many classrooms and met many young Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and hearing youth as well. And I really see the power of art. Maybe in a moment somebody might not think it's so big. But then they go to experience the show. And they see that it is a possibility. That art is a possibility. And it gives them hope and it buoys them. They see that if they really commit and focus, and find people who are like themselves, who share the joy of performance or dance, directing or any creativity, and bring them all together and share a space, that there's so much they can do. And they can thrive regardless of the occurrences in their life and in society. They need to find people who are like themselves, who may not be exactly the same but are in the same space. And that can change someone's life. That can change your perspective when you start taking in the world. And engaging in imaginative and creative problem-solving.

Michelle Banks:: Yes. When we performed Ism last December, several deaf students came and they were so filled by the experience. They really connected to it because they've gone through all of this themselves even though they're young and in high school. The Model Secondary School for the Deaf came. The school wanted to bring us in, and they contacted me about the possibility of us performing the show at their school. And we did in February. It was beautiful. We performed it on the stage at the University, but we projected it onto a screen at the school. So, the students could watch the show in their classrooms. It was awesome.

And we had three of the cast members tell a story to the elementary school children, “I Don't Want to Be Me” by a friend of mine, Patricia Lee Davis in Boston. And it was a perfect connection with the play because it was about self-esteem, not liking the way they look because they're different. The message was encouraging Deaf children to appreciate their appearance, to be themselves, that they're beautiful inside as well as outward. That definitely made a big impact on these kids. And just like you're saying: art. That's the point, that we need to look at how art helps people—whether they're young or old—change their lives.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. What you just said reminded me of what happened last week at the stage door. There were two things. One is the importance of representation and the visibility of representation, not just on the stage but behind the scenes as well. I think that our production of for colored girls… is important because we have representation both on stage and backstage. Last week, there was a group of young people, maybe they could have just graduated high school or perhaps they were early college students, but it was a young group. And they wanted autographs. One young person started to sign what she remembered from the show and at that point I put my pen away. They were all hearing, but they wanted to talk to me and they were very excited. Five or six of them from that group were so enthusiastic about the show and started signing the lines from the pyramid section of the play where we talk about love like sisters.

Michelle Banks:: How nice!

Alexandria Wailes: It was spontaneous. And I wish I'd been able to film it. But that moment was about what people take away. What they remember and their perception of the piece. Maybe I'm hoping that they will say that there should be more of this, more commonly seen.

Michelle Banks:: Definitely.

Alexandria Wailes: So that was a powerful moment to see and share. Art. The power of art.

Michelle Banks:: Amen.

Alexandria Wailes: On to the next question. I know that we're running out of time.

Question on screen: What's one thing all theatres and arts organizations should do right now to start becoming more accessible and inclusive?

Michelle Banks:: I turn this over to you Alexandria.

Alexandria Wailes: I'm offering it to you.

Michelle Banks:: You have founded your own company. BHO5 isn't it?

Alexandria Wailes: Yes, BHO5. And you created VOCA. Both of us have a lot to say. I'll try and keep this short. BHO5.org is a website that is an educational tool for people who want to understand what a Director of Artistic Sign Language does, what the job entails, what it means and why it's important. All that information is there. I experienced getting the same questions over and over, so I decided to launch a website and send folks there. And then if they ask me more questions, I can tell whether they've done their homework or not.

This response may not be liked. And I think that the reason they might not like it is that this takes a lot 1of effort. It takes a great deal of commitment and a lot of self-work to be more inclusive and accessible. It requires a shift in attitude.

Michelle Banks:: Yes

Alexandria Wailes: It's a change in perspective because if there are barriers or assumptions, then accessibility won't exist. And that's what happens a great deal. I don't have the answer, but I think it's really more about mindful practice in a system with a lot of lists and numbers and concrete needs. So, the concept of doing self-work or asking a creative space to work differently takes a lot of commitment to make the change. And also, it takes time. You have to make the time.

Michelle Banks:: People need to open their minds.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes.

Michelle Banks:: Open their minds and be willing to engage in working with people like us. Even though we have cultural differences or differences of backgrounds, whether it's about hearing loss or being Deaf, being willing to listen to our needs and learn how they can help us and, really, how we can help each other. How we can work together. That's why I created VOCA, to demonstrate that hearing and Deaf artists can work together. We just need to keep the communication open. We have to be willing to try, which of course is better than not trying. Because if you don't try, you don't know. And I think it's important to have a platform for conversations about accessibility, about inclusion. About how the communities can help make change by supporting each other. And make it work for both communities: hearing and Deaf. And other communities as well.

Alexandria Wailes: I think it's open-mindedness but also being willing to learn. Because I think that we live in a time where the old ideas are the architecture, and they are deeply entrenched in the system. So, we consider how can we create a shift and change them.

Michelle Banks:: It's happening now.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes, it's happening now.

Michelle Banks:: Slowly.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes, oh yes. Slowly. And we continue to support each other even though progress may be slow and we want it immediately. We recognize the incremental shifts, but it takes commitment to keep the momentum going. It's okay if somebody needs to rest. It's important to rest, but just acknowledge what the ultimate goal is. The more we have a shared mindset, I believe we'll get there. Because our society and our politics and our art are constantly shifting. To live in old ideas is not helpful. And that's why we try to see what’s current. What's possible. But people are entrenched in the past, which is part of our history, but we need to transform and transcend.

Michelle Banks:: You said it all.

Alexandria Wailes: Next question.

Question on screen: Last question! If you ruled the world, what role would you cast the other in?

Alexandria Wailes: It hasn't been created yet. I mean, there's so many oh, there's a lot. And I think that's why I'm a little stuck by this question because I see so many possibilities that I would like to know what Michelle would like to do, what you're interested in and maybe that's a TDF conversation for another day.

Michelle Banks:: It takes deep contemplation and actually thinking about what we need to represent in a positive way. How we can actually present our work so that people will see us? I think that there are several roles that I would love for Alexandria to be involved with and I would love to work with her. Maybe directing a Broadway show together. I don't know.

Alexandria Wailes: Yes!

Michelle Banks:: Imagine having a Deaf director on Broadway. Moving from acting to directing.

Alexandria Wailes: The options are getting more broad as we speak.

Michelle Banks:: Having a Deaf person in charge!

Alexandria Wailes: Yes. Yes. And honestly, Michelle you are iconic. Iconic. And yes, there is a lot we can do. As far as your imagination goes that can become your reality.

Michelle Banks:: Yes.

Alexandria Wailes: Thank you for your time today. This was such a pleasure.

Michelle Banks:: Thank you. Bye everyone.

Top image: Michelle A. Banks and Alexandria Wailes.




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