Caldwell had been in dozens of films, television shows, musicals and plays.
She smiled broadly and shook her head as she retold the story. Like her, Mama Darleena — based on a real person named Gloria Allen — is a black transgender woman in her 60s.
Unlike her, Mama Darleena had been openly trans-identifying since her transition. At 65, Ms. Caldwell was ready to open up. They are not related.
But he was struck by her energy and charisma, and how exactly she matched the description of the character. He and MCC had been struggling to cast the part for months.
Cantler did. After a work session with the director, Will Davis, and a callback — in which, Mr. Cantler said, Ms. She burst into tears. So did Mr. Now in rehearsal, Ms. Caldwell has largely worked through those initial nerves. Her stage presence is powerful: On a recent afternoon, after a successful run-through of a tense early scene, she did a full-body dance around the perimeter of the room, then pumped a fist.
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Davis said. Many of the characters are transgender, and Mr. Davis, who is trans-identifying, felt strongly that the parts went to people whose gender identities matched the roles.
In a theater world where jobs still remain heavily white and maleit is not surprising that parts for trans-identifying actors are limited. In his experience, Mr. MCC used nontraditional methods to find actors for the nine-member cast.
They put out a call on social media, tried networking through friends, and reached out to lesbian and gay youth centers and organizations. Mama Darleena was a particular challenge.
Caldwell said. She completed her transition around the age of Her mother, with the help of two friends who were involved with L. Afterward, Ms. She auditioned for a role as showgirl in New York — and ultimately traveled to Europe and worked at the Moulin Rouge.
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She had success as an actress. But she never mentioned her transition.
I left the truth about me out. Eventually, Ms. Caldwell said, she came to a conclusion: She wanted to start sharing that truth with the world. About a year ago, she approached Alicia Jeffery, her manager of 14 years.
Caldwell confessed to her that she had transitioned many years ago and was ready to share that with the world. Jeffery said. Which is what she is.
Shortly after, Ms. She asked Ms. Caldwell if she wanted to be submitted for the part, and Ms. Caldwell said yes. Caldwell recalled saying.
This has nothing to do with that whatsoever. All it touches is this woman who has a gift, a skill to help these folks along. Allen, on whom the Mama Darleena character is based, is 72 and still lives in Chicago.
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Of Ms. Caldwell knows that once the play opens on Sept. This is the first time she is sharing the story of her transition in an interview.