Since his breakout 1987 film ‘Hollywood Shuffle,’ Robert Townsend has been too busy to spend too much time on the stage – his first love. But the actor/comedian/producer/director is back in front of a live audience at The Marsh Berkeley for Living the Shuffle, in which he tells stories from his unique vantage point, showing that it’s possible to pursue a dream of living an artistic life.
There’s more information about the show at The Marsh website.
He says his introduction to show business was growing up in Chicago. “There were so many gangs in my neighborhood on the West Side, my mother was like ‘You’ve got to stay in the house or you’re going to get recruited.’ So I had to stay in the house, and I watched television. And it was like… when Malcolm Gladwell talks about Outliers, and your ten thousand hours. Mine started at that little black and white TV when I was ten years old. And I was watching everything.” That’s where he developed his talent for impersonations, which served him well as he headed toward drama and stand-up comedy. To make Hollywood Shuffle, he put 40 thousand dollars worth of expenses on multiple credit cards, and used store charge cards for costumes and filling up his cast’s gas tanks during production. His success, and odd path getting there is at the heart of the one-man show. “When I started thinking about my life, I said how many people have lived a life like this? Not many. And so as I share my journey on stage, I hope that it gives people some inspiration, that if they want to live a life as an artist, they can, and if they have dreams, you know, to encourage the dreamers to continue to dream… Jimmy Stewart, the legendary actor, was always one of my favorite actors, because he was everyman. He was just that guy you identified with. I think my journey is one of everyman. You have a guy that comes from nothing, that worked really hard, sometimes I made a lot of mistakes, and has lived the American dream.”