Well-known actors John Amos and Madeline McCray came to Castleton State College Feb. 19 to pass on some knowledge of how to make dreams come true.Amos has dabbled in many different projects throughout the years in theatre, television, and the big screen. He has acted in the movies “Die Hard 2” as well as “Coming to America” and many others. He played the adult version of Kunta Kinte in the series “Roots” in 1970. He played the father on the hit “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire.” He appeared on “The Cosby Show,” “Maude,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and many more. He has starred in the one-man show, which he wrote, “Halley’s Comet.”
McCray is an actress, playwright, producer and director. She is the founder and artistic director for a non-profit performing arts organization for at-risk youth in the Virgin Islands. McCray was praised for her co-starring role alongside actor John Amos in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Fences.
McCray wrote a one-man show called, “Dream to Fly,” which is the story of Bessie Coleman, a female black pilot.
“It’s nice doing a one-man show because if you drop a line, you don’t throw anyone else off,” said McCray.
McCray wrote this after talking with Amos about the lack of good solid roles for African American women. So, instead of sitting around and waiting for a role, McCray wrote her own.
“The most important part of being an actor is being able to practice your craft,” said McCray.
Castleton students sat back and took in the wisdom that was being passed down upon them with looks of awe pouring out of their eyes. Theatre students made up most of the crowd as well as faculty, and a few random students trickled in.
McCray took the stage to perform and immediately the room went silent. She transformed into Bessie Coleman, arms flailing and emotion so strong that it was almost as if the audience was eavesdropping on a private conversation.
Castleton students asked McCray about her task of writing her own piece and the challenges that came along with it.
“I don’t want to play me, I just wanna be somebody else,” said McCray.
Amos then took the stage to perform excerpts from his piece, “Halley’s Comet.” Again, the passion that these actors have for what they do just soaked throughout the room. It was hard not to be moved by what these actors had to say.
“Writing is my real passion. I love developing something that I can control. To me, writing is the ultimate freedom,” said Amos.
Amos plays an 86-year-old man who looks back on his life and talks to Halley’s Comet and tells his life story. He transitions his acting to change his age and act out different situations that got him to where he is now.
When asked how he could get in character of someone of an age that he hasn’t reached, Amos let out one of his secrets of getting to know his character.
“The shoes. They got to be comfortable, and have to be one’s your character would wear,” said Amos.
Amos marvels at the changes in acting throughout the years. He used to be paid $100 a week for writing and an extra $50 if he acted in his sketches. Actors these days are paid thousands per episode.
“Acting is great, but writing will always prevail for me. Just give me a Ticonderoga #2 and a few legal pads,” said Amos.