By Cass Cameron
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. A stark reminder of America’s history, McDaniel was banned from attending the Gone With the Wind premiere in Atlanta because it was held at a “whites-only” theater. At the Oscars ceremony, where she was honored, she sat at a segregated table to the side of the room. McDaniel is credited in only 83 of her more than 300 appearances on screen. Hattie McDaniel was just one of many Black trailblazers who did not receive the acclaim they deserved.
Voodoo Macbeth: The Story of Black Pioneer Rose McClendon
Despite her success, there remains another Black actress whose name is barely known. Rose McClendon was a pioneer in Black spaces, a Broadway actress through the 1920s, and the Negro People’s Theatre co-founder. Just four years before Hattie McDaniel accepted her Oscar, McClendon offered her guidance in establishing the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project, a creation of the New Deal.
Voodoo Macbeth is a film gaining critical acclaim and has already raked in several awards around the independent film circuit and is set to hit theaters nationwide on October 21st. The independent film stars Inger Tudor as Rose McClendon, opposite Jewell Wilson Bridges as a young (and unknown at the time) Orson Welles, struggling to put on the first all-Black cast production of Macbeth.
Inger Tudor As Rose McClendon And The History of Voodoo Macbeth
It’s not often you come across an actress who inspires you with their performance, stuns you with their grace, and offers you hope through the endless drudgery of remakes coming out of Hollywood. Inger Tudor, a Harvard Law School graduate and an accomplished actress who shines in the film, is a USC (University of Southern California) student film version of the true story.
Set in Harlem in 1936, Voodoo Macbeth chronicles the story of a 20-year-old and unknown Orson Welles who is convinced to direct Shakespeare’s classic for the Federal Theatre Project. The Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project was headed by Broadway-famous Rose McClendon, who was also cast in the play as Lady Macbeth. The organization was part of a New Deal program created to help actors and actresses find work and offer entertainment through the Great Depression.
Welles reimagined and set the Shakespearean classic in Haiti, reimagining the 17th-century tragedy as a 19th-century fantasy. Not only did the play sell out at the box office, but it also spurned a flurry of scandal, protest, and political opposition, during the post-suffrage and Jim Crow eras. Voodoo Macbeth highlights the challenges the real-life Welles and McClendon faced as they overcame political pressure, personal struggles, women’s rights opposition, and race relations during segregation.
Over the last year, Tudor has won multiple awards for her role as Rose McClendon in Voodoo Macbeth, including Best Actress at the Harlem International Film Festival and Catalina Film Festival, along with Best Supporting Actress at the Charlotte Black Film Festival and Best Ensemble Cast at the San Diego Film Festival. She also spoke as a panelist at what is credited as the most prominent Black Film Festival – the African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADFF) – after Voodoo Macbeth debuted in Paris in 2021.
Inger Tudor On Embodying Rose McClendon
Inger Tudor says that her drive and motivation are found in storytelling, and especially stories that she feels audiences may not have been familiar with otherwise. The role of Rose McClendon is intrinsically aligned with those values in that McClendon epitomizes the erasure of Black contributions to the arts.
“It was exciting to portray Rose McClendon and to learn about this Black woman who worked pretty consistently on Broadway from 1919 through 1936 during the Harlem Renaissance, toured internationally and, under the Federal Theatre Project, shepherded the creation of Negro Theatre Units in 11 cities. She was most definitely a ‘boss’ and I couldn't believe I hadn't known of her before working on this project,” Tudor says.
Tudor has many goals in her career, but her primary goal is to tell stories that make people look at the world differently and reconsider how they interact with the people around them. Tudor’s love of acting and thorough mastery of her craft is easily discernible in the film. Her passion is proven in her unnervingly poised delivery of the enigmatic Rose McClendon.
Tudor shines in the film, and it is no surprise to anyone following her career. The Harvard grad gave up law to pursue her passion for acting, and she’s now credited in dozens of stage productions, including Steel Magnolias, The Exorcist, Stuff Happens, Antigone, and Romeo and Juliet. Tudor has also captivated audiences in several appearances on television for notable roles in shows, including Goliath (2016), The Young and the Restless (2007-2010), and The Trial (2017). She also has a lengthy resume in film, most notably for her roles in On Time (2016) and The Social Network (2010). She is currently credited with four upcoming releases in post-production.
Where Can I See Voodoo Macbeth?
Voodoo Macbeth will be distributed nationally at select theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on October 21st, courtesy of AMC Theaters. There will also be screenings in New Orleans on October 28th. The film promises to stun audiences nationwide as it continues to attract the attention of critics and fans alike.
For more information on the film, a complete list of the awards won by VOODOO MACBETH, its cast, crew, and production team, or to watch the trailer, head to voodoomacbethfilm.com.
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Featured image: Inger Tudor as Rose McClendon, left, and Jewell Wilson Bridges as Orson Welles, right, in VOODOO MACBETH (C) Voodoo Macbeth / Lightyear Entertainment