Cheveyo Madu Abayomi was raised in Brooklyn. He discovered his passion for the arts early. He excelled in music, taking up the clarinet in the third grade and soloing in the school choir. In the fifth grade, he wrote his first spec script for his favorite anime show, “Ranma ½.” In his first foray into theater, he won a starring role as Scarecrow in the school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Around the same time, he began studying ballet at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. After graduation, he starred in the ensemble play, “Excuse Me Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name Is…” written by Devere Rogers, taking on the challenging role of a young man, “Ahmad”, who murdered his stepfather. He appeared as a minstrel in the Fringe Festival production of the vaudeville play, “Cycle,” directed by Craig Carlisle. While performing in local productions, Cheveyo continued to create his own work, writing, producing and starring in a pilot for sketch comedy show, “The Spot,” and performing stand up under the name Joe Spade for 3 years. He is currently working with Loretta Chandler on her play, “Black Pathfinders,” an inspirational piece which promotes unity within people of color no matter their faith.
Q: You have always had synergy between music and acting. Tell us about your background.
A: Well, I was always musically oriented. I learned how to read music through playing the recorder as well as the clarinet. Through working with these woodwinds, it gave me an outlet to express myself before I could even understand the profundity of what it means to be seen. It gave me a voice before I understood the need to have one. I felt a sense of accomplishment to be able to learn a new piece of music and then go back and put my own spin on it to make it my own. Even more so, I was validated by my music teacher Mrs. Avilez, who was always impressed by my ability since she hadn’t seen someone like me come through the public school system “in the past 20 years” at the time. I think this laid the foundation for me and my approach of how I express myself in every artistic endeavor I have pursued throughout my life.
Q: Tell us about working with Loretta Chandler on her play, “Black Pathfinders.”
A: Working with Loretta has been a real treat. It was before my time, but I was impressed to find out that she was the one that stepped into the Janet Jackson role of “Dusty” on the show, “Fame.” It has been a privilege to work with not only her, but the entire cast of “Black Pathfinders.” They are a fun-loving great group of creatives, and I have a ball working with them in every rehearsal and show. Loretta wrote this piece shortly after the Black Panther movie and was inspired to create this play in a world that resembles the civilization of Wakanda. It’s not called Wakanda but it still resembles the same African unity and hierarchy of the film. The role I play is the general who trains up the candidates who will compete to become the next Black Path Finder who will unify all of Africa. I have a young face, so it is seldom I get a chance to play an older man as a character, and I have a blast on stage every time doing it. Loretta is a very empathetic and patient director who is always willing to give someone a chance and I think it has been the reason why the cast has gelled as well as they have and we have just been getting better over time.
Q: What makes your style of acting unique?
A: That’s a hard one. I guess I would have to say my willingness to utilize my acrobatic ability to bring a more playful spin to my characters is what makes me unique. I remember doing a scene from, “Waiting for Godot,” when at the height of an altercation between “Gogo” and “Didi,” “Gogo” pushes me, “Didi,” in the chest which propelled me into a back-roll handspring that lands me back on my feet from where I started. Awkward silence ensues between us shortly after, which delightfully surprised the audience. It received great feedback. I’ve put a dive roll in the iconic balcony scene when Romeo is sneaking around the Capulet’s courtyard searching for Juliet. “What light through yonder window breaks…”
I also take absurdity in stride and will not break no matter what. I’ve delivered a monologue which literally says, “I took the knife out of the chicken and stabbed my step dad in the chest;” a line that every time we read out loud made everyone lose it, but every time I delivered it not one person ever laughed either during rehearsal or at any performance. I will commit to the moment no matter what it is.
Q: Tell us about the short film, “Basket Bronx” directed by Martin Rosete.
A: The concept was a mix of karate kid and basketball. This young boy gets bullied by thelocal neighborhood gang every time he goes on the basketball court to practice. An Asian woman takes him under her wing and through meditation teaches him to conquer his fear and stand up to the bullies. I had the good fortune to become one of the bullies who was terrorizing this 12-year-old. The gig came up through the NYU circuit and my name was recommended to participate in the project. The cast and director were awesome. Even though we were all young, Martin Rosete never talked down to us and showed that he trusted us to do our jobs on set. This project went on to do very well in several international film festivals and I am very honored to have been a part of that project.
Q: Share your upcoming projects.
A: I’ve done theater and I’ve done independent projects. Now I want to try something with a bigger scope. I would love to play something like Tybalt in that Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet. Anything that’s highly stylized I’d love to sink my teeth into. Especially when it comes to drama and it’s paired with deep emotion. Tarantino films seem like they would be fun to shoot or even a procedural that is a bit more on the screwball end, such as Psych or even Brooklyn Nine. I love that show. I’m happy to take on any role that will stretch me as a performer, but something for a broader audience would be my preference.
Q: Where can we reach you?
A: You can connect with me on IG @madmonmadu as well as check out my website www.madmonmadu.com. For producers, casting directors, and anyone else looking to collaborate with me, please email email@example.com.