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Janet Adderley

Broadway actress and acting coach Janet Williams Adderley was born Janet Williams in Marshall, Texas, on September 17, 1956. Adderley’s mother, Velma Bernice MacAfee Williams, a mathematics professor, and her father Dr. John L. Williams, an optometrist, raised Adderley in Houston, Texas; Walter MacAfee, the pioneering radio astronomer, was her uncle. Attending Turner Elementary, Edgar Allen Poe Elementary and Holy Spirit Catholic School, Adderley graduated from Houston’s Performing Arts High School in 1974. At Yale University, Adderley was a member of the Yale Dramat (the Yale Dramatic Association) before graduating in 1978 with her B.A. degree in American studies.

Moving to New York City, Adderley married Nat Adderley, Jr., whom she met at Yale University, in 1979, and started a family. Involved in various entertainment classes and projects, Adderley landed the role of Belle in the Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express. In 1990, Adderley was featured in the play A...My Name is Alice and appeared in television commercials in America and Britain. In 1991, Adderley relocated to Hollywood where she appeared in regional theatrical productions. In 1994 and 1995, Adderley appeared in the television series Sweet Justice with Cicely Tyson; she also appeared in the 1999 movie Annie, and I Am Sam in 2001.

In 1994, Adderley started a performing arts class for her daughter and fourteen other children; as the word spread, The Adderley School for the Performing Arts in Pacific Palisades was formed. At The Adderley School, students were instructed in all of the elements of musical theatre by performing youth versions of Broadway shows.

Accession Number

A2005.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/1/2005

Last Name

Adderley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Yale University

Turner Elementary School

High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

Edgar Allen Poe Elementary School

Holy Spirit Episcopal School

First Name

Janet

Birth City, State, Country

Marshall

HM ID

ADD01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France, Italy

Favorite Quote

Love You Madly. Just Breathe.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

9/17/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Acting coach and stage actress Janet Adderley (1956 - ) founded The Janet Adderely School for the Performing Arts.

Employment

Adderley School for the Performing Arts

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janet Adderley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janet Adderley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Janet Adderley describe her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janet Adderley describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janet Adderley describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janet Adderley describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janet Adderley talks about her family's academic and occupational history

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janet Adderley tells the story of her parents' meeting

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Janet Adderley describes her immediate family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Janet Adderley describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Janet Adderley describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janet Adderley talks about how Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations' sparked her interest in African American traditions and history

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janet Adderley recalls an influential teacher at G.B.M. Turner Elementary School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janet Adderley describes her childhood personality and her time at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janet Adderley talks about attending The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janet Adderley describes her childhood neighborhood, the Third Ward, Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janet Adderley describes her acting style and her influences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janet Adderley reflects on her understanding of race being impacted by music

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janet Adderley talks about her black role models

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janet Adderley talks about her three most influential teachers at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janet Adderley reveals the reasons she chose to attend Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janet Adderley talks about attending Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janet Adderley talks about African American studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janet Adderley talks about her husband, Nat Adderley Jr., and his family

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janet Adderley talks about performing with the Yale Dramat at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janet Adderley recalls her early involvement in professional theater and 1989 Broadway debut in Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Starlight Express'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janet Adderley talks about working as a black actress in regional theater

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Janet Adderley reflects on the growing opportunities for black actresses

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janet Adderley recalls the end of her marriage and her hiring as the standby for Belle the Sleeping Car in Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Starlight Express'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janet Adderley recalls how her persistence earned her the role of Belle the Sleeping Car in Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Starlight Express'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janet Adderley talks about transitioning from Broadway to film acting

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janet Adderley talks about her role on the television show 'Sweet Justice' and teaching her first theater class

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janet Adderley describes how her performing arts classes grew into The Adderley School for the Performing Arts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janet Adderley describes the work she does with her performing arts students

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janet Adderley describes her teaching philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janet Adderley describes her technique for preventing divas and emphasizing teamwork in an arts classroom

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janet Adderley talks about scholarships for students who cannot afford to attend The Adderley School for the Performing Arts

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janet Adderley talks about the future of The Adderley School for the Performing Arts and her theater career

