Dynamic Duo

Michael Luwoye & Adeola Role on the Joys and Challenges of Creating Their Invisible Thread Duo

December 15th, 2015 by

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Michael Luwoye & Adeola Role on the Joys and Challenges o...

Jacob and Joy are siblings and orphans living in Uganda and working for the corrupt, unseen Pastor Jim in the sublime new off-Broadway musical Invisible Thread; their journey is so rewarding for the audience because the performances by Michael Luwoye and Adeola Role are so fantastic and so in sync. Below, BroadwayBox hears from the dynamic duo about creating these memorable, real characters, the pair's on and off stage relationship and their Nigerian connection.


My first impression of my co-star was:

Michael:
I remember walking out of our first rehearsal at A.R.T. thinking "she gets me." Before this project, I'd never worked with another Nigerian actor before (she also happens to be Yoruba). Addie had knowledge of and spoke about certain things that I always felt alien to express by myself in other productions, and that made me feel pretty comfortable working with her from the start.

Adeola:
Yup, he's Nigerian! It’s really comforting to have a cast-mate who can fully appreciate when your Nigerian parents' reaction to being cast in an Off-Broadway piece is, "what is the Broadway?". Michael exudes everything that I love about growing up as a Nigerian in America. He's a complete nerd (I often catch him reading the dictionary), who happens to also be GORGEOUS, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and when we first sat down to read the show I saw that he's the kind of artist who fights to find beauty in unexpected spaces.


I think our most memorable rehearsal had to have been when:

Michael:
The cast and creative team were recounting our experiences in Uganda on our very first day. The two of us shared a lot of personal moments being African and being back in the land where our parents are from (my first time ever in Africa). Sharing our experiences in Uganda with our entire team and the staff of Second Stage was really special.

Adeola:
Michael and I were having another one of our ridiculously long conversations, during rehearsal, where he was struggling to figure out if his character, Jacob, was the show's true villain. Now being the genius that he is, Michael chose not to answer that question. He saw that Jacob's narrative may look villainous to some, but to others it looks like survival. From that conversation, he was able to build a passionate performance that's really a raw meditation on what lengths one will go to survive.


A performance of Invisible Thread I’ll never forget:

Michael:
Hands down, our first preview performance, where one of the students of Uganda Project, Patrick, was able to watch the show, takes the cake. But there was also a preview performance where the creative team gave Addie & me a couple quick scenes in the middle of the song "Put it All on the Line" that we had to put in that night. Backstage during the show we were fumbling over the timing and what the lines actually were. Once the moment arrived … the absolute fear in our eyes as these new words that we were still trying to tame spilled out of our mouths was extremely entertaining.

Adeola:
The first preview. We had the privilege of going to Uganda to meet the students, to hear their stories from their mouths, to learn from them and the journey was truly life-changing. So that first preview allowed us to FINALLY share our emotional experiences through our performances for an NY audience, an audience that needs to hear this narrative, and it was everything!


My favorite moment onstage now with my co-star is:

Michael:
Our final moments together in the compound during the song "Fragile". All of the work that we've done during the show & discussions that we've held throughout rehearsals gets to breathe in that last moment. It shows the complexity in Joy & Jacob's relationship and is a clean bookend to the journey the two have just travelled through.

Adeola:
It comes at the end of the show where we really see both our characters defending the choices they've made to survive. Watching Michael is heartbreaking in this scene. While he portrays an African man in this story, he summons this all too familiarly universal pain that young black men suffer in trying to survive in worlds that have been built to see them fail. His passion and honesty in these moments challenge the audience to widen their scope and give grace to other people's trial.


I think the biggest way our performances have changed from A.R.T. has been:

Michael:
Both of us are pulling from a wealth of experience that we weren't able to express before. Because we've been to Uganda and met the students and visited the locations that exist in our show, I believe that the two of us are able to dig a little deeper than we were cognizant of doing last year in Cambridge.

Adeola:
We've both made the choice to fight for nuance. It's so easy to fall into playing general African-ness. And that's not ok, because this is a story about real Ugandans. It’s very clear that we have a responsibility to infuse our characters with the essence of the people we were so privileged to meet when we went to Uganda. And I hope the specificity landed!


The secret to our performances gelling so well together is:

Michael:
Addie is something like a big sister to me in real life. We also talk honestly about our scene work, hold space for the other to vent any frustrations or joys we may be feeling, and goof around like children everyday. By the time we're onstage together I feel like our performance is just an extension of the trust and relationship we've established in our regular lives.

Adeola:
Michael and I have a very sacred gesture we share before every performance. For me it's sort of a promise to support each other, to stay present, to really look at each other, and uplift each other through this performance. If we didn't share that level of honesty and love it would make it quite impossible for us to dive so deeply into the nuance of our characters' lives.


Off-stage, my co-star and I bond over:

Michael:
Living in New York, being actors & navigating through our young careers, social issues, family, relationships, and our personal lives. Addie also has a tendency to eat all of my food whenever I cook which … I guess you could call bonding.

Adeola:
Everything. Honestly. We really have become like brother and sister... Wait.. I guess that means we don't bond over everything...


I’m in awe of my co-star’s ability to:

Michael:
Dissect a scene to its essentials and articulate her actions so clearly. Addie also refuses to allow her work onstage & with her scene partner(s) to become stale. She's always reviewing & constructing how she can approach a scene to get what she wants and better tell Joy's story, which is absolutely refreshing to have in a working environment.

Adeola:
Reason. He so reasonable! It’s not fair, lol. He is able to see these profound lessons amidst chaos. It's really quite beautiful to see how he maneuvers life as a young, talented black man. He is so humble and reasonable and I learn from him everyday... But please don't tell him that....


If I had to describe my co-star in a song, it would be:

Michael:
"Thank God I'm a Country Boy" ~ John Denver

Adeola:
"Dance too much booty in the pants" by Too Live Crew... Don't ask.

Hurry over to off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre to see Michael Luwoye and Adeola Role's incredible and moving performances in Invisible Thread.