From a profile in the New York Times:
When Nichole Thompson-Adams and her husband moved to Fort Greene in 1994, she loved its magnificent brownstones and tree-lined blocks, things she would eventually praise in her job as a real estate broker at Corcoran’s local office.
But she liked other things about the neighborhood as well, items unbefitting mention in a real estate listing. She liked the man who slept on the corner and always said, “Good morning, you’re looking sharp today!” even when she felt she was not. She liked the ritualized banter with the guys at the bodega: “How’s your mother? Your brother out of jail?” She wouldn’t dream of asking for her coffee until a good few minutes of chatter had passed.
One day, the man on the corner was gone. And people started coming into the bodega who didn’t care to converse.
“Every time I saw something new happen in the neighborhood, I’d talk about it,” said Ms. Thompson-Adams, 36, a vivacious fireball of a woman with knobby twists of hair. She often talked with her former neighbor, the playwright Michael Weller, who after hearing Ms. Thompson-Adams’s stories, told her, “You’ve got to get this on paper.”
The result was her one-woman show, “Black Girl You’ve Been Gentrified.” The show depicts Ms. Thompson-Adams talking to her therapist about life as a broker, imitating characters from every corner of the real estate drama. It played at the 92nd Street Y twice in the spring.
“My biggest surprise was the response from people who weren’t like me but felt the same way,” she said. “They understand. ‘We like our big sycamore trees. We like the bum on the corner who keeps an eye on the cars. We don’t want them to go away.”‘
The show is as much about the changes in herself as about the changes in the neighborhood, Ms. Thompson-Adams said, asking: “When did I go from being a grassroots bohemian to a real estate-selling, Martha’s Vineyard-vacationing black bourgeoisie? And is that such a bad thing?”
Ms. Thompson-Adams has mixed feelings about her work and its gentrifying effects. “Some aspects of being a broker in a neighborhood that’s changing makes me feel good — seeing the fruits of your labor, the positive change,” she said. But, she added, “It makes me feel melancholy at the same time.”
Born in Jamaica, Ms. Thompson-Adams grew up in Brooklyn and studied theater at Howard University. She took up real estate because it offered her flexibility to pursue acting and to raise her children, now 8 and 10.
When her colleagues heard about the show, which may appear at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village this fall, a little trepidation rippled through the office. “They thought I was going to lambaste the people moving into the neighborhood,” she said.
But they loved it. “It’s mocking, it’s funny, it’s insightful. It skewers some people who quite frankly deserve to be skewered,” said Terry Robison, a fellow broker. “But it’s done with love.” JENNIFER BLEYER
|Actor||The Balm Yard||1990-91 Season|