Keith Arthur Bolden is assistant professor of theater and performance at Spelman College. With Alexis Woodard, he directs HANDS UP at the Alliance Theatre in October. His acting credits include The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and the series Black Lightning. (Photo by Jason Vail)
I lost my best friend to COVID. He had diabetes and in a month he was gone. He was an actor. We went to school together and had a very competitive relationship. We pushed each other in a lot of ways and he motivated me to act. I have made a commitment to get my health together, so I can live a life that honors him. In that way I have been shifted. I have also learned to listen more, to intensely shut up. I have a habit of making things about me, but sometimes the other person may just want me to listen. I’ve learned that, living with five other people in my house during Covid — my wife, my mother-in-law, my two children and their godmother. As a Black man I have always known that when women are in a space together I need to either listen or just stay out of the way. They have their own dynamic; they don’t need man-ness to fix things.
My artistry never stopped [during Covid] but I can be insensitive sometimes and forget what it is like to be an actor without a job. My wife, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, is on the senior staff at the Alliance and I think we have both been blessed to be able to create opportunity and artistic endeavors for people. I am still teaching, still mentoring former and current students, and have stayed pretty active. At Spelman, we’ve been virtual for three semesters.
I have hope for humanity, but I get discouraged when I think about how much energy it takes to not like something. I don’t like liver. If it’s put in front of me I do everything I can to not eat it, but if it’s not around me I am not bothered by it. So for people to go out of their way to show how much they don’t like you, it’s disheartening. Some people feel they can’t be happy unless someone else is suffering and that hurts. I feel the arts hold up a mirror to who we are and sometimes that reflection is better than who we are.