Just trying to be herself

February 09, 2006|By TERRY ARMOUR | TERRY ARMOUR,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Rain Pryor brings her autobiographical one-woman show, Fried Chicken & Latkes, to the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts tomorrow night at 8.

She recently chatted about the cabaret-style show, a series of monologues and songs chronicling life growing up in Beverly Hills, Calif., as the child of a black father (late comedian Richard Pryor) and a Jewish mother. Pryor also spoke candidly about how her father's recent death affected her.

Fried Chicken & Latkes is about growing up biracial. Was that particularly difficult?

It's about growing up black and Jewish at a time [the 1970s] when strong stereotypes still existed. Not like the '80s or early '90s, when the stereotypes started to fade. In my show, you see how my mom reacts to race and what she tried to do to protect me. You see my Jewish grandmother and how she reacts to race. You see how my dad reacts to race, and my coming to terms with the fact that I am black and Jewish. Through this, I developed my own voice.

And I understand the audience is encouraged to participate in the show. That strikes me as a bad idea.

[Laughs] My show works well when the audience is involved. I want people to come see it, and I want them to be involved. This is not a play. Have fun; participate. But if you've got some negative stuff to say, keep it to yourself [laughs].

Obviously, people come to your show also expecting to hear you talk about your dad, especially after his recent death.

My dad's passing caused my show to change. Because it's autobiographical, I had to face that in my show. It's funny; it's dramatic. Hopefully, you will cry and you will laugh. And if we're lucky, you just might get some good information out of it. I want it to just keep progressing and moving forward.

On a very personal level, how did your dad's death affect you?

I lost the love of my life. My world has been tipped upside down. It's been a healing process for myself. Honestly, I am still in mourning. I am still in that place of, "I can't believe this happened." The response of people in the general public, and in the business, has been great. People realize my dad was a genius. He was a writer; he was an actor in films. He paved the way for a generation of comedy.

Do you find that people expect you to be like your dad, particularly with the kind of show you do?

I have this inner-dialogue with myself: If you are coming here to see Richard Pryor, you are in the wrong place. Go rent a video. I am not trying to be Richard Pryor; I am trying to be Rain Pryor. I am happy to carry on the legacy, but in my own way.

And how do you plan to carry out this legacy?

I want to take the show nationally, open on Broadway and have a serious run of the show. I am in the process of writing a book. I also am working on an album of standards. I am never done. My plate is full. I am trying to be artistic.

Rain Pryor's `Fried Chicken & Latkes' is at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St. in Annapolis, tomorrow night at 8. Tickets are $35. Go to mdhallarts.org or call 410-263-5544 or 410-269-1087 for more information.

Terry Armour writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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