Chicago’s very own E. Faye Butler is an accomplished and decorated theater actress and singer who has made a name for herself via stage and song for the better part of four decades. She has performed around the globe to international acclaim and been the recipient of a slew of awards including 6 Joseph Jefferson Awards, 4 Black Theatre Alliance Awards, an Ovation Award, and the 2011 Sarah Siddons Award. In 2012, she was inducted into the National Museum of Women in the Arts. In addition to her busy theatre schedule, Butler frequently performs her own cabaret concerts and theaters across the country.
Currently, Butler can be seen in Congo Square Theatre Company’s updated spin on the signature musical telling of the birth of Christ, A Nativity Story: More than a Miracle, which is directed by playwright Alexis J. Rogers and is playing at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in downtown Chicago.
rolling out recently sat down with E. Faye to discuss her background, love of music and theater, and her next few projects.
How did you get your start in music and theater?
I began in the arts as a child. My family would attend something every week that was culturally based; Opera, Musicals, Plays, Art Galleries, Films, Ballet, Symphony, Concerts etc… that was a must. Therefore it was a natural progression to become a part of the arts for me. My first turn at performing was 5 years old in The Nutcracker at McCormick Place. Music is something that has always been a part of any home I’ve lived in. Church was a great part of my theatre experience. Whenever there was a program, I always did a James Weldon piece or something by Langston Hughes.
What do you love most about both?
The arts feed the soul and lift the spirit. Music can make you feel better about any situation you’re going though. On the other hand, if you want to be in the depths of despair music can take you there as well. Theatre allows you to see through a window into your imagination, to explore the possibilities of life, different perspectives, cultures, languages, and sometimes just plain fun.
Was there an “aha” moment when you knew for sure that this is what you wanted to do?
There hasn’t been a ” AHA” moment for me because performing is all I’ve ever done, and I’m extremely blessed to have been chosen to do the thing I believe I was created to do. It feeds me spiritually and mentally. It has been my source of income for over 40 years. I’m a working entertainer and nothing is better than that, except my family and dear friends who are always a priority in my life.
Tell us about your turn in Congo Square’s A Nativity Story?
The production of A Nativity Story takes me back to the church pageants at Christmas time. I loved being the wise men with a fake beard or the shepherd learning my little speech. It’s where the Nativity began. Coming full circle and performing in a professional production of the play is awesome. Alexis J Rogers’ new look at a classic is fabulous and I love it. It will be around for many years. I’m proud and happy for the success of Congo Square’s 15 years and still going strong. BRAVO!
Talk a bit about your last album entitled “Circle of Firsts?” What’s the significance of that title?
The CD has been out for a few years but I hadn’t had the time to really promote for a year, because I was working in the theatre. See? Blessings!! I decided to title the CD – Circle Of Firsts, because each song on this CD was a new chapter in my life where I was taught and learned a valuable lesson for the first time. I hope folks enjoy the music. I’m currently working on a new CD to be produced by my husband, Bernard Johnson. I have a band and I travel across the country in between theatre dates with concerts and cabarets.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the entertainment industry?
The biggest misconception is that everyone is rich and has no worry. Wrong! Yes, I am very rich in family,love & faith. However, this is a grind and you must stay on top of your business; its why we work so hard for everything we get. The word is show Business! Trust, no one hands you anything.
How do you use social media to your advantage?
My niece is a beast with social media. Her name is Kristine Butler, she is my personal assistant she says. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and she created an awesome web site for me www.efayebutler.com. Social media is a way to stay connected to the fan base and get in touch with the real world around you. I’m really beginning to enjoy this social media a great deal and I’ve found many old friends I’d lost touch with. I can reach out faster and much more efficiently. Never thought I’d say it but go social media (thanks to my niece of course).
What accomplishment makes you most proud?
Being married for 36 years to my friend in life, Bernard Johnson.
Who inspires you?
God and the youth and their fresh look on life.
Any favorite affirmations?
Let go and Let God. Live in the moment. When things get rough take a breath. One man’s floor is another man’s ceiling.
What’s the last great book you read?
Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks
Any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring singers or actors?
Follow your passion, that’s the thing that wakes you in middle of the night. The thing that you do with little effort, but could do better with practice. Don’t ever give upon your dreams, just wake them every moment you have.
What’s next for E. Faye Butler?
I begin a workshop of Ghosts: The Musical at Fulton Theatre January 1, 2015. Then off to Washington, D.C., at Arena Stage to perform in a production of August Wilson’s King Hedley II. I return to Chicago in A Wonder in my Soul at Victory Gardens Theatre in June, The Goodman Theatre in Sanya, Masha, Vanya and Spike, concerts in-between. Life is good.
For more information on E. Faye please visit www.efayebutler.com.
A Nativity Story: More than a Miracle will run at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, located at 1016 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago, Ill through December 28th.
Tickets and additional information on the show can be found at www.congosquaretheatre.org