The Talented Mr. Toussaint

It does not matter that Germono Toussaint, is multitalented and has appeared on this website multiple times.  He’s just that gifted and I’m glad to have him back each time.

It is not important that even after the numerous phone calls, text messages, emails, and Facebook chimes, I have yet to meet him face-to-face. All that I can say is that as I listen to him talk about his latest project the passion and commitment to his craft comes through the telephone or computer.

What’s important to know is  “Having a Party” the debut single from his autobiographical visual album “Brown Liquor and Blessed Oil,” will be released on July 4th. The single dropped June 11th.

The old-school house party-ish music video features drag cabaret performer Michael Michelle Lynch and “a diverse group of revelers across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, the video gives a modern flavor to the retro funk arrangement,” per the press release.

Again here is Mr. Toussaint. He discusses The Last Gatekeeper, “a three-act, Afro-futurist, musical theater experience.” He talks about his the journey to bring the upcoming project into fruition, and the inspiration for “Brown Liquor and Blessed oil.”

PrideIndex (PI): I got wind that you were working on a new project.  I became excited and called right away. Tell me all about it. First, we have to take a step back. Introduce yourself and briefly talk about what you do.

Germono Toussaint (GT) I’m a composer, playwright, arranger and producer. Living in New York City have been here for almost 20 years. I have had a few probably developed over 10 musicals and over 20 Off Broadway productions.

(PI) Do you have plans to do something on Broadway? If so, what?

(GT)  I am aware that not everything is for Broadway. I won’t get into Broadway. Another type of environment. I don’t think I would jump on any.

 (PI)  Talk about your latest project. I was on the zoom call for “The Last Gatekeeper.”  I was excited to hear you to talk about that. What is it?

(GT) There’s two major projects. But I’ll talk about ‘The Last Gatekeeper.’ And if there’s time of loves talk about the album too. ‘The Last Gatekeeper’ is an Afro futurist musical. Extended reality, post-apocalyptic musical, which is a lot. It’s set 50 years in the future, after the apocalypse. A group has taken over the government. The prime opportunity to sort of control people, because people were already fearful. The government separated people and created these really strict rules to rule people by fear. There’s no more being out of the closet, everything is punishable. There’s no activism, there’s no atheism. All the freedoms we have now are punishable by torture, and sometimes by death.

A second generation African woman has a child with someone who’s in this underground resistance movement. This child is the last gatekeeper that was prophesied generations ago, and the woman’s mother is the gatekeeper herself from a long line of gatekeepers. And she takes it upon herself to train this little child to embrace his power so that he can take over his government or topple this government and bring peace to the world because she believes that this is the prophecy that this child is fulfilling the prophecy is the mother, of course, just knows that this is her child that she needs to protect. So they have a clash over that. One wants to wants him to take on the world and the other one wants to protect them from the world. So he ends up hiding himself which actually ends up cutting off his true gifts and his access to his true power because he’s not being useful. So and there’s a lot more in there, but I don’t want to give everything away.

(PI)  Wow, just from that description, a flurry of things rushed my brain. I’m thinking in the vein of Octavia Butler, Divergent. And it’s on the tip of my tongue. That movie with “Neo”?

(GT)  Oh, yeah. Matrix.

(PI) It would be exciting to watch ‘The Last Gatekeeper’ on film. You’re actually doing this as a musical. Why a musical, and not a film or some other media?

GT: Well, just personally I’ve developed so many other musicals, that it was time for me to do my own. I’ve only written one other musical. And that was in 2005, right before I moved to New York. I have always planned to do this as it was actually originally going to be an opera.

(PI) Wow. An opera?

(GT) I thought, I’m never going to get funding for an opera. So I’ve decided to make it a musical and it’s more accessible as an opera on the musical side rather than just an opera. It’s just sort of like the timeline that I saw like, how long would it take me to get something like this off the ground, a musical general takes several years to write like “Hamilton” and “The heights” took almost eight years before they were ever on Broadway. It just takes a long time to get anything in production. I know a film with this set with special effects and all that. They could cost millions of dollars. And if I wanted to do it the right way, it definitely would be a longer timeline. When I think of the story I automatically think of ancestry, because this character has ancestor spirits that helped guide him through life, and then automatically says musical to me.

(PI) Is it almost a Lion King-ish, if you will?

(GT) A little bit, but it’s a quiet on stage, there will be a choir of ancestor spirits. And some of them won’t be physical. So that’s our part of it. Extended reality part of it is, a lot of the other worldly aspects that aren’t physically on stage. I guess the easiest way to describe it is a hologram. So for instance, like an ancestor, spirit might be on stage, and he’s telling a story about how the Bible was used to enslave his people. And he might turn into a book on stage and the book would grow and morph, and then he’ll turn into a flame. That’s the type of world I’m trying to create.

