Interview with Tyrone L. Dargins
Founder of Renaissance Performing Arts Center

by Theresa Hyde

Renaissance Performing Arts Center (RPAC) is a non-profit Arts organization founded in 1991 by Tyrone L. Dargins with the mission of providing an intensive learning environment for youth and adults through the production of quality cultural and artistic productions. The organization began six years ago from a need to provide more opportunities for ethnic performing artists to develop their skills and to bring the performing arts into the community.

Tyrone L. Dargins

The RPAC facility, The General Cinema I-IV contains two theaters with the seating capacity of 1,000 and 500. It was built in 1966, one of two cinemas of its kind in Houston the other is located at Gulfgate mall. Few four plex cinemas survive due to the rise of multiplexes. The facility currently has functional signage, parking, seating, restroom and administrative components. These attributes provide a lower overhead cost for presenting revenue generating events. The renovations are scheduled to be phased in over the next 5 years at a cost of four million dollars.

This interview was conducted at the time Ntozake Shange's Masterpiece, Love Space Demands was running in March of 1998. Aside from being the founder of RPAC, Tyrone Dargins was responsible for the Set, Sound, and Light Design for this production of Love Space Demands. This interview proved to me what I have believed for so long.....That true greatness is inspired by sheer insanity. And aside from the fact that he has accomplished so much, he possesses a sense of humour that can only be described as.........well, Insane.

The Cast of Love Space Demands

Theresa: Tell us about the part......oh, wait a minute.....wrong question........(laughs)
Tyrone: What part? what part? Ummm....Lights.....Sound.....Set.....Administration.....Janitor...
Desk Top Publishing.....hustler..(laughs)......whattayawant?

Theresa: You are the Founder, and you are the Artistic Director.....Why did you want to do this?
Tyrone: Need for more theatres, especially for minorities. Bottom line. We have close to 30 traditional theatres, and when you fall into the traditional, there aren't many of the traditional theatres that do work that cater to African-American or Asian or Mexican-American, or any other culture. So, this is my major push. Sometimes, although we get into this rut where they feel as if, you know, since we are Black, and we are presenting works with Black people in it that we are a Black Theatre. We do a lot of work that are Black because I wanna make sure that the people that are around here are getting more exposure. But our next show is Real Women Have Courage, and that's Latina work. We do Asian pieces, as well.

Theresa: Tell us about your past background.......
Tyrone: Studied music when I was in High School, Middle School and Elementary. Took Dance when I made it to College. Went into Theatre in College. I studied Mechanical Engineering, but I changed my major to Theatre at Prairie View A&M University. (We went to the NCAA!) And in my study of Theatre, I found that there are many people chasing after the spotlight. And I chose not to chase after the spotlight, but find a niche for myself, which would be in the technical area. And then, from the technical area, I wanted to know more about the administrative areas, so it began to build on itself. From there, after graduating, I went to the Arts Institute, after that, I went to the Alley Theatre for an Internship which gave me a great deal of information, from there I've done Video, worked with MGM, so forth and so on. I'm not just pegged in theatre, I'm pegged into the entire entertainment area.

Theresa: This is so hard! Look at these chairs, these lights, the sound, I get it all going. How do you do it?
Tyrone: I'm Crazy (laughs). I'm crazy and am dedicated to what I'm doing. Half the can see the section that I put up (pointing to a certain area of this 1,000-seat theatre), this is the black section that's the area that I had already in stock, and then we had some students from the Houston Works program. Didn't know jack about theatre. Brought them in, they had to put up seats, stuff that they weren't supposed to do. But they learned so much, they learned that they could do something with their bare hands and following instructions, and working as a team. They had a chance to see two shows a day, four days a week, and with kids coming in, and showing them love after the production. They saw that they had a value.

So, this is a culmination of all of that. Except for ummm, we really like to thank University of Houston and many others for throwing out their scenery and we were able to stock that. We do have a warehouse in which we are going to turn into a multi-media studio for sound, website development, and video film production Sound Stage, that's where we're storing all of our scenery right now. And Thank you, Houston Ballet for the lights. And you know, we get it from everywhere.
Theresa: How old are you?
Tyrone: I'm 2 (laughs). No, I'm actually 30. I just hit 30 and I'm about to crawl out of it. I wanted to hit the ground running, so when I hit 35, I want this crap to be stable, and then I'm moving on to something else.

Theresa: And you've directed?
Tyrone: Yes, I directed Antigone and directed some of the Children's Shows, I direct off and on all the shows....and if not, I come in as the producer, and oversee to make sure that this is palatable to the audience. We have the traditional audiences, or the more Anglo-audiences, or we have the Afro-American audiences. Two different audiences and we have to find a way to bridge that gap. That language that was used in this piece, they're not used to. 'Cause you use two words to say what we would say in maybe, three.

Theresa: Who are your most favorite actors and directors?
Tyrone: Of course, Orson Welles, he's the bomb. And then, you got George C. Wolfe, Joseph Papp, and then my performers range from Gene Kelly, Dizzie Gillespie, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, you know, it's a culmination of a lot of things and a lot of people.

Theresa: And that's who influenced you?
Tyrone: Yes!! All of the above. All of those people. When I was small, we saw technicolor, and then they'd know, and we don't see that anymore on TV. And that's what really influenced me. I guess I'm the closet theatre entertainer until I made it to College, and then I said, "I'm gonna do what I wanna do."

