Midway through the run of Too Heavy for your Pocket, we’re going backstage to get to know the four actors who are embodying the show’s undeniably courageous characters. You can read our first interview with Jennifer Latimore, who plays Sally-Mae Carter, here. Next we reached out to Ayanna Bria Bakari, the actress playing Evelyn Brandon, Bowzie Brandon’s wife.
Tell us the story of when you first knew you wanted to become an actor.
I always knew I wanted to be performer. Whether it was an opera singer, dancer, musical theater artist or actor, somehow someway, I’d be on somebody’s stage!
What excites you about the world of this play / this character?
The first thing that excited me about this play / this character was her name, Evelyn. That was my great grandmother’s name, she was the matriarch and queen mother of my family. When I auditioned and was later offered this role I vowed to dedicate my work in this play to her. Throughout my childhood, front line participants have told me countless stories about the Freedom Rides and other aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. For instance, my grade-school principal was an original Freedom Rider. Those stories helped to shape me into the woman I am today and will continue to shape me moving forward. So, to actually be a part of portraying this story allows me to both honor and pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed.
Tell us about how the rehearsal process was. What’s it like working with this cast / team?
The rehearsal process was fantastic. Completely collaborative and honest! Having Ron OJ as a director has been such a blessing and a resource. All of us work really well together as a team, and these are some of the funniest people to work with. I stay in stitches! This process has allowed the actors autonomy of our choices, and with that TRUST from Ron and each other, we are really able to flow and explore as a unit. The uniqueness and details that each of us bring to our characters have been encouraged from the very beginning.
I hope the audience understands the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions and the ripple effects of sacrifice.
— Ayanna Bria Bakari
What has been your favorite moment working on this production so far?
Building a bond and a family with Jalen, Jennifer, and Cage! These people are amazing! Working with them has been my favorite part of everyday. They are my friends and now my family and we will always have this play and TimeLine to thank for that.
What do you hope the audience takes away after seeing this show?
I hope the audience understands the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions and the ripple effects of sacrifice. Also, this play illustrates how critical the Civil Rights Movement was not only to the Black family, but also to the actual birth of American democracy.
Too Heavy for Your Pocket explores the personal costs of progress, and the conflict between where you come from and what you’re called to. Is this something that resonates in your life?
Fortunately, where I come from is the reason I am able to do what I’ve been called to do. My family has always encouraged me to pursue my passions and as long as I continue to honor and respect my ancestors along the way, the work I am creating will never be in vain.