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janet Adderley describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janet Adderley reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Janet Adderley reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Janet Adderley reflects on her role as a black woman in a predominately white community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Janet Adderley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Janet Adderley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
Janet Adderley reflects on her understanding of race being impacted by music
Janet Adderley talks about her role on the television show 'Sweet Justice' and teaching her first theater class
Transcript
You have this big personality, big stage presence and--$$(Nodding head).$$Okay. Now when you were growing up probably, I would think funk music was the number one music and all that sort of thing, did you feel kind of odd being in a Broadway--$$Yes--$$--you know?$$--very much so. Very, very, very much so. It's interesting. And I may end up reviving it but I did a show back in New York [New York] called 'A Brief History of White Music in America' and it was three African American performers and the whole prem- it was fabulous. And the whole premise was, you know, it's a well-known fact that all of, of, of or most of, or much of, all of, of contemporary pop white music gets its roots from the blues, you know, The [Rolling] Stones, and, you know, all of that. And so for, you know, we've all sort of paid homage to the fact that, that, that, you know, white popular music is, is rooted in, in, in black musical traditions. So this show that I did was a, a flip on that was, was having black musicians pay homage to all of the amazing music that's been created, you know, by white people or whatever. And so there was a line in there, I sang, 'To Sir, with Love,' which is, one of the most memorable movies for me growing up, that and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' were two of my two favorite movies growing up as a child. And, and so, I sang the, the theme 'To Sir, with Love' in this, in this particular show. And I, I started, I introduced the song by saying most little black girls grew up wanting to be Diana Ross, well I never did, I grew up wanting to be Lulu. And then I, I sang this song, and it wasn't that I wanted to be white, it was that this song, this movie, Sidney Poitier, this whole British thing really spoke to me and this, and I loved, you know, this song. And so then I, and then I would sing the song. And so I did feel like an odd bird because, of course, my parents [Velma McAfee Williams and John Williams] would, the only music that we were allowed to listen to, you know, pop music or R&B was Diana Ross and The Supremes and the Jackson 5. My mom, we would have to sneak out of the house or be with friends to listen to, you know, Archie Bell and the Drells or Marvin Gaye, forget about it, you know what I mean, she just, we couldn't. And so we, we grew up listening to opera. My mom could tell you the libretto of, you know, nine, ten operas. I mean she's a huge opera, we, we were members of the, of the, of the Houston Grand Opera, we'd go and see, you know, season subscribers, we thought, we went to the ballet, we went, you know, all of that and theater and all of that. And so I did feel a, amongst my black friends, I did feel odd and I felt, and I led sort of a dua- you know, a, a double life. I had my life with, with my white friends and then I had my life with my, my black friends because nobody black, nobody black was listening, nobody knew, no one black knew who Judy Garland was when I was growing up, and so I did. And I remember, I remember watching 'Imitation of Life' and, and just losing it at, you know, crying, you know, hysterically, why is mom, why is the world like this, why do we have to, you know, why, why does it make any difference, why aren't we all the same. I mean it was, it was a huge problem for me that that I just wouldn't take, I wouldn't take on. I wouldn't accept that I was different. And I remember even as recently as being ten, eleven years old, so like in the '60s [1960s], in the late '60s [1960s], in Marshall, Texas, you still, when I'd go to the movies with my cousins, they were, it wasn't like it was legalized, but it was inbred that the black people sat upstairs and watched the movie, and, and the white people went into the, you know, down stairs. And I remember going in to the down stairs area and my cousins pulling me back and saying you can't do that, you can't go, you know, we, you know, we have to go, and being furious that that they were, you know, 'cause it was all, it, it had been abolished, segregation had been abolished by now but it was just all of these--$$It was custom.$$--customs, customs. And so I, you know, I did, I early, early on felt incredibly odd because I had interests that that other black kids my age just didn't have.$What year is that?$$That was nine, I wanna say '91 [1991], '90 [1990], '91 [1991]. And, and I continued to do theater from here. And then I got a wonderful opportunity, I was hired for a television series called 'Sweet Justice,' that starred Cicely Tyson and Melissa Gilbert, 'Little House on the Prairie.' And I played this character Ruby [ph.] who owned a supper club, very similar to in 'Ally McBeal.' Are you familiar with that television series? All the lawyers would go to this supper club and hang out and there was this woman, Vonda [Shepard] somebody that sang. So that was basic, that was sort of the premise of, of, of the, we were the precursor to that, that, that the lawyers in Cicely's firm would come to my supper club, Ru-- Ruby's [ph.] and hang out. And so it was a recurring role. And if they, if it had been picked up for a second season, I was going to then become a season regular and actually even get to sing. It, it would be sort of it like, there's a, there's a restaurant in New York [New York] called Chez Josephine's, which is owned by one of her adopted sons, Jean-Paul [sic. Jean-Claude Baker].$$(Simultaneous) And that's Josephine Baker, yeah.$$Yeah. And, and that's a, it was gonna be sort of like that, it was gonna be where they'd come in and I'd, I'd sing and entertain. I was very excited about it. And then they canceled the show. And so it became, again, it, it just, I had these two daughters and either I was working, so I was providing for them but I was away from them or I wasn't working and I was with them and money was tight. And so I had started a, a little class for my younger daughter because she was very, very shy, she was incredibly shy. And I thought that, just like it had helped my brother get over his shyness, a theater class for my daughter would be great. And so the combinat- the impetus for me doing it was to be a good mom and to help my daughter with some of her issues and it then became my livelihood and my second career. So from one class of fifteen kids, you know, (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Now, now what year is this when you started the class?$$I started it, Alana [Adderley] was, I wanna say she was nine or eight, so this was probably '94 [1994] or ninety--yeah, '94 [1994], ninety, ninety, ninety, somewhere around there.