Iona Morris graced the world of the arts at an early age. She participated in the choir, the school drama department and took after her father who was also an actor.
After college, Morris started her radio career at KHJ Radio. Later, she began auditioning around Los Angeles as an actress and her career in the arts took off. Morris began working in theatre, television, and as a voiceover talent. She eventually landed a spot on the soap opera, “As the World Turns”.
In the early 1990s, Morris had the opportunity to do her first one-man show. Soon after, she was approached by various people to direct their one-man shows. Today, Morris is one of the most sought after African American female directors for one-person shows. Her 20 years of experience eventually led her to directing the iconic comedian, author, radio show host and motivational speaker, Michael Colyar’s highly anticipated 100 city nationwide tour, “Michael Colyar’s Momma”. The show allows playgoers to journey through the comedian’s early childhood in the Chicago projects, his road to fame, struggle with addiction and the impact of his mother’s legacy.
Recently, the L.A. Sentinel had the opportunity to sit down with Morris to discuss her role in Colyar’s one man show and her recent projects.
Morris and Colyar have known each other for 20 years. She describes him as expressive, warm, passionate and determined. Overtime, their relationship has continued to develop. As a result, the two began working together on the one-man show.
“She [Morris] helped me find stuff out about my life, I didn’t even remember or realize. Now, I am just blown away by this whole experience, everything about it is exciting,” said Colyar. “We took what I had basically written and Iona pried into that and found deeper things that I needed to know. It’s called, ‘Michael Colyar’s Momma,’ but I know now more about my mother and my family than I did when I sat down with Morris and start putting it together.”
During the process of the two working together, Morris helped Colyar determine different ways to tell his story by creating a space for him to remember the events that took place in his life that he had forgotten about. Morris describes preparing Colyar for the show as both wonderful and challenging.
“Michael could not remember what his father looked like, how his father sounded like, or how his father walked,” said Morris.
After a series of exercises, Colyar was able to draw his father’s face. Through the process, Morris helped combine the world of comedy and acting for Colyar.
“Comedians are different. It is a different rhythm that they have. They have a different way of thinking about being on stage compared to when you are an actress,” said Morris. “You have to introduce them to what it is like being an actor on stage. So that was a very interesting and wonderful learning process I went through with Michael. At the same time, I had to honor that he was a comedian.”
Morris hopes playgoer’s takeaway one serious life lesson. “No matter how low you go in life, if you choose to, you can rise above that and succeed at what you want to do.”
Aside from Morris’ work on Colyar’s one-man show, she also co-wrote and directed the “Broadway under the Stars Dreamgirls”, with the original three Dreamgirls: Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine. Morris directed Jennifer Lewis, Kim Wayans, and Penny Johnson Jerald, co-wrote and directed Blair Underwood, wrote and directed Thelma Houston’s one-person show and more.
Morris also starred in the multi-award winning comedy “SASSY MAMAS”.
Currently, she is directing three productions including, the musical review of Whitney, Dionne and Diana titled “HEART and SOUL”, Tammi Mac’s NAACP multi-award winning solo show, which Morris won a NAACP Best Director’s Award and “BELAFONTE, UNAUTHORIZED: A shared Humanity with Austin Jaye”.
When Iona isn’t working with individuals behind the scenes on their one-person shows, you can find her teaching her Solo Journey Workshop helping people create one-person shows. The workshop which launched on April 11 of this year, will take place for six weeks. Interested attendees can email [email protected] or visit Morris’ Facebook page @Iona Morris for details. For tickets to Colyar’s one-man show visit http://michaelcolyar.bpt.me