BSO: For the parents of a lot of young people of color the shift in thinking from “You can do whatever you want” to “Get a real job with a pension” hasn’t fully taken place and that can be discouraging. What did your parents say to you when it became clear you wanted to pursue this line of work?
PR: My mother Vivian Ayers was a poet, so I grew up with a creative parent and my father was a dentist and he was creative in his field. With my mother, I was exposed to all forms of art. It was in our home, not just to look at but the people that were creating the art were frequent visitors in our home. It was natural. It wasn’t exclusive or elitist.
My father would have loved for one of us to become a dentist, but he recognized our talent and he recognized who we were and supported that. He sent us to Howard University, my sister and I to enter the College of Fine Arts to study there because the study was always key to development.
Our studies began in elementary school. We study instruments and dance, my mother would bring us all in, with our friends from play, move all our furniture to side to the wall and teach us Katherine Dunham combinations going across the floor, how to tumble, choral speech or choral singing and we just grew up like that as we made mud pies, as we chased boys as we climbed trees. I remember it well.
BSO: I would have loved to see a film of you and your sisters and friends performing in your living room! Do you have any?
PR: No, but I remember it well.
BSO: It’s been an honor speaking with you today and we look forward to seeing you again on This is Us.