FELA! Returns to Washington

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/8/2013, 10:11 p.m.

Marshall also said she's grateful to director Bill T. Jones for pushing her to stretch beyond her comfort zone.

"He gave me another five notes on the top of my range. He is very subtle in bringing something out of you that you don't know you have," said Marshall, who studied classical singing at the Royal College of Music in London. "It hasn't been hard because it's been so much fun."

"Bill T. Jones took what I brought to the table, put the jazz, gospel and church I had and made me into Olufunmilayo."

"I can honestly say this is my best role to date," said Marshall, a 51-year-old Briton of Barbadian parentage.

Marshall and Garcia said the fact that cast members were chosen from American and British casts strengthened and added an entirely different dimension to the final product. Each spoke of the hugely influential role Jones played in creating and developing the play and his effect on them.

"There's always that screw that needs tightening, that little knot, but it all comes together," Marshall said. "He scared us. He doesn't stand on ceremony, doesn't stand for any nonsense. He picked you and you're chosen for a reason and you better not let him down because you represent him, the Kuti family, the show and you'd better not be disrespectful of all of that. That is not an option."

Garcia, who spoke proudly of her Cuban roots and who described herself as the creative impulse for the play, said she's awed by her mentor.

"He's a force to be reckoned with," she said with a laugh. "He really is an artistic genius. I respect and admire him. He has the insight and ability to draw things out of people. He is a real phenomenon to witness. This play is a monument to his will and creative genius."

Garcia, a member of the production's original creative team, said she's enjoyed taking creative risks and has grown as an artist.

"This is a medium of social activism, my place in the global village. Theater is the proverbial fireplace where people gather and where the spirit stays alive. Fela! asks what's your life's purpose and what do you plan to do. It's very exhilarating," she said.

The play's run ends on Feb 10. Performances are at the Shakespeare Theatre in Northwest.