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“Maya Angelou was an innovator and was such an inspiration to me,” Colman Domingo says, reflecting on the storied author’s recent death. “We stand on her shoulders, since we’re the next generation.” Years ago, as part of the cast on Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show, one of Domingo’s recurring skits was impersonating Angelou. He portrayed her reading sexually explicit posts from Craigslist.
But Domingo’s work in television comedy is a side note to more notable stage and film work. He played a supporting role in Passing Strange both on Broadway and in Spike Lee’s 2009 film adaptation. He was also in The Scottsboro Boys, one of the last collaborative musicals from John Kander and the late Fred Ebb that earned Domingo a 2011 Tony nomination as featured actor. “I’m very proud to be part of these historical, passionate projects,” he says. “Things that actually have importance and meaning and hope in making some change in the world.”
The 44-year-old Philadelphia native, who’s been openly gay his entire career — “I’ve always been comfortable with who I am” — also has a budding career as a playwright. In 2010 he won a GLAAD Media Award and a Lucile Lortel Award for his Off-Broadway one-man show A Boy and His Soul. And right now Center Stage, Baltimore’s premier theater company, offers Wild With Happy, first staged by New York’s Public Theater in 2012. Domingo describes the play as “a dark comedy about faith” and “my first piece that I was really writing for other actors to do.” Forrest McClendon, a longtime friend and colleague, stars in the Baltimore production, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen.
“It’s about an African-American gay man who loses his mother and he’s sort-of stuck in his life,” he says. “And the thrust of the play is moving him to believe in something again.”
Speaking of influential motherly types, Domingo never did get a chance to meet the legend he impersonated all those years ago — though he takes heart in the secondhand knowledge that he did, in fact, make her laugh.
“Maya Angelou was aware that I portrayed her and apparently she got a real tickle out of it.”
Wild With Happy runs to June 29 at Center Stage, 700 North Calvert St., in Baltimore. Tickets are $19 to $62. Call 410-986-4000 or visit centerstage.org.