NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 146

144 The workshop was a gathering of true black sages in the urban dumping grounds called Watts. It gained worldwide recognition and drew many celebrities. Budd Schulberg, a famous master of the pen himself, had a wide circle of literary giants as pals and many of them spent a large amount of their time and legal tender with the workshop. The famous writers John Steinbeck (who was a good friend of Budd and influential in getting the National Endowment of the Arts to give the workshop its initial $25,000 grant) and Ralph Ellison were among the legendary scribes who generously supported or visited the young writers on Beach Street. One evening, while a rehearsal for Harry Dolan’s play about Nat Turner was going on, a group of white people entered the theater. In their midst was a diminutive young brother in a Nehru suit like the ones the Beatles wore. We knew that this young black dude was special because so many white folks accompanied him. The white boy who was the spokesman for the group explained what was up: the young black dude was a student from England. He had seen shows about the workshop and wanted to experience the sensational Black Power Movement that was occurring in l.a. As the young brother and his entourage of white folks ambled around the theater, he said he was a musician and that his name was Fela Kuti. The Watts Writers Workshop’s worldwide acclaim attracted numerous way out characters who wished to take advantage of the situation. One of the most fascinating characters to walk through the doors of the workshop was a fast talking slickster named Felix. He was very friendly, intelligent, and extremely vociferous. He often laughed at his own explicit and facetious tales and was an impeccable dresser; he was a really fastidious and an energetic hustler. Felix, at first, was very eloquent; his diction was excellent as he informed the director of the Workshop that he had a lot of experience in theatrical ventures as a director. He expressed his ideas in a flamboyant manner that ensnared his listeners in a web of fantastic ideas and lovely images. Felix wanted to direct a play called, Slow Dance On The Killing Grounds, exclusively for the Frederick Douglass Theater. Harry Dolan thought this was an excellent idea. So, with Harry’s consent, Felix put together a cast and crew for his production. As a director, Felix was a tough taskmaster; it looked like he derived sadistic pleasure from whipping the asses of his cast and crew, psychologically speaking. For three weeks Felix forced them to rehearse all day long and half the night. By the time the play was scheduled to open, the cast and crew was completely exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Felix’s forceful style, however, whipped the cast and crew into excellent shape. At the play’s dress rehearsal Felix was very felicitous; he looked very important in his expensive outfit. He was extremely affable that night, smiling broadly, exhibiting dam near all his perfect thirty-two pearls. It would have been safe to lay down a big wad on this exceptional production. There was a magnificent turnout for the debut performance. The weeks of rigorous rehearsals seemed to have paid off. The cast was all there, wearing the bright costumes that the wardrobe crew had worked on overtime. A big problem, however, ensued. Felix went missing in action! The cat vanished from the eyes of the world. A lot of cash had been put in his hand to produce the play; the electricity and lights had been his responsibility. The cast and crew waited in vain for their director to come frolicking through the doors of the Frederick Douglass Workshop. Felix had simply disappeared from the face of the earth, revealing himself to be nothing more than an exceptional confidence man. Wednesday nights were times of great activity in the workshop; it was a time for people to read out loud the stories and poems they had written. People from all walks of lif