Priest Tyaire is a phenomenal writer, playwright, producer, actor and set designer with over ten years’ experience. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, he actually started his career as an electrician, and did that for approximately 20 years. However, in 2007, he embarked on a new career, writing and producing stage plays. He didn’t set out for his new career to be a business venture; he simply wanted to honor his mother’s life. His mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and he was inspired to write a story about her life. His mom was a teenage mom who had given birth to two children by the age of 15 and was the inspiration of Tyaire’s first play “Tears of a Teenaged Mother,” where he tackled the issue of teenage pregnancy. One of Tyaire’s dreams was to have his mother see his work before she died. Unfortunately, she died two weeks before his first show. “… and I’ll never forget, I was actually going to cancel the show because this was just something for my mother’s life,” Tyaire said. “The cast convinced me to still put it on, so we put it on. And then we had a sold-out crowd.”
Rolling out was able to sit down with Tyaire on his tour stop in Detroit. We spoke to him about how he got started, his current touring play, Momma’s Boy, and where he’s going next. The humble giant (he’s 6’4″ tall) also gives some inspiring golden nuggets to those just starting out on their journey.
You’ve been in the business for over ten years. Tell us how you got started.
I’m from Wilmington, Delaware, which is a very small city and state right outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I actually went to school to become an electrician, and that’s what I’ve done for the past 20 years. But back in 2007, my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and I just wanted to write a story about her life. It wasn’t anything I looked at as a business venture; it was just something that I wanted to honor my mother with because my mother started taking me to plays when I was just 14 years old.
You mentioned that your mom died just two weeks before your first show honoring her. How did you make the decision to keep going, over simply giving up and quitting?
I started getting calls, still with me not looking at this as a business venture, [my first play]was just something that was helping young girls with teenage pregnancy. So, I did that show about 40 or 50 times. Then I said I’ll write another show. And that show was called Why Men Cheat, and then that show started to sell out. Still, not a significant amount of money on the table, but my name was getting out there. And the more plays I produced, the more I was walking away from my business. And I just kept pursuing writing, and putting shows on, and producing shows. I contacted a producer out of Los Angeles. It took years for him to come see my play. I think he came to my fifth play, but I just kept writing. Then the shows started to take a nose dive and I started losing money, and I knew at that point God was testing me to see if I continued to have the faith. You can’t just have faith when things are going good, you have to have that same faith when things aren’t going as good. And I’ll just never forget finally getting [the producer’s] attention and he came to see my show, which was called Torn Between Two Fathers, and he loved it! From that point on, he took me on a 25-city tour, but now we’re on a 52-city tour.
Momma’s Boy is your eighth play and we couldn’t wait for it to come to Detroit. Tell us what one can expect to see in your play Momma’s Boy.
Yes, it is my eighth. I have eight shows that I’ve produced and ten shows that I’ve written, two shows that I haven’t even put out on stage yet. And you know, it’s surprising even to myself that I don’t recognize what they get out of it until I’m told. When I write, I just write from the heart. I’m instructed by God when I do write so, I’ve never known the messages that people get out of it, or the funny parts. Sometimes I go out into the audience and I see how they react, and to see people laughing at a part that I can remember sitting at my kitchen table and writing, it’s just like wow, you really thought that was funny?
The play has so many different messages and layers to it about fatherhood, and mothers not cutting the apron strings and letting their son’s grow up to be a man, and the difficulties of a relationship when a mother is so closely woven in. It’s so many different messages in the play. And you know, Nephew Tommy is just so funny in the play, and Jackee Harry is funny, and Shirley Murdock and Anthony Brown sings the roof off, so it’s just all in all a good time. You come out, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry, and I’ve had so, so many people tell me that my testimony at the end was the best part.
We know you write from personal experience. How much of this play is written from that perspective?
Well, the title itself stemmed from my then girlfriend who had two older boys, I think one was 18 and one was 15, and I have a son, and my son is 18. I was there from the very beginning with my son, so when we tried to blend this family, I realized that her boys were mama’s boys and she babied them. They didn’t want to work. They didn’t know the difference between a flat edge screwdriver and a hammer. It was frustrating because it was like what good woman wants a man that doesn’t know how to take care of home? So, as opposed to being frustrated about it, I decided to write about it. And I had no idea that it was going to become a hit like it has.
The casting is amazing. Jackee Harry, Robin Givens, the hilarious Nephew Tommy, Chris Bolton, Anthony Brown, Shirley Murdock, and Johnny Gill. Tell us how the casting was done. When writing the play, did you already have certain actors in mind as you were writing?
No, I didn’t. I just knew that I needed a comedian in this part, and someone who could sing the roof off in this part, and somebody who could play my mother, somebody who could play a cougar. Once the play was written, I would go back in to fill in the holes. It takes weeks, and weeks, and weeks to really cast a show because you’re checking so many different people’s schedule, or negotiating pay. It’s a lot that goes in it.
If you had one take away from the play that you wanted your audience to walk away with, what would it be?
Mentorship. We have so many broken homes today, where the father is not there, then the mother is forced to try to play both roles. Ten times out of ten, they’re not successful at being the man as well as the woman.
What would you say to that aspiring playwright or young, ambitious entrepreneur that has just embarked on his journey in life?
Everybody has a gift. And I say that at the end of my shows, everybody has a gift, but you have to apply the batteries to the gift God that gives you or it won’t work. I am enjoying the batteries that I applied to my gift, because the shows are doing well, and people are knowing who I am, and it’s just an awesome testimony to people who want to do it but just don’t know how. I’m still in awe of me trying to do it. I never want to lose that.
What’ s next for you?
Well, Tyler Perry actually came out to one of my shows and it totally blew my mind because I didn’t expect it. He told me how great the play was and he said that he wanted to talk to me after my show comes down. So, I am anxiously, patiently and ready to have this conversation because I know that my life is about to change. I have two shows written, and one that I’m working on to always have something in the can, ready to go. But who knows what this conversation with Tyler Perry is going to be about.
Follow Priest Tyaire on IG @PriestTyairePresents, Twitter @PriestTyaire and on FB @PriestTyaireProductions. Be sure to check out the play on the last leg of its 2017 fall tour when it comes to your town. Visit www.mommasboytheplay.com for more tour dates and info as they become available.
Photo Gallery Credit: Montez Miller, unless otherwise noted