“Oh hark, Alison! The theater calls. Answer! You were a smash in summer stock,” Audra McDonald shouts to her sister, Alison, as she signs autographs and collects flowers.
“I never did summer stock. That was you,” Alison replies, flatly.
“I have so many good reviews, I’ll just give you one of mine,” Audra says. “You just need to lose a few pounds. 30 or…35. Remember when you had meningitis? You were attractive then!”
That’s just the kind of self-deprecating humor audiences can expect from Alison McDonald, a television writer (Nurse Jackie, American Dad, Everybody Hates Chris) and performer whose short films “Alison Is Having a Really Bad Day” and “She Got Problems” have been making the rounds on the web this year.
Both “Bad Day” and “She Got Problems” focus on Alison, playing a version of herself, as she navigates being a single black woman in America. Both feature lengthy and ambitious musical numbers set to classic American songs, like “Black dudes are a few of my favorite things” (after The Sound of Music‘s “My Favorite Things”). A sample: “When the blues strike, and my mood swings, when I’m feeling fat, I think of the sluts of the Flavor of Love, and then I don’t feel so bad!”
McDonald’s story lines are often based on true stories, like in the first and last scenes of “She Got Problems.” “It’s a very personal story…I’m making lemonade out of lemons, as they say,” she said in an interview.
While she identifies as a writer, McDonald, like her sister, also acts, dances and sings quite well, if not as professionally as her
four-time five-time Tony Award-winning sister. “I can carry a tune,” she joked. “I’m not tone deaf.”
McDonald said she views the two shorts more as trailers than episodes or installments. She’s pitching the project as either a web series, television or feature film, depending on what generates the most interest. She recognizes she has an uphill battle but is enjoying the opportunity to think outside of the “very small box” of the mainstream media.
“The commercial marketplace is not a very inclusive one,” she said. “Statistically I’m only going to be able to go so far.”
Nevertheless she highlighted a number of positive developments for black women in television, film and online, including Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, recently picked up for a second season; Ava DuVernay’s historic best director win at Sundance for Middle of Nowhere; and Issa Rae’s massively successful Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, now debuting on Pharrell’s iamOTHER premium YouTube channel.
“These are milestones that have only recently been crossed,” she said. “But the fact that Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl has found its audience and is thriving cannot be understated.”
Take a look at the two shorts below!