Son of a Preacher Man | God, the Universe and Theatre

Contributed by Marcus Dargan

DSP Logo - Sq BlThe last time I performed on stage as an actor was exactly two years ago. It was the lead role in the New York City premiere of Son of a Preacher Man at The Riverside Theater. Before that, the last time I appeared on stage was four years prior in Harlem Repertory Theatre’s Ain’t Misbehavin’. Why such a big gap in my performance history? Over the past decade, I realized that I do love acting; however, I have found it to be too emotionally draining for me.

Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man, 2012.  Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.

Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

I come from a very critical upbringing and acting sets off an extreme anxiety. Every night before a performance, I have to build myself up from scratch. After a performance, despite positive feedback and reviews, I am immersed in my thoughts for days, wondering if I am still “good enough.” It is an endless cycle throughout the entire production schedule, which I don’t quite experience as a director.

I have also never been self-aware when it comes to my mannerisms and movements on stage or in real life. It’s like my body has a mind of its own. Watching videos of past performances, I find myself doing a lot of things in character that I had no idea I was doing. It makes me very uncomfortable to know that I am so uninhibited, especially on stage in front of a sea of people. The whole performing in front of people thing is just too exhausting for me.

Geraldine Flood, Deonte Warren and Sonja Price in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

Geraldine Flood, Deonte Warren and Sonja Price in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

Earlier this year, I received a call from producer and director Dominique Denman and she once again offered me the role for the upcoming revival of Son of a Preacher Man for one night on Friday, August 1. I hesitated, but gladly accepted the role. I had to rationalize with myself that maybe my performance wasn’t that bad if she is calling me back again. Either way, it is a dynamic and relevant piece for which I share deep connections with. I found it a blessing to once again be asked to be a part of this show.

Christian Baxter, Nefertiti Warren and Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

Christian Baxter, Nefertiti Warren and Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

We were somewhere in the first couple of weeks of rehearsal. We had not put the work up on its feet yet and were still performing table readings. I looked up from my script and observed Duane Burress, Jr. reading, who was cast as my younger brother. Duane is my former acting student, who has since gone on to study at Professional Performing Arts HS and University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He has also performed in a number of productions I’ve directed in the past.

I’m sitting there, watching Duane read and a thought hits me, “Why doesn’t he play the lead?” At the time, I didn’t know if it was a response to my performance anxiety or if I was looking at it purely from a director’s eye, even though I wasn’t the director. Something about him playing the lead just seemed right. So, I scribbled a little note on my script and slid it over to the director, Dominique. She gave me a classic “What the #$&! are you smoking?” look.

Marcus Dargan and Lettie Battle in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

Marcus Dargan and Lettie Battle in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

At the end of that rehearsal, we chatted about it briefly and decided to audition Duane for the lead. Shortly after, she offered him the role and he accepted. I was offered to assistant direct, which I took gladly, without hesitation.

This seemed to set off a chain reaction. During the following week, without being aware of the recent cast change, other actors in the show began to receive offers for substantial gigs that conflicted with our production schedule. As we were so early in our rehearsal process, Dominique graciously released them and we recast as needed. Within a couple of days, we were looking at a whole new cast.

These past weeks, while working in rehearsal with our new cast, sparks of creativity, imagination and artistry have been flying all around the room. Initially, I believe we all planned to approach the script as we have in the previous production, but all of this new life has brought on a fresh energy with greater depth and exploration of the characters, script and its themes. Son of a Preacher Man was a compelling show two years ago, but already, we can see that this production will be more powerful than we imagined.

Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

Marcus Dargan in Son of a Preacher Man. Photo Credit: DTEG, Inc.|2012

I now realize that it was not my performance anxiety, but obedience in listening to God, the Universe or some higher power of Theatre to relinquish the role. My action became the catalyst within the Universe that set off the cast changes, infusing the rehearsal process with new blood and subsequently promoting the production to the next level. This does not take away from the contributions and performance of previous cast members who are still actively engaged with the production in other ways. Sometimes, it just takes an unexpected shift to allow for greater things to happen.

I often advise artists to read Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist. It is a tale of fiction that shows what can be acheived when one is connected with the Universe and follows the omens placed before them. Fantastic things happen, beyond our own thoughts or reason. I am extremely happy in my role as assistant director and even prouder of the work that the cast, especially my former student Duane, is doing in this production. You will not want to miss it.

Rivers@Rehoboth in association with DTEG, Inc. present

Son of a Preacher Man
August 1, 2014
7:30 PM

Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew
263 W. 86th St.
Broadway and West End Aves., NYC

Tickets available through
212 868-4444

For more info
646 406-1546

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About the author

Marcus Dargan is the Artistic Director of NuAFrikan Theatre and a recipient of the Jacob A. Weiser Playwright Award for his play Dream Deferred, which was nominated for the AUDELCO 2012 Dramatic Production of the Year. He was last seen in the role created by Ken Page in Ain’t Misbehavin’ with the Harlem Repertory Theatre, a show garnering five AUDELCO Award nominations. He is the author of the play Antichrist Lament, which received workshop performances at the Manhattan Theatre Source PlayGround Development Series and Nuyorican Poet’s Café. He is an adjunct professor of the Speech, Communications and Theatre department at Borough of Manhattan Community where he received an A.S. in Theatre. He also holds a B.A. in Theatre and M.S.Ed. in Educational Theatre from City College of New York.

5 comments on “Son of a Preacher Man | God, the Universe and Theatre”

  1. Carmen Mathis Reply

    How enlightened and gracious you are, Marcus! I thoroughly enjoyed this article—thanks for sharing your epiphany and answering your next “calling”. Maybe the shift happened because it was time—and because you are on the way to your next calling(s). Thanks for sharing–and yes, I will be there!!

      • Tara Brown Arnell Reply

        Hey Marcus–thx for the invite and thx for sharing your heart, mind and passions so transparently. I’m checking my calendar and look forward to at least buying 2 or 3 tix if I’m in ny. Let u know soon.

  2. Sophornia Reply

    Wonderful article. I could do without the whole universe thing and just give reverence to the creator of the universe, but that’s me….lol. I could hear you speaking as I read this article while on the bus, literally laughing out loud. Ur a great actor and a terrific director.

  3. Sista Shae Reply

    I am blessed to read this amazing testimony.
    I’m Glad that God is using you because you are more than qualified.. unknowingly, you teach more than you know. I’m sooo looking forward to the awesome works S/He’ll do through you.. Ahh, the greater things you shall do!


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