What's a lioness to do in Omaha for four weeks? Roam, naturally.
Meet Electra Weston, a cast member of Disney's “The Lion King,” which is wrapping up a month in town.
Electra and the rest of the production's 102-member traveling cast and crew have to find somewhere to lay their heads. Some stay at the beautiful Magnolia Hotel nearby. Others opt for cheaper digs.
Electra, a pro at parachuting into cities worldwide, likes to absorb a place, become a resident.
She sublets apartments, like the studio she's renting near the Orpheum. She packs her bike, which she rides — yes, even through the snow — to get around. She rents office space for next to nothing, like the back room of a downtown bookstore called Never Enough.
Electra sings and dances in eight “Lion King” shows a week. (It runs through April 7 at the Orpheum.) She's in the production's ensemble, which requires costume changes for roles including a flower, a hyena and a lioness. She is also the understudy for the role of Lion Queen, Simba's mother.
But that's not all. She also takes part in community performances, such as the children's programs and benefit shows she will do with the production's South African cast members, and benefit shows.
Electra also is wrapping up editing on a feature film she wrote, acted in and has produced, “Maybe Dreams Can Come True.” Though fictional, the film aims to tell her own story of being a young African-American performer who works abroad and roots herself in two worlds — Europe and the United States — but is at home in neither. She interviews her fellow American performers in Europe about what it means to be an artist and an American overseas. The small-budget independent film is shot in New York, Paris and Hamburg, Germany.
Electra, who declined to give her age, came to the arts genetically. Her father, Bruce Edwards, is an actor, and her mother, Tonice Weston, is an actress and jazz singer.
Her mother was pregnant with Electra while performing in a theatrical production of “Black Orpheus.”
“She felt like I was present in that experience,” Electra said of her mother.
Electra's earliest memories are of watching from behind thick stage curtains as her parents performed. Art filled their Harlem home. Electra celebrated her 12th birthday at a jazz club, where she took a turn singing.
But she told everyone she was going to be something concrete, something safe when she grew up, like a lawyer.
So she majored in political science at Spelman College in Atlanta.
After college, Electra and a friend planned to tour France on the cheap. But at the last minute, the friend couldn't go, and Electra found herself in Paris, alone, with $100 in her purse, a “Let's Go France” tour book and little else but a strong work ethic and fearlessness.
She bartended, waited tables, modeled, sang. She sang at the famous and now-closed Chez Haynes, a soul food restaurant opened in the 1940s by a black American that had drawn legions of Americans, including notable black writers and singers.
She created a humorous one-woman show called “Delicious,” which portrayed her experience as — cue Gershwin — an American in Paris.
While bartending, she met an American guitar player named Peter, and the two began performing together on trains. Wearing a long black dress to cover her sneakers, Electra would belt out standards by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, accompanied by Peter.
They made decent money passing the hat.
An agent who worked with Sony Music was aboard one train, which led to her later recording an album with Sony.
She sang at a wedding in a castle in England and sang for three months with a jazz band in Morocco. She performed in a movie with Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis Presley, and followed an Italian pianist to Italy and sang there.
Electra later moved to Hamburg, where she spent several years performing in Disney's “The Lion King” as Sarabi, the lion queen. About five years ago, she moved back to New York and began touring with the U.S. production of the Broadway smash hit.
Electra owns an apartment in Harlem.
But her real home is wherever “The Lion King” is.
“I make my home where I am. I can be happy wherever I am,” she said. “Cities are the people and the experience. I embrace it as long as it lasts.”
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