MSJ: As a young budding artist, what made you decide to leave the mid-west for Los Angeles?
MOHAMMED: The Minnesota brutal winters, for one thing. I often wonder why my parents, Aliyu and Diane, the most tropical people on earth, settled on little Antarctica! Truthfully, I knew there was more to life than my frozen tundra, like 80 degree weather all year around. Living in the mid-west it’s the same old routine. You get the same old jobs and go to the same colleges and you end up having the same life. While there is nothing inherently wrong with those activities I mentioned, I just knew I wanted to walk a different path. I wanted to add some excitement and risk in my life!
MSJ: What was the creative climate like during your developing years?
MOHAMMED: In high school we didn’t want to keep doing the same old stories so we would write, direct and act in our own theatre shows, not by the drama teacher’s choice. The shows went from about ten to fifteen people in the audience to us becoming “Hally-wood” stars; teachers and students would stop us in the hall and ask “when is the next show”? It’s so funny; I believe that when you first come out to a big city you bring a lot of positive energy because positivity and faith is all you have. So things start happening because you are illuminating positivity and faith, so that’s naturally what you attract. I knew I wanted to get a job where people in the industry frequented. I set my search to the most famous zip code in America: 90210. The bottom line is that people have to eat; I set my sights on Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and that’s where it all started. I was noticed by the president of one of the top commercial agencies in town. I didn’t have a reel, so I did a slew of student films in order to quickly put my reel together for my next goal, a “theatrical agent” which is another story in itself. I went home smelling like steak every night, but a good trade off!
MST: What did you think of Hollywood when you first arrived or had you known previously?
MSJ: Did you find it difficult to connect with other actors, an agent or even a workshop to continue your journey of learning about the industry itself?
MOHAMMED: Being a person of African descent trying to fit into an industry with limited opportunities had its challenges. With such limited roles of depth for people of color it creates sort of a “crabs in the barrel effect.” Once I began to make traction I made it a point that I would share whatever I can to help someone get ahead. In turn, this propelled all of my industry relationships. My real acting buddies and I always talk about auditions, connect each other with agents, and casting directors we know. We formed a community.
MSJ: When did you decide that you would take on the challenge of creating a working theatre yourself? And how difficult was it or been since opening the doors of the theatre?
MOHAMMED: What’s crazy is when I first moved to LA, one of the first acting classes I audited was at my theatre. Talk about full circle. I decided on this process about five years ago. I had it in the back of my mind, like wouldn’t it be nice to have a duel Theatre space which showcases Independent Films and live theatre that speaks to the human experience and makes a difference in the way we interact with each other. That percolated in the back of my mind for several years. So I saw my current theater about two years ago for sale and it brought this dream I had closer. About 6 months ago, I decided to take a chance and go take a look at it because it was still for sale. Then I took the leap and bought the business. Truthfully the biggest challenge right now is the marketing aspect, letting people know that Moments Playhouse exists and is here for them.
MSJ: What have you discovered is the greatest need for actors coming to this town to understand concerning survival?
MOHAMMED: The biggest challenge I see for actors coming to this town is keeping the light and positivity they bring with them. Staying positive in the face of disappointments. Staying true to our values in a city that will ask you in so many ways to sacrifice who you are and what you represent to become a person that is not true to who you are inside. This is why my acting classes focus on staying in the moment. My tagline is “I will be with you the moment before and the moment after.” Everything is a moment. I say this because you need a support team of positive people in your corner that understand the acting life and the environment because in many ways they are in it with you and they want to see the best for you because they want the best for themselves. So. I have a community of actors that really believe in staying in the moment and living life to the fullest in that moment. We just have to remain true.
MSJ: What are you hoping to leave as your artistic legacy concerning the theatrical plant you have built and created here in Los Angeles?
MOHAMMED: My hope is that Moments Playhouse becomes a destination and home for artists to grow and create fearless artistry here in Los Angeles. As far as the artistic poetry I give and inevitably will leave someday for my beautiful children to remember me by. I hope my work helps to inspire and spark the minds of future artists and poets who will shape the world to come.
MSJ: Have you discovered more about yourself since taking on the awesome challenge of this creative nature?
MOHAMMED: I try to do a lot myself and I’ve learned a tremendous lesson running this theatre and that is: The man who wears too many hats forgets he has a head.
The Moments Playhouse is located at 665 N. Heliotrope Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90004. For additional details visit their website or call 323-884-1466. The “Icon Series” of plays will start in October with a six-week run of a show called “Catch The Tiger”, a play about Marcus Garvey.
There will be a play entitled “I Shall Be Released” about Nina Simone, then comes a show tilted “The Soul Of Langston” on Langston Hughes. The series will be capped off by a live stage performance of the hit stage play “Greenwood 1964” on Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.