Charnele Dozier-Brown is a born actress. No doubt about it, and here’s the proof.
When she was in the second grade in her East Hampton, New York, hometown, Dozier-Brown had to join her classmates at the pond every Friday to watch the ducks. She hated it. One Friday, sitting at the pond, looking at those ducks, she got to thinking about a television show she’d seen where Lassie, the famous television dog, didn’t come home.
It made her cry. Her classmates gathered around her. Her teacher consoled her while her tears flowed. Dozier-Brown, all of 7 years old, made up a story about how ponds made her cry because her brother had drowned in one.
Lots of sympathy. Lots of hugs. A quick exit away from the pond and those ducks. And lots of candy, too.
But Dozier-Brown never had a brother. Nobody she knew had ever drowned, and, when her mother found out what little Charnele had done, she found herself apologizing in front of her teacher and classmates.
Dozier-Brown had found her calling. At that tender age, she’d tapped into what actors call “Sense Memory,” recalling an event like Lassie not returning home and recreating the appropriate sad or crying emotion.
“I decided right then and there in the second grade that I could be a pathological liar or an actor,” Dozier-Brown said. “I chose to be an actor.”
Dozier-Brown is a playwright and director, too, and she’ll show off those skills when her play, “No Soldier Left Behind,” premiers on the renovated, refurbished and refreshed stage of the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center near Historic Downtown Humble Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.
The two-act play takes place in a homeless shelter housing returning veterans.
“My play pays homage to our brave soldiers, their journey, their hopes, their dreams,” said Dozier-Brown. “Our former first lady, Michelle Obama, really inspired me to write this because she dedicated so much of her time as first lady to bringing awareness of the challenges so many of our veterans face when they return home. They’re fighting for us, they’re protecting us so that we have the freedom we enjoy, and I wrote this play to pay homage to our soldiers so they know that we appreciate them.”
Dozier-Brown studied acting at State University of New York at New Paltz.
“Don’t ever major in theater, only minor in it,” she advised. “Major in something so you can earn a living to finance your acting career.”
When that role ended in 1993, Dozier-Brown didn’t like what was happening in her world. Forever auditioning. Nothing happening.
“If the love is gone, leave it alone,” she said. “The love of acting had left. Frankly, I think I was mentally preparing to care for my mom.”
Dozier-Brown’s mom and dad had total faith in her, encouraging her and letting her know how special she was, but her dad died at a young age and as the ‘90s began, her mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“My priority then and there was caring for my mom, but it also gave me time to write,” she said.
The result was a screenplay she called “Coffee Klatch” that came to her after a dear friend died from AIDS.
“I’ve worked with director Robert Townsend in the past and he loved my script, so he’s getting it ready for filming in Canada,” she said.
“I was living in Los Angeles in 2000 when God told me to move here,” said Dozier-Brown. “Houston is the next big hot spot, lots of talent, just not enough technique. Technique is what I teach – the way you act. You apply your experience into that character and, if you don’t have it, you find it.”
Dozier-Brown’s teaching skills will be on display when her play premiers at The Bender Feb. 23 with students from her school performing the roles. Pitre, a Beaumont native, will play James, one of the major roles.
The play is premiering in Humble because Dozier-Brown and Jennifer Wooden, director of The Bender, were appearing together on a local Houston television program when Wooden asked, “Do you have any works that we could put on The Bender stage?”
To experience Dozier-Brown’s playwriting skills, don’t miss “No Soldier Left Behind.” For tickets or to learn about other performances scheduled at the beautiful Bender, call 281-446-4140, visit humblepac.com, or find Charles Bender Performing Arts Center on Facebook.
To learn more about Dozier-Brown’s school, visit triwenproductions.wixsite.com/triwenproductions.