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 following anti-war statements she made at a White House luncheon halted her career for an entire decade.
The infamous blacklisting forms the basis for the AUDELCO nominated play Down To Eartha, a one-woman show which will hold a four-show run at the Dwyer Cultural Center (258 Saint Nicolas Ave. in Harlem), January 17 – 20, 2020. January 17 marks what would have been Kitt’s 93rd birthday, as well as the 52nd Anniversary of the White House incident.
“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 Dierdra McDowell, who also stars as Kitt. McDowell has since been nominated for Best Solo Performance in the 47th Annual Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Recognition Awards.
“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.”
This production is in association with The Dwyer Cultural Center and is sponsored by Miss Jessie’s. Down to Eartha will begin its run at The Dwyer Cultural Center in January 2020. Shows will run January 17-20 at varying times.
For more information about the show, please visit edenentertainmen3.wixsite.com/downtoeartha.