The What My Husband Doesn't Know playwright blasts critics and defends Black theater.
(Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
David E. Talbert first hit the theater scene in 1991 and since that time he’s amassed 12 national touring productions of his stage plays, 24 NAACP nominations and has attracted the talent likes of Jamie Foxx, Kenneth Babyface Edmonds and Shemar Moore to star in them. Talbert has also branched into the world of film, First Sunday, and TV (his reality show Sunday Best airs on BET) and is the author of three novels including Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, co-authored by Snoop Dogg.
BET.com caught up with this very busy multi-tasker to discuss his latest touring stage play What My Husband Doesn't Know, which stars Morris Chestnut and Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams, the negative criticisms of Black theater and the obvious comparisons of his work to Tyler Perry's.
What was the inspiration for the love triangle plotline of your new play, What My Husband Doesn’t Know ?
I take my stories from slices of everyday life and what I see that interests me. A friend of mine was telling me about some of these issues. A lot of my friends get into trouble with the things they tell me because they always seem to end up in my novels or on my stages at some point. I just wanted to do something a little juicier, a little more scandalous and push the envelope a bit. In the past few years I’ve written stories that deal with finding love but I wanted to explore what happens when you find it and it’s still not working for you — and you want to find it somewhere else.
It’s a fun tradition that audiences are usually very vocal during your plays. What’s the funniest reaction you’ve gotten aloud from your latest?
There’s a scene when the lead, played by Michlelle Williams, is having a 40th birthday celebration and her husband misses the party. Then you have the handsome plumber who’s around, Morris Chestnut portrays him in the live show. So when the husband calls to say he’ll be missing the party, the screams from the audience are like, “Girl, call the plumber!” “Hang up the phone!” It’s a great feeling when the audience is so engaged in the material and responds well — that’s the biggest treat for me.
I know you began your work as a playwright earlier than Tyler Perry, but what do you think of audiences and critics who compare your work his?
I think it’s kind of impossible not to compare us. Tyler came a few years after me and we were running side-by-side in the theater world, now he’s doing film and I’m doing film. We come from the same place and touch the same audience. I love what he’s doing, I think he’s a really great businessman. I think being able to tell stories and entertain people of color is a beautiful thing.
And what do you say to critics who dismiss yours and Tyler’s style of Black theater as substandard to Broadway and other types of stage productions?
I don’t compare myself as an artist with anyone else, Tyler Perry included. I just do my thing. Sometimes the critics lump everyone together and that’s where the danger is, and I think it’s unfair. Everybody has their own expression of their art. But I don’t do my art for the critics, I do it for my audience. And at the end of the day it’s the standing ovations, the cheers, the applause and the smiles on people’s faces when they leave the theater that matter to me. That response is my the five-star approval and Tony award all wrapped up in one.
For more information on the touring production of What My Husband Doesn't Know and to purchase a DVD of the play available November 1st visit: