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MHOL Actor Spotlight: Martin “Bats” Bradford

  • by Yoey
  • 8 Years ago
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Article conducted by: Mario “Yoey” Martin 

“Introducing Martin Bats” Bradford New Orleans actor and stage-play extraordinaire, currently starring in stage play Clybourne Park , Teaching acting classes to kids as well as writing and filming children short stories. Martin also is one of the founding writers/editors for thought-provoking blog website GumboMonster.Com. That he created along with Mike 5ive and Henri “Kloud Stryfe” Cheavis founded about two years ago.

Clybourne Parkis currnelty available for viewing at The Shadowbox Theatre, 2400 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, La. 70117. Fridays-Sundays from May17-June 23 here is the plot below:

“Clybourne Park” is the sequel/prequel to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Written by playwright Bruce Norris it won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 2009. The first act is set in 1959 and takes place in the house that ‘the Youngers’ from “A Raisin in the Sun” are about to move into at the end of that play. The white family that’s selling their house to the Youngers experienced a tragedy and decide to move away to escape the painful memories the house represents for them. The problems ensue and story unfolds when their neighbor Karl Lindner (the only character from “A Raisin in the Sun” that makes an appearance in this story) tries to talk them out of selling the house to the black family. The Youngers would be the first black family in their neighborhood and Lindner believes property value will plummet as a result. In the second act which takes place in 2009, the same house is now blighted and abandoned. The once all white neighborhood is now an all black neighborhood and there’s a black couple trying to keep a white couple from moving into their neighborhood for the same reasons as the white characters in the first act (yet a bit more subtle and PC in their approach). Every actor from the first Act must play completely different roles in the second Act, ironically switching sides and views as the story comically tackles gentrification, race, political correctness and more.

Martin plays two roles in the stage play here is what he had to say  about his roles in Clybourne Park  “In the first act, which is set in 1959, I play “Albert” who is the husband of the Stoller’s housemaid “Francine.”  I come to pick my wife up from work, but end up getting pulled into the drama, becoming an unwitting spectator to all of the fireworks that pop off up until the end of the act. As Albert I’m a black man in the 1950’s that can’t always say what he really wants to say to the often condescending white people of that time.  There is a certain strength in holding back, even when it would be totally justified for him to kick someone’s ass, that he must hold on to and the question at times is will he eventually snap. Having to portray this struggle with very little dialogue had to be the most challenging thing about taking on this character. The flip is in Act II, where I play a well to do, easy going “Kevin.” While Albert is strong but restrained, Kevin is often trying to make friends with everyone in the room, all the while trying to block the white couple from moving into their neighborhood. His struggle is that to not come across as the angry black man, as so many black men and women of today must overcome to get ahead. How he handles himself and maintaining this “cool” and “friendly” demeanor in a convincing manner even when tensions run high was probably the most fun I’ve had so far in the play. In a way I’m playing two sides of the same coin that is “the black man.” It’s like picking your poison in certain situations where you want to be Nat Turner, but must instead grit your teeth and be Wayne Brady to get what you need. But even Wayne Brady lets his Nat out from time to time, picking your battles can be key to success and failure, hell even to life and death in the society of today and especially in the 50’s. The play was written so that every character in it gets a chance to shine and I really try to make the most of it. Got to say though, my cast is AWESOME, iron sharpens iron and sharp is an understatement for how great it’s been working with them.”

 Here is what some critics had to say about the play..

 Happily, it’s considerably more: a rich, shrewdly wrought piece that alternates between wrenching family deconstruction and scathing comedy. Cripple Creek, which is mounting the production in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, has mustered a remarkable effort.

“…The Cripple Creek cast displays mightily impressive chops. Every one of them finds the full measure of their respective personalities, imbuing them with tremendous energy and a true sense of listening to every word that’s being spoken…”  -NOLA.COM

“…While the first act brings the audience into a distant yet relatable world, Act II shows us uncomfortably as we are: cell phones interrupting conversations, superfluous banter, and trying to express how one “feels” as a conversation-ending ploy. We are shown ourselves in a horrible and accurate light…” “…Wonderfully directed and acted, the piece often, and without warning, quickly turns from uproarious laughter to dramatically watering eyes shared with a neighbor…” -THENOLADEFENDER.COM

