–Neal Newman, in his DCMetroTheaterArts review of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin
Amir: Seeing people like Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier, symbols of the African-American culture and movements in the United States, made me very fond of theatre and the arts. Being able to portray stories, characters, and lessons gives me a sense of purpose that inspires me to appreciate and take part in theatre and a new sense of the world.
You grew up in a non-traditional family with your grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom seem to have influenced you as a young person and an actor. Tell us about the first time you realized that you liked acting and how those two women shaped your life.
When I was around ten, my grandmother randomly rode me to a sample class at Freedom Theatre in about 2010. I was very hesitant to take part in the class and open myself up to acting, but once they let the students on stage, it was an instant love.
Being on such a powerful and historic stage gave me that sense of purpose that drives me to be an actor.
Could you describe the training that you experienced in the process of working on The Ballad of Trayvon Martin? What did you learn about yourself?
While not directly taught during the rehearsal process, just listening and watching the many talented actors taught me so much. The ambition of these people around me to really project the life of Trayvon Martin was staggering. People that have more experience than me felt like family and people I could consider great friends, mentors, and teachers.
The play itself taught me to cherish every moment of my life, for it can be taken away at any moment. Life is not fair, so I know now that I have to put my lessons and wisdom into the world whenever I can.
It is most definitely a challenge. Having to drop into the role every night and grip the deep places inside of me to make the performance give as much justice to Trayvon, takes a lot out of me. I usually relate the actions and scenes of Trayvon to similar situations I experienced in my life. This makes it so surreal and a time for me to reflect on myself as a teenage boy.
How did any of the scenarios that Trayvon experienced in his life relate to aspects of your own life, especially against the backdrop of all the many young people of color that have been killed in the U.S. over the last few years?
Being the same age as Trayvon, it really affects me. It makes me sick that people still in this day and age, judge by what someone wears or where he is from. As a nation and a society, we must overcome this mental disposition of putting people in a box. As a united world, this cannot be something carried on as it is dangerous and limits the intellect and potential of so many black and minority kids today.
What are your goals for your future?
For a very long time my goal was to study Aerospace Engineering or Military Science and then join the military as an officer, and then pursue a career as an FBI SWAT member.
Yet, after going through the experience of portraying a powerful message through The Ballad of Trayvon Martin, theatre has been passing my mind as something I would like to pursue.
If you had the opportunity to address black teenagers who may be angry, especially toward authority figures such as parents, teachers, and police officers, how would you tell them to express their thoughts and feelings in such a way that they don’t endanger themselves in one of the most deadly societies for minority members in the Western world?
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Without these people I would just be another black boy passing on the street.
The Ballad of Trayvon Martin plays through this Sunday May 22, 2016 at New Freedom Theatre-1346 Broad Street (Broad and Master), in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets call the box office at (888) 802-8998.
Check out this review: The Ballad of Trayvon Martin reviewed by Neal Newman on DCMetroTheaterArts.
For this interview, originally published by DCMetroTheaterArts, click here.