“My Journey With Maya”: Tavis Smiley Turns His 30-Year Friendship With Maya Angelou Into A Stage Play

April 1, 2015  |  

In having a 30-year-friendship with the late, great Maya Angelou, it’s no surprise that Tavis Smiley has gathered years of legendary inspiration to create a new play in Angelou’s honor called My Journey With Maya, the Associated Press reports.

Smiley, a widely renowned author and political commentator, will be joining forces with Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon to bring Smiley’s cherished experience with Angelou to life on stage. Smiley was 21 when he first met Angelou, author of the acclaimed I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings, in the mid-1980s when she was 58.

“We find our path by walking it,” Angelou told Smiley repeatedly over the years, he recollected. The revered poet, according to Smiley, also told him that “nothing human is alien to me.”

“That was her way of saying, ‘Live your life on your own terms. Don’t be afraid to try anything. Experience everything,'” Smiley said.

The play is based on Smiley’s book, My Journey With Maya, which details Angelou’s profound impact on his life:

“Smiley stumbled into a relationship with her that shaped his future and affected the man he became. Like a mother to him, she was generous, challenging, and inspirational–as she was to so many. Here he shares his portrait of Angelou–a highly complex individual who left an indelible imprint on American culture,” the book description said.

But it wasn’t all roses and sunshine. Smiley notes that there were some rocky moments between him and Angelou, as well. The revered writer, for example, was “alarmed” with Smiley’s sharp comments about Democratic nominee President Barack Obama as he geared up to take his seat in the White House in 2008.

“Smiley said he defended his obligation to hold all candidates up to scrutiny, and his friendship with Angelou remained intact,” AP reports.

Leon, who is currently directing Broadway and TV versions of the 1970s hit musical, The Wiz, can’t wait to get his hands on this stage project:

“I haven’t been this excited by a project in a long, long time,” Leon said. “I don’t think there is another person like her in my lifetime or in the last 100 years of American artistry and literary achievement.”

Knowing her for almost three decades, Smiley is convinced that Angelou that “the greatest renaissance woman in Black America.”

Will you be checking out My Journey With Maya?

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