EVAN TYRONE MARTIN - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Evan Tyrone Martin is truly blessed and thankful. Blessed, he says, to have been given the opportunity to perform the title role in director Ron Kellum’s brilliantly conceived production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Thankful to be surrounded by an amazing cast of African-American actors who support each other in telling a universal story about a man who spread a message of peace, love and salvation.
Martin grew up in a church family in Cleveland, inspired by his parents, grandmother and aunt who were singers. He went to Ashland University where he honed a commanding stage presence and vocal technique. In our conversation on May 4th, he reflects on the steady course he was on seven or eight years ago and of the structured plan he envisioned, then abandoned, in favor of a more free-spirited approach to his professional career.
There is a string of solid Chicago and regional theater credits on his resume and he spent some time in New York early on. Martin then appeared in RENT at Paramount a few years ago, received his Equity card and was off to the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater. But things slowed down after that. Auditions were scarce and he was not getting cast. Self-doubt began to seep in after more than a year of "radio silence." Looking back, Martin realizes that there was no backup plan to a performing career, so he pressed forward.
His vigilance paid off when a door opened for another theatrical home at Porchlight Music Theatre. He was encouraged to connect with Artistic Director Michael Weber, read and was cast in Sideshow and soon after Martin had caught the eye of directors Rob Lindley (Far from Heaven) and Brenda Didier (Dreamgirls). Those three roles last season earned Martin two 2016 Best Supporting Actor Jeff Award nominations for Sideshow and Far From Heaven. To cap off a very productive period, the Chicago Tribune included Martin as one of its Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater for 2016. Coming full circle, Martin returned late last year to Paramount in the role of King Triton in Little Mermaid.
If this all sounds like a busy schedule, consider as well that last fall he joined producer Michael Ingersoll and Angela Ingersoll for the Artists Lounge Live concert series at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center. The new show, entitled Unforgettable: Falling In Love With Nat King Cole, had a return engagement earlier this spring and future performance dates are already on the books.
There are many more layers of Evan Tyrone Martin's talents to see and hear at the Paramount where the cast and creative team have redefined the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice score in the not-to be-missed production that seems uniquely connected to the faith-based family ministry in which he was raised.
On his portrayal of Jesus Christ …
“It was really important to me, as an actor, for people to see him as this bright beacon that pushed forward despite the fact that he was being approached on all sides … to be quiet. He continued his message and it is kind of heartbreaking when you see that on stage … To see a man preaching such a simple seemingly harmless message met with such anger and aggression … That was really important for me to convey. I really wanted the audience to feel for this man.”
On the show’s message …
“It can be so universal because it is about a group of people seeking truth and fighting against religious and political influence to really be able get to the bottom of their beliefs … who they are as a community and a race of people. I think having an all-black cast brings a phenomenal and interesting layer to the story because we are one of many races that have known oppression for a very, very long time … Taking this perspective on that very real element in this story makes sense, but I do believe in general that because this is an all-black cast does not make it a black production. There is still a universality that people can grab on to.”
Following your passions …
“When I was younger and first moved to New York, I made very specific plans about how I wanted my career to go and in the last seven to eight years, I kind of let that go … I go where I am most passionate. I do the things I am most passionate about and let that tell me which direction to walk confidently in.”
His inspiration and support …
“Everybody in my family has been instrumental in my success as a performer … My grandmother, before she passed, one of her favorite things to do with me was sing and listen to music. Before my aunt passed, she was instrumental in telling me that I need to be educated. if it were not for her I would not have gone to college … Of course my mom and dad … sacrifice after sacrifice for 15 years to get me to rehearsals, pay for trips, get into college, stay in college even when they knew none of us could afford it … Having that amount of support behind you is invaluable … I could not and would not be where I am right now if it were not for my family.”
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Production photo credit: Liz Lauren