An Unconventional Family Like No Other, an Interview With Bellina Logan

Interviews

By Donasia Sykes, Staff Writer, All About Solo
 
Bellina Logan is a 25‑year veteran actress of stage and screen. In New York City, Bellina has appeared at The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and The New York Philharmonic. She has performed her one‑woman shows, “Conversations with a Mulatto Love Child” and “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child”, in LA, NY, and other cities in the US. Bellina has worked with film directors David Lynch, Neil Jordan, Katherine Bigelow, and Adrian Lyne. On television, she has had recurring roles on “Sons Of Anarchy,” “Enlightened,” “ER,” and “Midnight Texas.” She is a returning original cast member of “Twin Peaks” and can currently be seen in season 2 of “American Vandal.” She also has upcoming guest appearances on “Better Things” and “Big Little Lies.” Bellina recently performed her solo play “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” at The United Solo Theatre Festival where she won the award for Best Actress. You can hear excerpts from “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child” and more fun stories on the podcast “If It’s Not 1 Thing It’s Your Mother,” which can be found on iTunes and Spotify. All About Solo had the opportunity to chat with Bellina about her solo show, “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child.”
 
Donasia Sykes: Why did you write and perform “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child?”
Bellina Logan: The Long answer – In the years that I was caring for my mother, people would ask me. “When are you going to do your show again?” I wouldn’t know what to say because: 1. I was knee‑deep in being a caregiver – my creative faucets were turned off. I wasn’t in the mood to do anything but take a much‑needed nap, and 2. That first solo show had stories in it from another chapter of my life, pre‑husband, baby, and mother with an illness. I had no desire to try to erect an old show with old stories when so much had happened in the years in between. When my mom died in 2014, I was too raw to write anything, let alone perform something. Then three years went by and a new friend who had heard some of my old stories said, “Please do your show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival,” and I thought 1. It’s been three years. I think I’m ready to go there. And 2. I still don’t want to do the old show. I needed a new show – same mulatto love child, but now grown up with new stories; stories that celebrate my mom and my dad; stories that embrace all those people out there who are caring for a loved one and feel alone. I felt so alone sometimes as a caregiver, and I would have loved to go see something by someone who gets it – to have the permission to laugh through a difficult period. I wanted to honor my mother and celebrate her life by telling some of my favorite stories about her and our life together. So much of my show is about memory. To grow up with a storyteller who constantly tells you to remember your life, and then one day having to turn around and remember their lives for them – that was something I wanted to explore.
 
How did you get into acting and solo performance?
It started when I was really little. I grew up with theater people, but I was a shy kid and a bit anxious because we moved around a lot. The only time I wasn’t shy was when I would put my mother’s record albums on, dance and “act out” the songs for my mother’s dinner guests. Then, as I got older, it morphed into taking the baton of storytelling from my mom. I loved to tell stories and impersonate people to my friends. It took the edge off of being the new kid. I was a sucker for when people laughed. I liked making that happen. I knew I loved entertaining people, and I loved going to the theater and movies, and that I wanted to do whatever they were doing up there. My mom said to me, “If you want to be an actor, you need to go and learn the craft,” so at 12 years old, I started taking acting classes after school. That really opened my eyes and heart to the whole thing. I ate it up.  took a summer Shakespeare course in London when I was 16 and by the time I was a senior in high school, I knew I wanted to truly pursue this. I auditioned for the drama department at The Juilliard School and was blown away that I got in. Juilliard was hard and intense, but I learned so much. I was given so many tools that wound up not only helping me in my career, but also down the road when I embarked on developing my solo performances. Many years later, I was out in LA for pilot season, and I was feeling a bit in a rut. I was busting my butt auditioning for this and that, but never feeling connected to anything of my own and feeling totally at the mercy of others for a job. I had no control over anything. I was down and frustrated. I was having lunch with a friend of my mom’s, Maggie Soboil, a wonderful actress, director and writer. I was making her laugh, telling her many stories from my life, and she said, “You need to tell these stories, Bellina.” I said, “I do tell these stories – I tell them to my friends all the time.” She said, “No. You need to tell these stories on stage to an audience. You need to create your own show.” The minute she said that, I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I had no idea HOW to do that. What stories to tell, how to structure them – I had a lot to say and no real way to figure out what kind of show that would be. I told her this, and she said, “I’ll help you figure it out.” I told and wrote the stories, and she helped me develop them into something appropriate for the stage. She helped me connect the dots. I consider that my lucky day because we spent the next few months crafting my first solo show, “Conversations with a Mulatto Love Child,” which I did many years ago and is the prequel to “Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child.”
 
Throughout the performance, you talk a lot about the relationship you had with your mother. How influential were your parents in your acting?
My mother and father were very influential in my acting. They both had been actors. My mother was also a writer and painter. I was raised by my mother and she was a drama queen – so a flair for theatrics was never anything I had to reach down too deep to find. My father was a director who ran a theater company in Los Angeles and Washington DC. He was cool and in control, and his approach was more laid back, so I learned the “less is more” thing from him. They both had very good work ethics and although they approached things differently, I learned from both of them to not settle. My mother would say, “That was wonderful, Bellina!! But it could always be a little bit better, couldn’t it, darling?” And my dad would say, “Go deeper. Don’t be scared to go deep.”
 
In your solo performance, you blend the worlds your parents were raised in as an outsider on both sides. Why do you think it’s important for mixed‑race children to tell their stories?
Because we all have different stories. It’s not “one size fits all” for mixed‑race kids, or any kids for that matter, right? Having stuff in common and hearing stories that remind you that you are not alone is so important – that great feeling of “oh, there is someone else out there like me.” But it’s equally important for us to tell, and listen to, and embrace stories with a different take on a similar situation. It opens up your world and your heart, and gives you perspective. We all have different circumstances, come from different parts of the world, and have walked through these experiences with different shoes, so let’s listen up and hear each other’s stories. It’s fun!
 
What do you hope the audience walks away with after seeing your show?
One of the most lovely things that happen after I do my show is people coming up to me who never knew my mom, and saying, “I love your mom! I wish I could spend more time with her.” Well – I do, too, so thank you for spending the last 80 minutes hearing these crazy stories.
 
Confessions of a Mulatto Love Child
Written and Performed by Bellina Logan
Directed by Maggie Soboil
 
DONASIA SYKES is a freelance writer currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BA in English and Textual Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, where she saw and performed in various small stage shows.

 

 

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