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Alumnus London Carlisle currently starring in "HANDS UP" at the Alliance Theatre

London Carlisle

Many of our alumni scatter across the country after graduation looking for job opportunities, grad school, and auditions. 2019 graduate London Carlisle has found his way back near The Loveliest Village on the Plains by getting cast in “HANDS UP” at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. 

London graduated with a BFA in Performance and a minor in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies from Auburn University and went on to join Actors Equity Association. His Auburn credits include: “Integration of Tuskegee High School,” “Frankenstein,” “Antigone,” “The Foreigner,” “A Civil War Christmas,” “Big Fish,” “Detroit,” “Mr. Burns,” and “Alabama Love Stories.” While at Auburn, London remembers really loving Friday Forum. He said “I loved how we built a family doing that. I loved creating something knowing we were going to share it with just us.” 

Post Auburn, London moved to New York. He tried to keep himself busy with whatever he could get into. He did a movie called “Respect” with Jennifer Hudson and did a staged reading at the Classical Theatre of Harlem for a new play called “The Black Boy in Pink.” At his first theatre audition in New York, he got casted for the job. It was for a production of “I and You” at the Public Theatre in Lewiston, Maine. During the pandemic London says he “did a whole lot of nothing.” However, he made the most of that situation and started hosting Spot Hidden, a role-playing game show that he started with another Auburn alumnus. He auditioned a lot during quarantine. The casting process for “HANDS UP” even started remotely from his home. 

His starring in “HANDS UP” happened because of a connection he made from his senior showcase at the Alliance, explained London. At the showcase he met their casting director Jodi Feldman. When the Alliance announced their new season during quarantine, London sent her an email because he felt like the season offered him opportunities. He ended up auditioning for the show via video and had callbacks on Zoom. However, he did not hear anything about it for a year. 

As live performance started to return, he got an email that the “HANDS UP” production was doing auditions again. He wasn’t going to submit for it, however, he explained, “Jodi contacted my agent, who told me to submit. So, I did, and I went right to Zoom callbacks and booked it!” Next, he relocated to Atlanta when the rehearsal process got started.  Rehearsal, which was 11am to 6pm every day, lasted a couple weeks.

“HANDS UP” was originally commissioned in 2015 at the New Black Fest and was written in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Everything in the play is true except the piece that London stars in, “Abortion.” When asked about his specific monologue in the show London coyly said, “It’s SO good!” Reviewers seem to agree. As Bert Osborne from “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” wrote, “the debatable highpoint in the play could be “Abortion” (by NSangou Njikam), which offers an astonishing showcase for actor Carlisle.”

The hardest challenge for London has been stepping out of the piece. He expressed how it takes an emotional toll and sometimes hurts to do the show. It hits close to home and requires a vulnerability. The Alliance provided the cast with therapy sessions during rehearsal to help them bond together and develop coping strategies. He said, “the whole cast has each other’s back and since everyone is really close it is a good thing for managing this challenge.” 

When asked for the one piece of advice he would give to young college artists, London said, “learn to take the initiative. Do not wait on opportunities. Take one on yourself. Reach out and see if you can be part of different projects. Why not!” 

“HANDS UP” runs from October 8th to October 31st. London feels like people should come see it because it speaks the truth. He said, “It’s raw and real and powerful and thoughtful and it’s a very heavy topic, but it does it with an honesty that can speak to so many people. No matter who you are it is a show for you to listen to other perspectives.” 

We all know your career is going to only continue to flourish. Congratulations London! 

Synopsis: Across seven monologues written by seven black playwrights, “HANDS UP” depicts the realities of Black America from the perspective of varying genders, sexual orientations, skin tones, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The play was originally commissioned in 2015 by the New Black Fest in response to a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. The themes and stories it tells still ring true today. “HANDS UP” is produced in association with Spelman College.

London’s Scene: Abortion by NSangou Njikam

Co-Directors: Keith Arthur Bolden (an actor known for Black Lightning, Cobra Kai, and Jungle Cruise), Alexis Woodard

Tags: Theatre and Dance

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