“As noted, the intensity of the work demands much of the performers; luckily, the cast assembled delivered.  While the same actors play in both 1959 and 2009 (even with two couples remaining the same), a world of nuances remain.  A pregnant woman in either situation, Betsy/Lindsey (played by Emilie Whelan), remains true to her time, both in physicality and tone.  An emotionally strong performance from Jackson Townsend in the first act is complemented by a comic Chicago Bears-loving handyman in the second.  The black couple (Monica Harris and Martin Bradford), first appear as fully-aware, yet necessarily submissive to their white bosses, then turn into a smug duo in power, sidestepping the bare facts with overly-sensitive language.  -THENOLADEFENDER.COM

With “Clybourne Park” theatergoers will be treated to one of the best and most acclaimed pieces of theatre in this decade,

but they will also have the opportunity to witness a socially relevant piece of art that can cause change within the city.”  -TheAdvocate.com

MyHellofaLife asked Martin Bradford to give us a brief bio on himself and where is passion all began check out below what he had to say:

“I grew up acting in the church, which I’ll always say is the best breeding ground for any performing artist to thrive. Everyone is supportive and there’s always a program or function at your expense for you to get a chance to hone your skills. My grandmother was over the Black History program at church and would always throw me in it speak about an important black figure. When I was small they had us read off the paper but I hated it because it was uncomfortable having to look down and then back up again. At the time I didn’t know why I hated it, but hindsight tells me it was the lack of connection with the audience. Any performer will tell you that that connection, that bond with an audience that’s hanging on your every word or in tune with your every action is a feeling that can’t be topped by any drug or sexual fantasy. It’s a rush that would be halted by me having to look up and down, reading someone else’s words. 

By 7, I was memorizing any and everything they ever wanted me to say or perform, making speaking in front of people easier and this eventually grew into me writing my own speeches, poems and scripts that I’d put on and even direct for the church up until and through high school. From the church plays I caught the bug and started going to camps every summer just to stay sharp. When I got to middle school I auditioned for NOCCA and got in this afterschool program they had at the time for kids that were too young to start their main program. I eventually and stupidly dropped out of that in favor of chasing girls (smh) and never went back. I only got a chance to be in one play in high school at McMain because the drama teacher quit, so I started writing poetry and rapping just to have a creative outlet of some kind. At Mcmain, me and two of my friends, Michael “Mike 5ive” Garrett and Matthew “Tizzo” Davis started a group called M3. We, ironically for me, had our first performance at McMain’s Black History Program and quickly became the “must see” group for the program anytime we did our thing. From that point on I knew I had to be on the stage, I couldn’t stop performing. 

Came to Dillard (Univeristy) in 2004, the same year they put on “Emmet Till” and was pissed because I missed out on auditions for it. The next year was Katrina and I found myself waiting on the sidelines, wishing I could audition for something for years while they put their theatre department back together. My fourth year at Dillard I didn’t graduate due to not only the Katrina experience, but from being a chronic class dropper. Luckily that was also the first year the theatre department would be back in full swing and I auditioned for a role in the Pulitzer Prize winning “Topdog/Underdog,” a two man play that would relight the fire in Dillard theatre at the time, a fire I’ve been riding since graduating in 2011. From “Topdog/Underdog” on I was never not in a Dillard University production and this renewed focus on acting gave me a renewed focus on getting the hell out of school.  The theatre department may be the reason I graduated, because aside from hosting a talk radio show (Breakfast in the Oaks) that was eventually scrapped the following year due to politics at the school and scattered poetry performances, nothing else really inspired me as a student. After doing countless plays at Dillard, I graduated and started getting cast in play after play after play. 

It’s been two years of consistent grinding and it’s still surprising to me how often I’m in a play and getting paid for my art. I can’t say enough how passionate I am to do this work.  It has to be the most fulfilling feeling I think anyone can have. As blessed as I’ve been to get constant work in New Orleans theatre though, every actor’s dream is to become a movie star, or at least make their mark in that arena. Even if they waver from it, it’s usually what started them on this crazy journey. Anthony Mackie, Wendell Pierce, Nicoye Banks, Lance Nichols, these are guys I look up to because they came from the bottom of NOLA and pierced through that glass ceiling into the big leagues. These are also all guys that have seen my work and have told me that I have “it.” Man, it’s one thing when your family and friends support you and even bigger when strangers you’ve never met are moved by what you do, but when you impress movie stars that you look up to and they take you to the side and give you that vote of confidence, it just adds to the hunger. 

Any artist can tell you how hard this road can be, the term “starving artist” is NOT just a cliché’.  I’ve lost jobs because of roles, gone without food, electricity, came close to being homeless a few times and too many other experiences to name. The sacrifices don’t stop all in pursuit of a dream that refuses to let me go.  I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I don’t tell many people of the trials because to me the victory should be the focus. One of my favorite Muhammad Ali quotes is when he said “”I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” There’s no other way, but aiming to be the champ in whatever field you’re in. So, breaking into movies is my next step and I won’t, really can’t stop until this goal is not only accomplished, but blown out of the water.” -Martin Bradford 

Martin has also done some children short stories and film work, here is Martin describing how all that came about below.. 

