Known for her work on daytime television and her New York Times bestselling book, Victoria Rowell has brought her talents to the stage in the aptly titled "Page To Stage." The production, which is scheduled for one night at New York's Symphony Stage on November 18, is the venue's first "concert of words," in which books will be the "symphonic" foundation for an evening of performances and conversation.
The former star of "The Young and The Restless" recently explained to HuffPost Black Voices how the production, five years in the making, has evolved into a groundbreaking multimedia production.
"'Page to Stage' is a brainchild that has been brought to fruition by the indefatigable Marva Allen, who manages and is the executive at Hue-Man Books, one of only six African-American-run bookstores left in the nation," she explained. "We will see a melding of stories. They will be woven together, and each will be a pearl on the string of telling a full story that particular evening. Each person's tale will dovetail to the next."
Rowell and Allen have recruited legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, writer and comedian Paul Mooney, NY1 anchor Cheryl Wills, political analyst Keli Goff, "The Cheetah Girls" creator Deborah Gregory and "Precious" producer Lisa Cortes, who will moderate the panel.
"The stories stand alone," Rowell declared. "They're proven because they're there to testify, number one. And number two, the people have spoken, because they've purchased the books and they've supported us in our unique arenas ... Each of us has a story to tell on all the business aspects of what may have been a success, but certainly we have an experience to share. So if anything, we are thrilled collectively to be able to have a platform from which to share our wisdom and hopefully lift up budding writers or experienced writers in going that next mile."
The event will be the first in a series that will constitute a part of Allen and Rowell's "Get on the Bus" road tour, which will bring stories to audiences across the nation. The pair has already received confirmation from Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood that she will participate in the subsequent two-week national bus tour. Proceeds from the production will go to the Melvin Van Peebles Foundation's efforts to promote literacy.
"We're trying to raise this money so we can hit the road and teach these kids to read throughout the country," says Paul Mooney. "I'm pushing my book 'Black Is the New White,' which was on the bestseller list in New York. But we want these kids to read!"
The twice-married mother of two was initially inspired to do a national tour while promoting her debut memoir, "The Women Who Raised Me." When her editor refused to let Rowell do a bus tour into rural areas around the country, Rowell persuaded her publisher to advertise the book on 120 buses in New York City.
"You shouldn't have to be John Grisham to get an advertisement on the side of the bus," she said. "I wanted the buses to be in all boroughs and advocate for literacy. And especially for children to see a brown person on the side of a bus who is promoting literacy. And so now we go the next step and take the page to the stage. And Marva Allen and myself hope this will be a precursor to leap from the stage to the bus tour."
While she is working on her follow-up memoir (working title, "Back In The Bubble") and getting ready for the March 2012 publication of her children's book, "Tagged, Toss, Capture, and Run," Rowell is also determined to increase diversity on daytime television. The actress' performance as Drucilla Winters on "The Young and The Restless" earned her 11 NAACP Image Awards and three Daytime Emmy Award nominations, but her ambitions are to do more than win the accolades or return to the show: She wants networks to allocate more resources and revenue to hiring more African-American writers, directors and producers.
Rowell told HuffPost, "'The Young and The Restless' is a billion-dollar show, and all that I asked for was to close the disparity. I've worked very hard on a (contract for a) black hair stylist that was qualified." Rowell says that her campaign has also led to the hiring of Susan Dansby, the first African-American writer for the show, and of Albert Alarr, its first African-American director.
"This is more than votes and characters," Rowell says.
She added that the only way to achieve further change is through a boycott of the long-running show. "I really, really care about diversity ... So until African Americans pull together and say, 'No more, we won't watch the show,' we're not going to see the change, because it has to be a financial message."