Friday, February 02, 2007


When I was seventeen, silly and singularly UNfocused about the future I could see for me, I met a man called Mike Malone who changed everything.This Prince of a man who was beautiful and creative and possessed by a deep, broad intelligence challenged me as no other person ever had. As the ancestors had called on him, Mike Malone called on me to use the talents and intellect given me for a higher purpose. That purpose was the creation of art that told the stories of Black people. And through him, and the example he set I fell in love with the work that is my life's blood today. And I thank him.

Alvan Duncan "Mike" Malone was more than my mentor. He was my dear friend. He was my father when I was fatherless. He was my teacher when I needed to be taught. I followed in his footsteps to Paris, to the Duke Ellington School and beyond and I am so grateful to have had such an engaging, witty, spiritually connected and smart guide.You see, there weren't many examples for a guy like me. Too refined by breeding to be 'cool,' Mike Malone and his work were the kind of indescribable 'hot' that didn't need to change with the times. His work reached back to the ancestors and brought them all the way through to the 21st century and never apologized for being Black, or special, or different, and absolutely fabulous.

And I wanted to be "Like Mike."

I wanted to be like MIKE!

And in the years I had the pleasure to serve and study him, I never once saw him allow himself to be defined by any else's sense of who he was. He was his own man. Truly a genius in his own time-guided by the drum and the Afro-Carribean rhythms that he so loved. Committed to developing the talent of the performers young and old who looked to him to shape the dreams they didn't even know they had.And he did that. He trained at least four generations with a bar set high. He commanded the attention of the art world through his devotion to historical accuracy and detail and he never let you see him sweat. And I wanted to be "like Mike."

As a mentor, he taught me what it meant to be a Black man in these times. He taught me how to be the only son of an adoring mother when I didn't understand what that responsibility meant. He taught me to teach and how to live in the glaring light of the educator, ("your students don't wish to see you in the night club, Courtney.") He taught me more than a repertoire, though his knowledge was first rate. Mike Malone taught me about the need to cultivate a family of like-minded artists as evidenced by the many movers and shakers in the theatre world and beyond whose work he continued to support. So I don't mind saying I want to be like Mike.

I WANT to be like Mike.

I cannot speak of him in metaphor or symbol.

I just want to be like Mike.