Theresa: What do you want the audience to gain from watching this play?
Tyrone: Well, as I said earlier, and I wanna make sure that we support that, is that we have two audiences that normally see the productions. African American audiences that's used to more light work in Art comedies. They call them Gospel Comedies and so forth and so on. We wanna make sure that the words that are used, the images that are used, and all the whole environment, helps them understand that we can laugh and we can cry and we can make you leave here Angry, not just leaving the place happy. But, that last scene in the show can make you just so upset. Don't, don't Eat and see the last show. And for the other audiences, Yes, we can do just as well as anybody else can. And we're in this game to compete with Alley Theatre, Ensemble, Stages, on and on and on and on. So, if you're gonna do something, you do it and try to be the best that you could be.

Theresa: What would you like to say to the Houston Theatre-going audience?
Tyrone: Hey, Watch Out! Watch Out! Watch Out! 'Cause this is very positive, as I said with the information that you have about the facility. This is our temporary site. We don't pay for this. 4,000 square feet, normally would be $4,000 a month. The chairs were donated from Dallas. Our push is to move into the facility outside, there'll be a twelve-hundred seater, and a four hundred seater. So, we'll be, along with the theatre district, bringing in the shows. Bring On Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk is going to Dallas. And I'm upset, because it should come to Houston also. If Rent can come, then, Da Funk can come and many other shows. And with the Music Hall closing, we wish to take advantage of that Opening. And is the Bomb! And please the Theatre....Do it. I love you for what you're doin', man.


Interview with Tamiyka White
Production Manager for Renaissance Performing Arts Center

by Theresa Hyde

As I walked into The Renaissance Performing Arts Center lobby at Northline Mall to see the show, Love Space Demands, the first person that greeted me was Tamiyka White, who was at the box office. She handed me the tickets for the show, and then proceeded to walk backstage to change in preparation for the first scene of the first act, Devotion to One Lover or Another. As I watched in admiration and disbelief, I remembered our phone conversation, (she also answered the phones), where she was giving me directions on how to get to the theatre and at the same time, giving specific instructions to a couple of members of the theatre in what they're supposed to do.

Tamiyka White

Her jobs and titles for RPAC are: Production Manager, Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Dramaturg, Managing / PR Director / Box Office Manager, Outreach / Education Coordinator and Vocal Coach.

Theresa: I was amazed at the way you just handed me the tickets, walked backstage to change, and was then, onstage to do the first scene.
Tamiyka: I know......What hat is she wearing now?

Theresa: Your performance was so good. Especially the one with the Crack addicted mother. And it reminded me of a performance that Whoopie Goldberg made in her one woman show. You know you're All that.
Tamiyka: Thank you. Ooooh, I love Whoopie. Thank you very much.

Theresa: Tell us about the part that you're playing.....
Tamiyka: Well, I'm playing several. Basically, the entire cast plays multiple characters. I make up the Ensemble, I play a homeless person in the beginning of the show, who has a dream about flowers, I play a dancer in the show, , I play a woman who's reminiscing about her childhood,
I play a Crack mother who gives up her child for crack.............

He brought me rocks. Each quartz, marble, granite, and sandstone, onyx, all of which I can hold on to.....and drove off with a white woman, and never felt sad......I didn't know it would be this hard......where can a man go without his spine? ------Ntozake Shange

Tamiyka: Ntozake Shange writes simple words. She's fabulous.

Theresa: Why did you choose to become a part of this?
Tamiyka: Well, I married the Artistic Director. (laughs)

Theresa: (laughs) Oh, did you?
Tamiyka: I kinda was forced to be in it. No, but I chose to be a part of Renaissance Performing Arts Center because like many actors or any college student that declares Theatre as their major, when you graduate, you still have to figure out, what job? what theatre? where am I gonna be? am I gonna be a company actor? how consistent am I gonna be working?
And then I felt, well, this is the ideal place for me to go. And then of course, the location, why we created Renaissance Performing Arts Center. Why Tyrone Dargins created Renaissance Performing Arts Center.

Theresa: And you own part of this......
Tamiyka: So I own part of this, it helps.

Theresa: How long have you been married?
Tamiyka: I've been married as long as the organization has been here, and that's 7 years. So I've been in it just as long as the organization existed.

Theresa: Tell us about your past background......
Tamiyka: I've been working since High School, for the last 10 years. Basically, I would do summerstock in High School, in my freshman year I would travel to New York, California and other cities. I was doing Childrens Theatre and Shakespeare. My first job was Laura from The Glass Menagerie and that was a real big deal. In and out of Joe Papp's festivals and things like that. I've taken dance classes; studying at the University where I've studied under Jose Quintero; At Prairie View A&M under Ted Scheinn; I've been directed by Ntozake Shange, and we're so blessed to be.......directed right here in our theatre. Basically just keep studying.

Theresa: Who influenced you as an artist?
Tamiyka: Well, we just mentioned Whoopie. She's one of my influences. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, I love Josephine Baker, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Doris Day, Jose Quintero. I'd be sitting watching these shows and would say, "I'm gonna be in that, someday." So, those type of artists are amazing to me.