2011-03-17 / Front Page
E.B. native finds it isn’t always black and white
Robert King performs self-penned, award-winning solo show in NYC
The 28-year-old East Brunswick High School graduate is no stranger to stage and screen. He now stars in his own one-man show, “Halfrican American,” which he describes as a young man’s journey growing up biracial. The narrative covers comical characters and heart-wrenching life lessons, as he ultimately must decide if his ethnicity will define the man he will become.
Written and performed by King and directed by Anthony Augello, “Halfrican American” was awarded Best Solo Performance and Best Solo Performer at the Network NYC’s One Act Festival in 2010. Performances from his show were also chosen as the overall award recipient at the 2009 NBC Diversity Showcase.
The show opened in February at the Peoples Improv Theater (PIT), located at 123 E. 24th St. in NewYork, and upcoming performances are scheduled for March 28 and April 25.
An art form that he disliked as a child became a passion for the actor, who recalled times his mother would take him to New York to audition for commercials at a young age.
“I didn’t really understand the business then,” King said.
But after finishing college, King said he knew a career in sales was not what he wanted for himself.
“Something was tugging at me,” he said.
So he began attending comedy shows and took a liking to the stage. He performed standup comedy and fell in love with performing. He moved from New Jersey to New York City and began working as a comedian and actor.
In order to gain inspiration and ideas for his somewhat autobiographical “Halfrican American,” King met with people he knew to get a feel for what they were going through as biracial individuals. He was able to incorporate their experiences into the show.
“It’s a little bit of a roller coaster,” King said of the show, which was initially performed off-Broadway at the Barrow Group Theatre. “I want to take my audience to somewhere they have never been before,” he said, adding that he wants viewers to get a good feel for the self-identity questions a young child might ask, and how to deal with obstacles.
The show had been on King’s mind for years, but because it was so personal it took time to bring some difficult experiences to the stage. He ultimately realized that it helped him to talk about his experiences as well as to make the performance entertaining.
“It was almost like therapy,” King said.
The actor and comedian also spends time with his improvisational group, Nobody’s Token, a group of six that has been working together for the past two years. Their shows are like an improvised sitcom, complete with impromptu commercials. The comedians use different plots and situations inspired by popular television sitcoms like “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Cosby Show.”
“I love it. You never have the same show twice,” King said.
Though challenging, the improvisational shows provide excitement and camaraderie for the actors, and teamwork proves incredibly helpful when struggling for the right jokes to deliver onstage.
“We all have each other’s back,” he said.
One person who has always inspired King is actor and comedian Andy Kaufman, who challenged social norms with every performance.
“I try to do that when I hit the stage,” he said, adding that he wants his audience to feel some emotion, whatever it may be, when they see his performance.
King plans to continue working on his solo show and also delve into film, since another passion is writing scripts. He also wants to continue making appearances on the daytime soap opera, “One Life to Live,” an experience that he said has been rewarding, helping him to grow and learn as an actor.
“There’s a lot to learn from them,” he said of the daytime show cast members.
King has also appeared on episodes of “Law & Order,” which he describes as a New York City actor’s rite of passage. The series has helped many actors launch their careers.
King also works with collegehumor.com to shoot satirical videos that more than 2 million viewers have enjoyed.
Tickets for “Halfrican American” are $5 and available by calling 212-563-7488 or visiting the website http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/153076.