AJ Davenport’s tagline is “Somebody’s got to be the diva.” True – but she is far from a diva.
You might think of a diva as one who demands attention rather than commands it. In the music world, seems every vocalist with a big voice or personality get called a diva even though their temperament may be opposite.
So when you meet Davenport – whether it was at her previous career running the office of a large boutique hotel group or her current job of doing city tours (in particular movie), then you would instead find a multiple talented individual who is an expert at time management and multi-tasking. Perhaps a requirement for someone who can’t yet afford for the arts to be her only source of income. With her varied comedic and dramatic talents though, she should be labeled more a triple threat than a diva.
Davenport is mixing all of her talents in the show “An Indian Summer,” which runs Thursdays-Saturday for the next two weekends at the Exit Theatre’s Studio. Davenport is perfect for the role. She should be as playwrite Charles Johnson wrote it just for her. “I first met Charles at a social gathering held by (director) Lewis Campbell and his wife,” she says. Adding they met again when “Charles wrote a show called ‘Ain't It So’ in which my friend Omar had the lead.” At that time, she remembers, he said he was working on another show and the role of Pearl is being written for her.
If you follow Davenport’s career, you’re in for a new experience every time as she never plays it safe. In person and not on the stage, you’d meet her as the life of the party, complete with droll comments and observations as if she was Stockard Channing delivery some sophisticated barbs. Or, you’d see her in her stylish attire at the opening of a play, complete with a fashion forward hat, which would challenge that of even the famed Jan Wahl. But Davenport is no carbon copy.
On the stage, she is someone different. Every time.
In “The Sugar Witch” she played a simple-minded Southerner who may have been dismissed by society a little too soon. Or there’s her Angel in “When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder” in which she truly got physical in her role as a truck stop waitress.
With all she’s done, she still finds revelations in the work. Of “An Indian Summer” she says, “The most surprising thing you may learn is that the racism in the deep south still exists and as long as people everywhere hold to the racist attitudes on both side it will never really end. In a lot of ways the racism on both sides keeps all of us from being free.”
Davenport seems to have found a home among the Multi-Ethnic Theatre troupe, whom often give her the freedom to fly.
While “An Indian Summer” has only six performances left, there is talk it may also be part African American Center’s productions for next year.