(PI) That sounds very interesting and amazing. But for me, I’m trying to put that together and actually conceptualize that and see it on stage.

(GT) It’s been already done.

(PI) Give me a couple of times, examples.

(GT) I’m going to mess the name up, I want to say Frankenstein, but it’s not Frankenstein. There’s a company called Three Legged Dogs. They specialize in this. There’s only two theaters in New York that can do this.  I have the capabilities of doing that. And there’s a third that’s being built now. I’ve been in touch with them about a possible production, or development, at least, about a year out. Oh, yeah. That production is called Frankenstein AI. It was done a few years ago.

(PI) Your experience in theater gives insight or a bag of tricks or resources to go to.

(GT) Yeah, I’ve learned a lot by being thrown into situations that I probably was not prepared for. I have built my confidence up to finally do my own thing. And that’s just how I’m wired. I don’t like to jump into stuff until I’m ready. I’m in a situation where I’ve been in multiple roles as someone who’s watching someone audition and choosing a task, to work for the director,  to work with a dramaturg, I’ve done lighting, I’ve done all kinds of stuff. So I’m confident in almost all of these areas where I know what I’m what I see, and I know what can be done. I know what my vision is. And I know what can be done and I know what instruments it takes to make things sound a certain way and I know what kind of team I want. I have an amazing team consisting of Dionne McClain Freeney, Crystal Monet Hall, and Dr. John-Martin Green, who introduced me to this concept probably over 15 years ago. The book “The Healing Wisdom of Africa” was written by Malidoma Patrice Some, a West African Shaman.  I think everybody should read that book. That’s what this entire musical is based on. It is inspired by his {Malidoma’s} teachings.

(PI) Explain the creative process from concept, all the way to actualization and seeing that finished project on stage. What is that timeline for this particular project? And tell me about some of the challenges you’re experiencing right now? And how you plan to overcome them?

(GT) The seed was planted when I read the book “The Healing Wisdom of Africa.” Dr. Green, my mentor introduced me to that concept. When I was planning, I had the idea for a musical, I chose him as my director, and he’s a professional director.  And first, I was just writing the outline, thinking what the story would be.  I knew I wanted to talk about the subjects that Malidoma brings up. And the whole concept of the gatekeeper came from him and people in indigenous cultures that would be seen as queer or same gender loving or trans. They were revered. They were thought to have spiritual gifts. And in his century, the gatekeepers were the people that facilitated others accessing their gifts and brought balance to the world are balanced to their village or town or country. The people that have been ostracized in this country are the ones that have the ability powers, talents, to restore balance. And we have actually been the ones that have done that if you think about the social justice movements, most of them have been led by same gender the loving people. But anyway, and so. Yeah, so choosing getting the story down in an outline. What story do I want to sell? How do I want to sell it? Tell it? Who’s? Who do I want to tell the story? Is it the mother? Is it the little kid? Is it the grandmother? You know, I wasn’t sure. So I decided to set it post-apocalyptic time because all the things that Malidoma warns about. I wanted to have it already happened. And when I started writing little things would come to me. I’m not like a person that sits down and writes, something would wake me up out of my sleep. When I’m thinking about a certain subject or thinking about the mother, the grandmother and the grandson’s relationship, something would come to me. I’ll would like roll over and record it into our phone and then worry about the rest later. And sometimes I’d notated it out. But this time, I have an arranger and a music director. So she wrote the melodies. You know, write them out. And she’s in the process of orchestrating them now. Which I’ve done previously, but I just don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that for this, too much.

(PI) What about the timeline of actually seeing this finished project?  I understand that you’ve just received the funding for it. When can audiences expect to see something on the stage or when will you actually go into rehearsals or casting?

(GT) I am going to have a development workshop at The Tank in New York City. It’s going to be a music and movement workshop. We’re going to just workshop with the full band and singers because we haven’t had a chance to do that. Workshop to score change anything change keys, explore, play. That’s the whole point of it. And then have our choreographer come in with, I think two or three dancers and sort of play with movement, figure out what does it look like for the ancestral spirits to dance and for the soldiers to dance if that’s what it’s called for and then from there I am.

There’s an opportunity that I can’t talk about because it hasn’t happened. And I was asked not to talk about it. But there’s a potential further development opportunity that will bring producers that will pique the interest of potential producers. I am speaking with someone at the — I probably shouldn’t say video there because it hasn’t happened. Performing Arts Center in New York, which is interested in development and production. But all of these things are up in the air because of COVID. Even my fundraising, because a lot of people just were not donating to them. And the soonest I think our production could happen is 2023.

