Making Magic: An interview with Ricardo Pitts-Wiley

Mixed Magic Theatre is a non-profit organization in Pawtucket with a mission to create more literate and arts-active communities. Mixed Magic often combines expressive artistic forms, such as poetry, acting, singing, dancing through plays and open mic. I recently spoke with Ricardo Pitts-Wiley and we delved into the importance of artistic expression, discussed what’s happening in today’s society and talked about the importance of understanding language and the craft and inner workings of Mixed Magic.  

Mr. Orange Live: I’d like to start this interview by thanking you for all that you have done for this community! I know you personally and have shared the stage with you a few times, but for those who don’t know you and Mixed Magic Theatre, can you give a brief introduction? 

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley: I have been a theater artist for almost 50 years. Apart from being an actor, director, playwright, composer and teacher, I am also co-founder and past artistic director of Mixed Magic Theatre


MO: How does Mixed Magic Theatre stay relevant and crucial in these changing times? 

RP: We stay relevant by staying focused on our mission “to build more literate and arts-active communities by presenting a diversity of ideas and images on stage.” We also stay committed to developing and presenting African-American talent.

MO: What were the hardest challenges you’ve faced and overcome as a nonprofit?

RP: Lack of funding resources and no dependable feeder system for theater artists, administrators and technicians.  

MO: You’re so amazingly talented. You’re a singer, poet, author and more. Can you talk more about your own work?  

RP: I think of myself as a natural artist in the sense that as an actor, writer or composer, I don’t worry about rules our conventions as much as I seek to tell the truth.

MO: Thinking about George Floyd’s death and the resulting protests, what do you think about what is happening? How we can rise as a community and people?

RP: More now than ever we have to prepare ourselves for the loud, demanding and dangerous road that will lead to real and lasting change. We have to make a place for everybody to protest in their own way.

MO: What do you want to pass on to the next generation?

RP: The belief that you are entitled to everything the world has to offer. To prepare themselves and be ready to manage the benefits of committed work and an unleashed imagination.

MO: How has Mixed Magic Theatre adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

RP: We began early in the pandemic to prepare for a new and better future.

MO: When social distancing ends, what can we look forward to from  Mixed Magic Theatre?

RP: A new and exciting brand of performance events celebrating the human experience. We will not delve into spectacle as much as not be afraid to be spectacular.

MO: Let’s talk about poetry and acting. Some of the best poets I know also are some of the best actors I know. How would you explain this?

RP: Poetry and acting both demand that you put a value on language — what you say, how you say it and what you mean.

MO: Do you believe poets are the voice of the community and why?

RP: All artists must be voices for and in the community.

MO: When did you fall in love with theater and poetry?

RP: Age 15 — the first time I stepped on stage.