*It wasn’t that long ago, was it? Back when Wendy Raquel Robinson first appeared on the sit-com “The Steve Harvey Show” as Principal Regina Grier? The Howard University alum had stolen the hearts of masses with her ability appear vulnerable and clumsy in one scene, and totally in control and ahead of the game in the next.
And least we forget the smile? She went on to star in several projects including “The Game” where she plays a sports manager Tasha Mack. But while many in La-La Land chase their own stars, Ms. Robinson appears to be satisfied with helping children chase theirs and has been doing so for nearly a decade.
“We’re here at the Amazing Grace Conservatory,” said Robinson. “We’re all American now and we hope to be international someday. We’re located in South Los Angeles we’re at 2401 West Washington Blvd. We were on Adams before.”
Though the school’s new location provides more space, flexibility and peace of mind, Wendy told our Lee Bailey that convincing students to accept their new surroundings was a slight challenge.
“We are here because God put us here. We were actually given 6 weeks to move from our old location because they turned it into a charter school so there was a lot of emotion there.”
“We were emotionally attached. We had outgrown that phase but were emotionally detached all the same. Now we have a permanent, permanent home. In hind sight it’s the greatest blessing we could have asked for. It’s old, a little rusted but it has character. It used to be a 1930s jazz club and it still has that character. I even have an office upstairs. It’s not moved in yet but it’s here. We just gotta get air conditioning and that’s coming.”
We interviewed Wendy Raquel Robinson regarding the Amazing Grace Conservatory way back in the year 2000 back when “The Steve Harvey Show” was fresh on our minds and still only a twinkle in Robinson’s eye. But now it’s much more.
“What started out as a hobby is now evolved into a tremendous business.
There’s a lot of growth, a lot of love. Of course it costs us to expand our programming. We’ve got so many more students as a result. We’ve got weekend classes, we’ve got adult classes.”
“I think because we were leasing before we were comfortable. We were on
the 3rd floor of a church educational building and as they started expanding we had to be mindful of the other tenants and as they started expanding it wasn’t a comfortable co-habitation. It was a hard detachment but it just opened up so many more opportunities.”
The Conservatory has done some quality work over the years and is not only helping young children hone their theatrical abilities but it’s also helping them with self-esteem and self awareness as well. Robinson told us about the school’s most recent project and it’s relevance to modern times.
“It’s ‘Annie 2010’ so it’s not the Annie that you’re used to … the little orphan Annie. (These days) we’re dealing with the foster care system, May being foster care month and it’s amazing how many parallels there are between this Annie and the original Annie. The (original) was written in 1929 during the Great Depression and homelessness was at its high as well as unemployment and with the current recession all of the parallels are there. And, unfortunately, the foster care system has exploded to where there are so many more children in need of a home and love and things like that.”
For an adult to make the connection between a play written in a bygone era
and modern times is a no-brainer, but for a child the only connection might be Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” and many don’t even make that connection. Robinson tells EURweb.com that it was pretty easy to do.
“My artistic director and I were trying to come up with something that spoke to the soul of our young people as well as our community. Last year we did “Sarafina” and that spoke to the souls of the youth over in South Africa, and we always want to do something that deals with consciousness, has meaning, but is also something that is musically enriching for the kids to also grow and express themselves. Some of the kids thought it was kind of corny when they started listening to the music and things (but) I thought we could make it 2010 if we put our spin on it as far as the music. I’m really proud of not only the message but of the children. We’ve taken the Daddy Warbucks character and put our spin on it. Now he’s a Puff Daddy Warbucks type of character.”
We have to applaud Wendy’s commitment to the school that she created and has help mold with her own blood, sweat and tears. So many in Hollywood talk the talk, but she’s talking the talk, walking the walk, and doing the do. But, she’s still an actress. We asked how she manages to be fully committed to the school and her other duties. After all, one can’t serve 2 masters, can they?
“I teach year round. In the fall and in the spring it’s a Saturday program. It just gets a little difficult between April and May because we do weeknight rehearsals to catch up. We just started our tiny tots program. They’re from 5 to 7 years old. Change promotes growth. They’re integral. It’s interesting to see siblings going to school and working together. To think back in ’85 I was the little girl that was doing plays in my backyard. Now I’m still doing plays but the landscape has changed.”
Indeed she is!
“Annie 2010” plays for 2 weekends. This weekend, May 15-16 and next weekend, May 22-23 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Washington Blvd in Los Angeles. For additional information, call 323-732-4283. For more information on the school, log on to www.AmazingGraceConservatory.com.