Camille Thomas didn’t let the coronavirus stop her artistic vision as a theatre actress and creative.
Instead, the Detroit-bred artist and activist has created a one-woman show that was birthed out of a period of fasting. Camille caught up with Five:22 Culture recently to share her story.
How would you describe what you do?
I am an artist and activist who focuses on acting, slam poetry, and devised theatre.
How did you get started on your artistic journey?
I started performing in high school in the 11th grade and I’ve been acting ever since.
What has your faith journey been like?
I grew up in church and I’ve always had a strong relationship with God but I remember deciding to get baptized again (the first time was when I was a baby) right before I went to college. I tried out so many churches while I was in school but I couldn’t seem to find the right fit and that’s when I started developing a more personal one on one relationship with God.
What is one of the bigger challenges that you face as a creative and how does your faith help you overcome it?
Just believing that I can do it. Theatre can have so many hoops to jump through before you even get to act or see your work manifested on a stage/screen that it’s daunting just to begin. My faith teaches me that all I need to do is take the first step and continue taking small steps and regardless if I don’t know the right casting agents, directors, producers, etc, God will handle the rest.
Have the COVID-19 pandemic and social injustices impacted your art or creative process?
YES in a big way. This show was scheduled to be performed at both the People’s Improv Theatre and at The Rogue Theatre Festival in August but those gigs are both cancelled. So this show has been forced to move to Zoom which presents its own unique opportunities and challenges. I have more agency over my show and I don’t require a venue to produce it but HOW do you make theatre, a medium which relies so heavily on personal contact, engaging to a virtual audience?
Tell us how your one-woman show came about.
I knew I wanted to write something about the racial wealth gap and student debt crises when I read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-nehisi Coates my sophomore year of college but I never knew it was going to turn into a full production. Initially this show started as just one slam poem that I workshopped with Sacred Circle Theatre company at their Word Made Flesh festival in 2019. It got such positive feedback and people wanted to know what happened next that I realized I needed to continue writing the show. I struggled writing it because I lacked the confidence to believe I could write an entire show. But fortunately God provided me with people to encourage me along the way. I actually finished writing this show while my church was fasting in January. We were all Daniel fasting and instead of giving up specific foods God called me to give up social media and streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc). So with all of the extra time I had, I managed to finish writing the first draft of my show!
What can people expect from the show?
An honest look at the college experience and the pressures of trying to fulfill familial expectations, pay for school, and pursue your own dreams.
What do you hope people take away from this show?
That student debt is crippling people and things need to change now.
What would you tell other creatives to keep them encouraged during tough moments?
Breathe, rest when you need to rest and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Five:22 Culture audience?
Hmm one of the quotes that inspired me the most while writing this was from Tressie McMillan Cottom’s book “Thick” and it’s “write powerful stores that become a problem for power.”
Camille’s show “yOU CaN TAke ouT a PArEnT pLUs lOaN” is being live streamed on July 4th 9:30pm EST and July 11th 5:45pm EST. The show will be hosted by the Women’s Theatre Fringe Festival and live streamed via Twitch.
For more information about the show, click here.