“One of my day jobs is teaching kids acting and film in this afterschool program called Young Audiences of America. I currently teach at Martin Behrman Elementary school and along with my partner Mike 5ive, we’ve done two films with the kids. One is called “Who Killed Walter Wolf” which was a spin on the Three Little Pigs story, where the wolf’s nephew is suing the Three Little Pigs for murdering his uncle. And the most recent joint we did is a zombie film called “Waterworx.” 12 students are quarantined in the school without knowing that the water is contaminated and turning all of their friends into zombies. The kids had fun, we had fun (when they weren’t stressing us, lol) and the end result is a pretty good kids film that I’m proud of. Honestly, I’m surprised by how good it came out in the end, because reigning in a bunch of 6-10 year olds, after school can be a headache in itself, but we did it.  You can check it out at GumboMonster.com or by typing “Waterworx720” on Youtube it’ll be the first thing to come up. “

check out the short film here:

Also get familiar with Martin’s GUMBOMONSTER.COM

“Gumbomonster.com is a website that I, along with Mike 5ive and Henri “Kloud Stryfe” Cheavis founded about two years ago. Mike and I have been making movies together for a few years now, participating in the 48 Hour Film Project every year, honing our craft (Big ups to everyone that supported our film “Details,” it’s been getting shown in film fests around the country at this point) and we needed a place to showcase these films. I use to have a blog site called FlyWithBats.com where I’d write editorials, reviews, columns and a whole bunch of other stuff and we basically came up with a new name that encompassed everyone and expanded the site to include music, movies, visual art, web shows, vlogs and a showcase of local artists and their works. We recruited other artists in our circle that have also been riding with us and together our goal is to push out content to the point that the “big wigs” are forced to notice. Often times we’re always hoping for our “big break” and waiting to get “signed,” when really at this point in the game the best way to get yourself out there, is to get YOUR SELF out there. No one is going to give it to you anymore, if you don’t take it, you won’t have it. If you don’t force them to see you, they won’t look. As the site grows we want it to be not only a showcase of our talent, but a reflection of New Orleans art in general. To say that New Orleans is a known hub for so many local and migrating artists, it’s shocking that we don’t get the amount of attention and opportunity to reflect the wide array of talent we have here. This is a problem I’ve always wanted to work towards fixing and Gumbomonster.com is just the start of a bigger vision I hope to be in a position to execute someday. It’s a struggle at times to keep updated with all of our schedules, but we won’t stop until our brand is synonymous with film and arts culture in the city and beyond. Below is the company description found on the site.” Said Martin. 

You can catch him on Facebook at “Martin Bats Bradford,”  Twitter at @MisterBats and Instagram at @MisterBats for all updates with me and to get in contact for collaborations. Also follow @GumboMonster on Twitter, @GumboMonster504 on Instagram and like GumboMonster on Facebook. Youtube.Com/GumboMonster504

Also here is the contacts to  The GumboMonster Crew:

Martin ‘Bats’ Bradford (@MisterBats)

Mike 5ive (@Mike_5ive)

Kloud Stryfe (@Kloud_Stryfe)

Canae White (@PrimaDiva)

Rahim Glaspy (@ThatsJustRahim)

Lawrence Weber, Jr (@Soulboy27)

Mandisa Reed (@Disapac)

Roxie Wilson (@_RoxxStar)

Josef Pons (@passthemicpons)

Brandon “Spider” Gordon (@BSGNolaGrooves)

Daranisha Ingram (@exotikfruit)

Matthew “Tizzo” Davis (@SuperDuperTiz)

David Ragas (@Anonamus)

Ryan Mac (@Ryan_Mac_504)

Al Beauti (@AlBeauti)

Adam Nunn

Devin McCoy

Jason Cooper

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“Live good Drink good Eat good” Graduate of Dillard University majoring in Public Relations/Brand Imaging. A New Orleans Native but born in Memphis,TN. Was raised as a Air Force brat having lived before in Germany and visited frequently to countries like England and France. While living in Europe a love for fashion and all things extravagant became a lifestyle easy to embrace. Returning to New Orleans fashion still played a major role in life for him. Now partnering with long time friend Nick to create the chic cultural blog site Myhellofalife.com Yoey is focused more than ever on making his dreams a reality, while doing what he enjoys the most; enjoying a hell of a life.

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