I’m thrilled to introduce you to Allen D. Edge, The Edge of Sanity. He is an ordained minister, a talented actor, director, producer, and stand-up comedian with over thirty-seven years in the performing arts. Allen has performed his special brand of humor at Zanies in Chicago, Barrel of Laughs, Jokes & Notes, Comedy Central’s “Comic Justice”, The Comedy Cafe in Milwaukee, and the Apollo Theatre in New York. Allen has also opened for Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, The O’Jays and The Soul Children of Chicago.Allen took time for my interview and here it is!
Lynn: What started you on the journey to become a performing artist? Were you a comedian first or an actor?
Allen: My journey began at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago, IL. They were producing an African version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet called “Osei, Prince of Ghana”. Father Barry, my speech teacher, asked me to take the place of a student who had graduated. I had no idea of the magnitude of the role. I was to play Polonius/Osagefour. I had three weeks to, not only learn the part, but to learn the basic rudiments of theater. So it was Father Barry and I, five days a week, for three weeks in the school cafeteria. My debut was excellent and the response of the audience was intoxicating. I was hooked from then on. Comedy didn’t enter the picture until twenty years later. I agreed to do stand-up comedy for a theater buddy who was starting an open mike club for performing artist to network at after their gigs. I did fifteen minutes the first time out and the audience loved it. I love to hear people laugh and I knew that this was a turning point in my career. It was during the early years that I worked with Chicago comics like Bernie Mac and Adele Givens.
Lynn: Has your art always been directed by faith or was there a turning point, a transformation?
Allen: No, my art became directed by faith around 1994. I already had my production company (Transitions Edge Productions), but the mission at that time was geared toward black theater themes. One day I was looking at TV 38(now known as Total Living Network/TLN) and I heard a Christian artists (Frank Di Sianti) say during an interview with Jerry Rose, “it was a shame that so many talented Christian artists were not using their gift for the glory of God.” It struck me like lightning. Religion had given me the impression that my craft was insignificant and even demonic. I repented of my ignorance and changed the mission statement of TEP to “Communicating Christ Jesus through the performing arts and media.” I also dedicated myself to educating Christian artist about their role in establishing the Kingdom of God and how to walk that out in their everyday lives.
Lynn: Have you come up against dealing with conflicts with your values as a Christian artist and if so how did you deal with them?
Allen: Yes, opportunities to compromise my faith arise frequently, especially in the comedy arena. I have tapes of my performance in the early days of my comedy career and I am ashamed of some of the words that came out my mouth. Profanity never added anything to my material. It was just the peer pressure, the environment, and the desire to please people that caused me to capitulate. However because I was born again, connected with a church I was the Bible class director and teacher, assistant pastor, and a dad, I was convicted. I couldn’t do it anymore. I went totally clean and God blessed me with better quality engagements. I was also able to live with myself because I was true to myself. In 1999 I discovered that role of the Levite while reading 1st and 2nd Chronicles. When I came to understand the gravity of the office of the Levite, I was freed up from any need to please man. The temptation is still there from time to time, but very faint. The Holy Spirit, my wife, and fellow Christian artists are there to remind me of the better way. Hallelujah! Had to have a praise break there.
Lynn: CAN – Christian Artist Network sounds wonderful. What are some activities that your chapter in Illinois has sponsored or put on?
Allen: The first seven years we met once a month at TLN, where I worked in the ministry department. Our meetings consisted of praise and worship, teaching by various professional Christian artists covering a variety of disciplines, and concluded with prayer and networking. Christian Artists Network was founded on the need for prayer among believing artists. We extended ourselves to agree in prayer, intercede, and support one another in various projects. Currently we are looking for a new location to meet physically again. However, we still minister via Internet and telephone. Anyone can call us at (312) 458-9399 and press (2) and leave a prayer request or receive more information about Christian Artist Network.
Lynn: I see you’ll be at Karitos 2007. What subjects will you be teaching at the festival?
Allen: I’ll be teaching Acting 101:Fundamentals, Character Development, and Stand-Up Comedy. Please visit http://www.karitos.com for workshop schedules and program information. It’s still not too late to register. Once you attend a Karitos Conference, you’ll never be the same. Lynn: What do you try to do accomplish and keep in mind with each performance, be it acting or a stand-up routine?
Allen: I perform for an audience of ONE, God. I pray and ask God to prepare me to minister my craft to the specific needs of a specific audience. If God is satisfied, I’m thrilled. I personally want an audience to receive a tailor-made impartation from the Holy Spirit each time I perform.
Lynn: Are there any projects or appearances in the works that we can look forward to seeing you in?
Allen: Currently I have three major projects pending in the near future. Please pray God’s perfect will in each case. I am booked to perform in a theater production at First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee, WI in January and February 2008. Please check out their website at http://www.firststage.org for more information. God bless you and all of your readers. Thank you once more for this interview opportunity.