Getting to Know You: BLACK ODYSSEY’s Tẹmídayọ Amay
Reframed through a lens that touches on the military, the Civil Rights Era, soul food, and everything in between, Black Odyssey is a time-traveling trip through the fabric of African-American culture. Now playing at Classic Stage Company, Marcus Gardley’s contemporary take on Homer’s The Odyssey, features the usual suspects, like Ulysses and Circe, but adds in new characters like Aunt-Tee (an Earthly version of Athena) and Benevolence (a teenage observer of sorts).
Played by Tẹmídayọ Amay, Benevolence joins Ulyssey’s journey home after the two meet in the 1960’s during a flood. Their connection becomes a central pillar of the play, with Benevolence providing a sense of safety to the traveling soldier. Prior to this, Amay has been seen in On Love at MCC Theater and won a Helen Hayes Award for their supporting performance in School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play at the Round House Theatre in the metro Washington, D.C. area.
Learn more about Tẹmídayọ, their artistry, and Black Odyssey below.
How did you first hear about Black Odyssey and how has your perception of the show changed over time?
I heard about Black Odyssey in fall 2021, as I was returning to theatre after shooting two films and a TV series that summer. Now, two years later, my life has changed for the better because of this show. There’s something magical about successfully finishing my show to realize André De Shields and Lynn Nottage just watched me perform and were moved. This show has reminded me of that magic.
You play an observer on stage for a significant part of Act 2 but you react to the action in the scene. Do you get to change up how you’re responding on a show-by-show basis or are those locked in?
I remember asking playwright Marcus Gardley about Benevolence on the first day of rehearsal, about the family member my character is based on. As he described the exuberance and the wisdom of his loved one, I knew that this was the energy I wanted to carry into my Benevolence. I get to enjoy a new story every night, and audience members tell me daily that they look to me to see my reactions. As [director] Stevie Walker-Webb shared with me, the on stage observer is often the most exciting person to watch. I'm grateful that I get to be that every day.
Where would your own version of The Odyssey take place?
Okay, so. It would have to be a tie between my beloved hometowns of Washington, DC and Lagos. DC is Chocolate City aka the nation's capital aka my favorite place for drag performers, frolicking at the arboretum, and dinners with Jose Andres. Lagos is Eko aka homeland 1.0, aka Victoria Island, aka my favorite place for pounded yam and egusi, aka the heart of the heart of Africa. I've always wanted to star in a Black Panther/Marvel superhero movie that highlights the incredible connection between my two beloved homelands.
Beyond performing, what are some projects that you are currently working on?
I am currently writing! Secretly, I am a writer who acts. I have a pilot for a new Marvel superhero that I hope to play soon! I also have a wonderful TV show inspired by Issa Rae's Insecure that I'd love to co-produce with HBO and star in as well. I'm a firm believer in shaping my reality, and one of the ways I do that is through my writing. I hope summer 2023 and beyond comes with all the best surprises!
We’re obsessed with social media here at Theatrely. What side of TikTok are you on? What does your For You Page look like?
I am absolutely 100% obsessed with FoodTok and FoodGram, I host a segment on my page that literally reminds all of my frequent flyers to Eat Something. My FYP consists of either Vogue, Valentino, and Fashion Week or Julia Childs, Michelin Star restaurants, and reminders to my followers to eat food and hydrate. Not gonna lie, sometimes I look at my highlights for food inspiration. (Tẹmídayọ is also on Instagram: @temidayoma)
Let’s do a speed round! Hometown?
Chocolate City, DC!
Eating! Jumping double dutch!
Latest TV binge?
Unapologetically: Love Island and Sibling Rivalry
Any book recommendations?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Black Queer inner-teen healing
The best pre-show meal in NYC?
Shin Ramyun a la Temidayo with rice paper dumplings, scallions and a couple of my secret ingredients I'll share later ;)
Favorite place to relax in NYC?
The New Museum in SoHo
What’s your favorite Instagram account to follow?
NYPL/DCPL! Get a library card, you!
If you could describe your experience with Black Odyssey so far in just one word, what would it be?
Black Odyssey is currently playing at CSC through March 26. For more information, click here.