EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Theater Review and Actor Interview
by William Gooch
published March 20, 2009
Trickster at the Gate
now playing Off Broadway at Ted Bardy Studio
through March 29
In this implosive time when many of our cultural and financial institutions are being questioned and dislodged beyond recognition,
one of the few things we can depend on is that change is inevitable. Our ancestors understood this and embraced this natural order of
In Trickster at the Gate, John Patrick Bray demonstrates that taking risks and
embracing the vicissitudes of life is the only way to have a fully-lived existence. By conjuring images of Yoruba orishas (spirits or
deities)—particularly the Eshu Elegba, the messenger or trickster orisha—and setting the story during the Harlem Renaissance and present
day Louisiana, Bray creates a cultural patois that is vibrant, nuanced and universal.
In this original work based on the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston, John Patrick Bray tells the story of Nell (Amanda
Bailey), the human incarnation of the punished deity Eshu Elegba. From her life as a sharecropper’s wife to the love interest of a Harlem
jazz musician to her last days in Louisiana, Bray spins an incredible tale of defiance, remorse, and self-acceptance. By borrowing from the
past, Bray has created a seminal work that speaks to the human need for self-love and growth.
As Lucky, Nell’s Harlem love interest, David Heron brings an authenticity and tactile sensibility that belies his cultural
background and lexicon of work. He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his life, the character Lucky, and his
Interview with actor David Heron
William Gooch: Where did you grow up and what is your educational background?
David Heron: I was born in
Kingston, Jamaica and I earned my undergraduate degree in Mass Communications and English from the University of the West Indies. I was a
published playwright in Jamaica before I ever came to the United States in 2001. I became interested in performing through a kind of freak
accident even though I have had very little formal training in acting. My play Love and Marriage and New
York City was premiering in Jamaica and one of the actors dropped out, so I took over his role. Performing in that play spurred my move to
New York City to pursue my career as an actor and playwright.
William Gooch: Have you
studied acting since being in New York City?
David Heron: I have worked with some amazing directors such as Petronia Paley, Woody King and Shirley Parkinson, but I still have
not had many professional acting classes. I feel that each stage experience has been an acting class. I think it would have been a
wonderful opportunity to study at such esteemed acting schools as Julliard or Yale Drama School, but each actor’s path is
When I moved to New York City I came here with the clothes on my back and I really couldn’t afford to go to a professional acting
school. I came [here] as a professional working actor in that I had worked professionally in London and Jamaica. The first equity show that
I auditioned for in NYC I landed. I have been extremely fortunate.
William Gooch: How did you
come to Trickster at the Gate?
David Heron: I went to the casting to audition for a different role than I ended up being cast for. Dan Horrigan, the director,
wanted to cast me in the roles of Lucky and Walter. He had an idea of having one actor play both roles, but we later settled on me just
playing the role of Lucky.
William Gooch: Were you
familiar with Zora Neale Hurston’s work before this production?
David Heron: I was familiar with Hurston’s Your Eyes Are Watching God from
William Gooch: Your character,
Lucky, has a sort of up-from-the-south accent. How did you navigate speaking with the cadence and inflection of that type of
David Heron: I have always been a good mimic. I have a good friend from Grambling, Mississippi, so I mimicked him. Also, I had the
pleasure of working with S. Epatha Merkerson in Ntozake Shange’s Mother Courage. I played a
semi-retarded man in that production and that is the first time I kind of tried out my southern accent. In Mother Courage I listened to Epatha a lot because she understands the southern dialect. I also went to a
website called the International Dialects of English Archives where I listened to clips of accents from various states and
William S. Gooch: What process
did you use to understand or get inside Lucky?
David Heron: Lucky is a passionate, committed musician whose music is
an extension of himself. His personality is about expressing himself through his art. His art and his life is one. So when he is having too
much tension in his life he can create his music. Although Nell, his love interest, inspires him to play and create music, when their
relationship is not going well, he cannot perform, musically. He expresses fear, doubt, anger, joy and everything through his music. I have
also being employing a 12-step technique learned from a book by Ivana Chubbuck called The Power of the
Actor: The Chubbuck Technique which helps me break down my characters and understand them better. [Ivana Chubbuck is an acting coach and author and is the founder and director of the
Ivana Chubbuck Studio. Her students have included Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Terence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Shue,
Catherine Keener, Djimon Honsou, America Ferrera, Eva Mendes, James Franco and Kate Bosworth.] The language of the book is wonderful and has been a great tool in my
William Gooch: How do the characters in Trickster at the Gate correspond to some
characters in some of Zora Neal Hurston’s books?
David Heron: There are some parallels
between Lucky and Nell in Trickster and Teacake and Janie from Your Eyes Are Watching God. Janie and Nell are both on a journey to self-discovery which no man or God can
alter. Nell, even though she has been condemned by the orishas Shango and Obbatala to spend a cursed life on earth, she still insists on
living her life on her own terms. You can find that same doggedness in Janie.
William Gooch: What did you know about the Yoruba religion before this production?
David Heron: I really didn’t know much at
all before Trickster at the Gate, but our director Dan Horrigan prepped the cast in the Yoruba
faith during rehearsal so that we could bring as much authenticity as possible to the production.
William Gooch: David, what’s next for you?
David Heron: I am up for Shakespeare
productions this summer. Looking forward to doing more film and television.