We had the good fortune of connecting with Crystal Rae and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Crystal, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I had been tiptoeing around the idea of my business for a while. I went to audition for Lion King and after not being cast at all, not even as a single blade of dancing grass, I drove from St. Louis back to Abilene, Texas full of tears in my eyes and the thought that if they weren’t going to cast me I would cast myself. I would write it. I would direct it. I would put it up. That was really the catalyst – a big fat “No.” from a very nice person across a white plastic table. While I knew then that I was going to write plays I did not foresee puppets! Thanks to the Covid-19 debacle that bit of isolation cemented a love for puppetry and has helped create a second leg to my business model. In addition to telling stories about the African-American experience; I now tell stories that have educational concepts sewn in.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think most recently I can point to having been named best actress in 2019 for a part I played with the Dirt Dog Theater Company here in Houston. This was awarded by the Houston Press and it was such a surprise. Those opportunities to get to perform really tough and uncomfortable parts with the truth is why I took the jump in moving to Houston way back in 2013.
I love acting but the hard thing that wakes me up at night and excites me is writing. I’ve written a number of shorts, one acts, and full length one person shows and have had the good fortune of seeing them performed in New York, Chicago, and Houston.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of Jonathan Williams of JWCPA in Beaumont, Texas and The Riant Theatre, my show Tied, a one-man play was a recipient of the prestigious Black Seed Grant and is slated for a reading in 2023 at The Riant in New York City.
A friend beautifully summarised my one person shows by saying I write “Sunday school stories from an adult lens for a post-modern audience.” He couldn’t have been more right. Faith, culture, and history all swim in the same gumbo when I’m writing.
The education arm of my company is pointed, like the tip of an arrow. I’m writing for kids who might not be convinced they can or should be smart. The goal will be to close gaps in reading and science in ways that students find entertaining. Fourth graders are where I’ve set my sights. I won’t bore you with info on the public school to prison pipeline, but I will say, I hope to help shut the pipeline down.
This might be neither here nor there but I have a studio. A vocal booth and the space where I record and I named the studio Lion Honey Studios because that’s what I want everything I make it to be. I want my films, plays, puppet shows, my very soul itself to be unapologetic in its honesty and sweet in its delivery. I want those two concepts to live together. I don’t know that I’ll always excel at it, but I do know it is the goal.
So look out for a science show, a reading and literacy show, a new play about Mary Magdalene and her 7 monsters, a show about a tap dancer, all coming to the screen or stage near you.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Great question. We are going to Hermann Park to see all of the beautiful spaces there. It’s literally one of the most beautiful places in Houston. Then we’re going to the Buffalo Soldiers Museum to just be in awe of how African-Americans have served this country. We’re going to Turkey Leg Hut or Vegan Soul in Third Ward because my friend might be trying to change their diet. Finally, we’re going to catch a show at The Ensemble to wrap up the evening. If I’m super Brave we might hit a comedy club like the Rudyard’s and get up there and do a set because they have a fun open mic night.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Ensemble Theatre headed by Eileen Morris the Artistic director. The staff at Ensemble have really wrapped around me and have been supportive in ways that you can’t imagine. I’m grateful for their wisdom and the amazing artists in that building have imparted into my story.
City Life Church: You just need folks to wrap around you and who cheer you on and who support the journey and that’s been this group for me.
My family, every single one of them and that’s a lot of folk.
I have a circle tribe of playwright’s that I speak with and they are such a joy. And I’ve got a tribe of friends from college who have keys to all the rooms in my mind and get to ask me questions and hold me accountable on how things are going. They make sure to keep copies of the map when I get mad and throw mine out the window.
And a Shoutout to Actors Quarantine Corner, Joseph “Joe P.” Palmore, Brandon Morgan, and Kendrick “K.B.” Brown for speaking my name in other rooms, making art when others were quitting, and bringing authenticity to the stage every time they perform. I am a genuine fan.
YoTube: Lion Honey Films