On Feb. 15, CalArts’ The Collective hosted a night of tributes honoring their late resident director and CalArts’ visiting artist, James Avery. A lauded actor, best known for his role as Uncle Phil in the 1990’s television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, passed away on Dec. 31. The tribute, which took place at The Sharon Disney Lund Theater at CalArts, included music, dance and poetry by current students and alumni that celebrated the life of their influential mentor.
The Collective, a CalArts student organization that strives to present and preserve African-American art, was greatly influenced by Avery since its inception in 2012. Current Collective President and the event’s producer Carol A. Simon (MFA Theater 14) commented personally on Avery’s influence in an email:
Working with James was such an honor. He taught me so much as a performer and a manager. Every time James was around, you would be sure to get a history lesson on those who came before us…. He was a great teacher and lover of the arts. He always pushed me to go above and beyond even when I didn’t want to. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and he always said, “you got this.”
Directed by Jozben Barrett and stage managed by Anthony Dawahare (BFA Theater 15), the tribute featured performers and speakers that included:
- Tyrone Davis (Theater MFA 12)
- Jessica Evans (Theater MFA 13)
- Quentin Warren (Theater MFA 13)
- John Sweet (Theater 13)
- Former voice & speech faculty Denise Woods
- Josh Foy (Music MFA 10)
- Yolette Yellow Duke (Dance BFA 17)
- Elizabeth Geocaris (Dance BFA 17)
- Justin Jackson (Music BFA 16)
- Ade’ Doyin Ayedun (Art BFA 17)
- Sade Austin (Dance BFA 17)
- TaiReikca Glover (Theater MFA 16)
- Cynthia Anderson (Dance BFA 16)
- Dion Pratt (Dance BFA 17)
- Dionna Daniel (Theater BFA 17)
- Jaron Crespi (Music BFA 17)
As we posted last week, The Collective performed three shows in San Francisco last month, including The Depth of Black Art, which was previously directed by Avery.
Watch a 2010 interview with Avery, Unscripted: James Avery, via YouTube or check out fellow actor Joseph Marcell’s remembrance of Avery via CNN.