(PI)  Wow. Oh, yeah. COVID kind of threw things off.

(GT) This isn’t a normal musical, there are technical aspect to this. We literally have to model humans on stage and have them interact with physical humans. And that process takes a long time. It has to be another venue that can handle that type of technical requirement. The budget is probably triple what a normal user would be because of all that. So I didn’t have expectation for it to be done anytime soon. I wanted to be done right.

(PI) That’s understandable. You have to do things correctly. It’s about quality versus quantity, and not rushing things. Like the race between the tortoise and the hare comes to mind. The tortoise always won the race, because he did it slow and steady.

(GT) Right.

PI: What else can you tell me in terms of themes you cover without giving up a whole lot ? I guess we did give it away the fact that we’re talking right now.

GT: Some of the things are environmental things, you know, the world is, the apocalypse happens because of natural disasters, because we’ve destroyed natural resources, and that ultimately, we’ve altered the weather. And those things will continue to be more and more intense and devastating and destructive. And so, as though, it was a Trump administration, that took advantage of all of that, and created this totalitarian government you know, that’s, that’s the thing, corruption and high government.

There’s also queer SGL themes. The young child whose name is Soku, his grandmother knows that he’s SGL. And she sees it as a gift, while his mother sees it as a curse. So his grandmother tries to teach him to embrace his gift because it comes with his power, that he can’t separate the two. And when he tries to separate the two, he loses his power or you have doesn’t have access to it.

PI: Why was it important to have that or include those sorts of things in the story? Or some of the underlining messages?

GT: Well, I think that it’s an example of all of us that have, how do I say that have undergone persecution for who we are. And it has stifled our gifts it has stifled are contributing to the world in our fullness, which ultimately helps everyone so us not being our full self-esteem to deliver where people actually is hurting the world. Because they need us in a large portion of the world does not know that.

PI: It’s a powerful message to deliver with this. Earlier you mentioned that certain types of plays, or musicals, could not be Broadway Bound, or could not play well on Broadway. Is this one of those sorts of sorts of things that wouldn’t play to an off? Broadway audience? Now we’re talking technical requirements inside of the theater.

GT: Oh, no, I think it will be great for Broadway. Because it’s a sort of like an epic type of thing, if you hear the music is like is, it sort of reminds me of like, I mean, it’s probably isn’t musical by now. But like a Lord of the Rings type epic big thing. You know, there’s like a battle. There’s several battle scenes. I could definitely see it on Broadway. It would be big.

PI: Have you written any of the music or scored anything for this musical?

GT: Yeah, all of the songs are finished. We had a virtual reading. I think you were part of that conversation, right before the virtual reading. So we had a virtual reading that was online. And yeah, everything was done. Minus the four songs. They’re not four major songs. And my music director slash arranger is orchestrating and notating. That now for our workshop at The Tank, which is in September. The music is on its way. We just haven’t heard it with a full choir and a band.  We need the workshop.

PI: What else would you like to tell me about this project? Earlier you mentioned you were working on two projects. And if there was time, you will get to the second one. Well, we just made time. Talk about that.

Micheal Michelle Lynch performs Having A Party

GT: Good, because that’s coming up more sooner than then this one. Yeah, so I’ve been working on an album called “Brown Liquor and Blessed Oil.”  It has actually has similar things, but is more personal. So my upbringing, as a man was like, very, it was a very crazy party atmosphere. There was a lot of parental supervision. You know, drinking a lot of a lot of music, which is what trained my ear as a little kid. That’s probably why a lot of bad things happen in that environment. In 1985 everyone got dressed into like church life. I was eventually ordained. But I was positive. So I was led because of my own studying and coming into myself to a pastor’s wife. So my family moved to New York, and then start this life as an artist. “Brown Liquor and Blessed Oil” from the basement parties, through the church, through being ordained, to coming out to move into New York. And it’s not why I’m not singing on the album. But it’s 11 artists in New York that I’ve had a similar experience that are singing songs that I’ve written and produced. The first single came out June 11, during pride with a music video. The full album drops July 4.

PI: Once again, you said Curse Liquor and blessed oil. I’m sorry, I don’t want to mess it up.

GT: Brown Liquor and Blessed oil.

PI: Oh, that sounds like the story of my life. Date night!

GT: (Laughs) People will resonate with it. So I guess we have that in common. It will be on my website  We’re ironing out the details, PR and the rollout. I’m really excited.  I’ve worked with these artists for years and years. They’re amazing. I’m glad to give them another platform to be seen and heard.

PI: You mentioned a video, are you in it? I know that you are a composer and a behind the scenes person. You are slash person that wears many hats.

GT: Yeah. I have multi roles, several hats. My head is big. I have several hats.