Actress, singer, author, and activist Eartha Kitt might be best known as the singer behind “Santa Baby” and “C’est si bon,” or as the third Catwoman on the sixties Batman TV series. However, a government-led blacklisting in the late sixties halted her career for an entire decade. The infamous blacklisting forms the basis for Down To Eartha, a one-woman show which will begin its 10-show run at the Gene Frankel Theater (24 Bond Street) in August.
“I simply loved her as a young girl growing up in the theater,” said Down To Eartha producer and director Marishka Phillips. “After seeing her comeback performance in Timbuktu! I knew I wanted to be a part of this business.”
The play, which premiered earlier this year at the WOW Cafe in Manhattan, was written by Deirdra McDowell, who also stars as Kitt.
“I was first inspired to play Eartha Kitt by acting coach Susan Batson, in 2010,” said McDowell. “After performing an animal exercise in class, she simply stated, ‘I see Eartha.’ From there, I felt the need to tell Kitt’s story.”
Many will be shocked to discover the measures the CIA took to silence Kitt following an incident at a White House luncheon in January 1968. Kitt’s anti-war statements on that day personally insulted First Lady Lady Bird Johnson so much that she urged President Lyndon Johnson to blacklist Kitt from working in the United States. The government succeeded in doing so for the following ten years.
Down to Eartha explores Kitt´s personal re-encounter of that fateful day in detail, while also delving into her personal journey of power and freedom. Stemming from a life ridden with years of child abuse, Eartha´s personal journey proves to be at times a nightmare of a hurdle. It is one that could only be conquered by the power of love.
“In today’s political climate, the right to be heard continues to resonate,” said Phillips. “Kitt’s outspoken views are just as relevant and inspiring today as they were in 1968.”
Kitt, who for decades has endured a large LGBTQ following, stated in a 1992 interview, “We’re all rejected people, we know what it is to be refused, we know what it is to be oppressed, depressed, and then, accused, and I am very much cognizant of that feeling. Nothing in the world is more painful than rejection. I am a rejected, oppressed person, and so I understand them, as best as I can, even though I am a heterosexual.”
Down to Eartha will begin its run at the Gene Frankel Theater on August 7 at 8pm. Shows will run August 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 at 8pm. There will also be a matinee performance on Sunday, August 11 at 4pm.