“Clay’s Place: Inside my Blue Mind” was recently named a quarterfinalist in an international Stage Play Writing Competition. The play takes place in downtown Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The streets are lined with Black-owned shops and stores with a “carnival atmosphere,” and in the evening there is “indulgent nightlife that seduced many to engage in the clandestine vices.”
First cousins Clay Carter and Turner Davis were born in the Mississippi Delta and left as teens to leave a life of sharecropping to find something better. They landed in Memphis on Beale Street. The plot follows them as they “try to find redemption and past and present secrets.”
The cast includes Robert Smith, Evan Carrington, Nefertari Rasaq, Starr Hill, Kike Ayodeji, Joshua Street, Katana Pressley, Garrett Matthews, Vincent Stovall, Khalil Alston, Reginald Baskerville, and Aaron Keith Ward.
The play was written and will be directed by Angela Wilson the founder and CEO of The AngelWing Project, Inc., a non-profit group whose mission is to “positively impact the community by providing uplifting, entertaining shows and events to inspire appreciation for and participation in the arts.” AWP also does community service through their Wings of Caring which feeds the homeless, runs toy drives for children living in shelters and transitional housing, collects linen and towels for families in need and helps provide learning skills to transition back to society. They have also cooked breakfast and donated hats and gloves to women living in domestic violence shelters.
Robert Smith began his professional acting career upon his return from his first deployment to Iraq in 2009. From there, he went on to participate in several theater festivals, training classes, and theatrical tours with a variety of production companies such as RQL Productions where he played both George Murchinson in “A Raisin in the Sun” and Thomas Jones in “Fighting God.” Robert is also known for his charismatic role as Willie Norful in the hit stage play “Saul’s Juke Joint,” and for his role as Ethan in an independent film called “Pawnz.” He recently won Best Actor for his role as Dr. Scott during Northern Virginia’s Theater Alliance, One Act competitions. Robert also played Turner Davis in “Tears of the Soul” which won best stage play in 2019 at the DC Black Theater Festival. Robert is an avid reader, musician, rapper, and stand-up comedian. He remains dedicated to furthering his skillsets with his role as Clay Carter in “Clay’s Place.”
Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m Robert. I’m from the GREATEST state within the U.S. (Florida). I currently reside in Virginia. After high school, I went straight into the military and joined the best branch (ARMY). I’m also modest if you couldn’t tell. After my first deployment, I returned home and that’s really when I started acting in more than just school productions—and have been continuing ever since. I love meeting new people and the camaraderie that is built in when doing theater. One week everyone is a stranger and just trying to read words on a page. The next week, we’re friends going through hardships of learning lines, learning how/why your character is important, and where they fit into all this. Then, organically you grow into a family as you are bringing these characters to life. That’s just a little about me.
What is your favorite acting role other than your role in “Clay’s Place: Inside My Blue Mind” and why?
My favorite acting role that I had the opportunity to portray to date was Ethan in a film called “Pawnz.” It was my first movie role. I had an awesome time with the cast and crew. It was a comedy so really, I just arrived on set and we laughed for roughly six to eight hours every day when we filmed. I also really enjoyed playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in Rockville Little Theater’s production of “Mountaintop” written by Katori Hall. It was truly one of the best times I’ve had with a cast/crew and I learned so much from some great and talented people. It was performed during COVID, and initially we were going to record it on stage and stream it from their theater. But unfortunately, they had renovations at the time. So, they created this set in another workplace and made it almost like a live TV studio, and we were able to stream it from there. For all intents and purposes, it was a sold-out show. We had viewers all the way out in Utah joining the live stream of our performance.
Can you tell us a little bit about the character you play in “Clay’s Place”?
Without giving away too much the show, Clay Carter is a man trying to make it in this world. He’s so relatable. I’m sure we all have cousins or family members that you just love to be around. That is Clay Carter. He wants the best for everyone around him! He’s the one you could tell your deepest darkest secret to and know that it’s safe with him. But, like most black men of his time, he struggled. He struggled with finances and had a few side hustles before starting Clay’s Place but nothing that one would call successful or even legal for that matter. He struggled with insecurities and how he was viewed in society. He struggled just to survive. But when he’s in Clay’s Place, all that goes away. He’s home. His family is there, his friends are there, and everyone always had a good time!
The play takes place in Memphis. Have you ever been there and if so, tell us your impressions?
Memphis is such a historic and beautiful city. I had the opportunity to visit it when I was younger. We stopped at the historic Lorraine Motel Museum, drove by Graceland and saw so many Elvis impersonators there, and the food was phenomenal (from what I remember). I would love to go back as an adult with all the knowledge and history I now have of that city and truly enjoy it even more.
Is there a play or role you would like to do in the future?
I wouldn’t mind doing “Hamilton” in the near future. Someone send Lin-Manuel Miranda my headshot please!
“Clay’s Place: Inside my Blue Mind” will be playing at the Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammond Lane, Brooklyn Park, Maryland on Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 2:30 and 6:00 p.m. (sold out) and Sunday, October 24 at 3:00 p.m. For tickets got to this link. For more information about the show and the Angel Wing Project go to their website or catch them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or on Instagram @theangelproject.
To find out more about Angela Wilson, read Susan Brall’s Interview with her here.