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Commitment to Others : Actress Angelique Thomason, drawing from her troubled childhood, portrays seven people in her one-woman show.

August 27, 1993|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Janice Arkatov writes regularly about theater for Valley Life

Angelique Thomason doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for her.

"I'm not resentful--I'm a happy person," says the 23-year-old actress, whose one-woman show, "Simply Complicated Life," begins previews Sunday at the Two Roads Theatre in Studio City. "I have always felt--even when bad things were going on--that they were happening for a reason," she adds. "I knew someday I'd be in control. Definitely there was anger about some situations. But I also had a truth, a sense of myself, that was untouchable."

The show, which Thomason admits is essentially her own story, focuses on the growing-up of a dyslexic white girl in an all-black Sacramento neighborhood, sexually abused by her stepfather, emotionally and physically battered by her schizophrenic mother. The actress portrays seven characters: the narrator, the little girl, mother Rachel, stepfather Sampson, a policeman and her maternal grandparents, whom she refers to as Granma and Papa.

"I don't want people watching it and thinking, 'Can you believe what she went through?' " she emphasizes. "I hope they don't concentrate on the autobiographical aspects, but the human drama."

The actress envisions the show as both an artistic and personal expression--and, to that end, she's donating all profits from the run to five charities; in October, there will be nine benefit performances. Some of the groups benefiting include Earth Save, Last Chance for Animals and the homeless groups that Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff is concerned with.

"Audiences can walk away from this and look at the charities we've told them about in the program--we give names, addresses and phone numbers--and maybe it'll lead to their doing something, even if it means volunteering an hour a month," she says.

Thomason's own commitment is rigorous: Through Women in Theatre's Reachout Program, she works in "Healing Through the Arts" for abused women and children at local shelters, and conducts weekly singing workshops and "makeup make-overs."

Thomason found herself caring for others early on, beginning with her brother, who was four years younger. In third grade, while staying with her grandparents, she marched over to a nearby retirement home and, feeling the need to do something, appointed herself unofficial doorman.

She was already performing in school musicals--"Annie," "The Sound of Music, "The Pajama Game"--and soon began singing for the home's residents. "They loved it so," she says simply, "and I loved how I felt doing it."

Moving to Los Angeles in 1988, Thomason was not prepared for the sight of homeless people.

"I'd never seen them before," she says innocently. "So a friend and I went to yard sales and thrift shops, and passed out blankets and sleeping bags to the people."

Since then, she has also volunteered at Aid for AIDS, worked in soup kitchens, joined holiday carolers and participated in Children's Institute International's "cuddle program" for abused children ages 4 and younger.

Ghanian writer-performer Akuyoe met Thomason when the younger actress wrote her a fan letter after seeing her solo piece, "Spirit Awakening"; subsequently, Thomason participated in Akuyoe's writing workshop.

"I think Angelique is extraordinary," says Akuyoe, whose own show ends Sunday at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. "I was touched by her sincerity, her heart of gold. She's very gifted, and she has something to say. She's a wonderful actress, a wonderful writer."

Estranged from her parents, Thomason married composer Geoff Grace three years ago and has a close relationship with an "unofficial adoptive mother" in Los Angeles.

If any ghosts from her troubled childhood linger, she's determined to translate them into feelings of empowerment--her own and that of others. "I hope to inspire audiences, encourage them to question their lives, their beliefs," she says earnestly. "Each person is a unique individual in the world and should never give up. You have to have that tenacity."

Where and When What: "Simply Complicated Life." Location: Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City. Hours: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 17. Price: $12 in August and September; call theater for benefit performance prices in October. Call: (818) 566-8827.

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