In 1968 while at the height of her career as a world renowned entertainer, Eartha Kitt was also working as one of the main lobbyist for a group of young activists called the Rebels With A Cause. During this time, Miss Kitt was then invited to the White House by Lady Bird Johnson to partake in a women's luncheon to discuss the issue of the rising crime rates in America. At the luncheon however, when Eartha stood up and expressed her views, stating that the increase in crime was mostly due to Americas involvement in the Vietnam War, Lady Bird Johnson was personally insulted by the comment and shortly after, by order of President Lyndon Johnson, Eartha Kitt was blacklisted from work in the United States for the following 10 years! DOWN TO EARTHA is a one woman show written and performed by Dierdra McDowell, and directed by Marishka S. Phillips. In one act filled with drama and music, this play explores Eartha Kitt´s personal re-encounter of that fateful day in detail. It also delves into her personal journey back to her power and freedom. Stemming from a life ridden with years of child abuse, Eartha´s personal journey proves to be at times a nightmare of a hurdle! It is one that could only be conquered by the power of love.
CHANNELLING EARTHA KITT IN 'DOWN TO EARTHA'
By: Linda Armstrong
What do you really know about Eartha Kitt? When I think of Eartha Kitt, I think of her as Catwoman on “Batman”, or as a guest star on “The Nanny” or as the woman in “Boomerang” that wanted to seduce Eddie Murphy. But I found out this weekend that there was a much more vulnerable, sensitive, caring, determined and absolutely touching side to this actress. In fact, in “Down To Eartha”, a one-woman show written and performed by Dierdra McDowell, which played at the Gene Frankel Theatre at 22 Bond Street in Manhattan, I got a knowledge of Kitt that has given me a new appreciation for her life and it educated me on the diverse struggles in her life.
Inspired by, Susan Batson acting teacher almost a decade ago, performer Dierdra McDowell has been driven to research and tell Eartha Kitt's story. Known as the singer behind “Santa Baby” and “C’est si bon”—as well as a Broadway performer and TV's Catwoman in the 1960's—Kitt was the victim of a government-led blacklisting which halted her career for an entire decade.
In Down to Eartha, a new solo show set to play the Gene Frankel Theater in August, McDowell details Kitt's visit to the White House in 1968. It was there that the singer and activist's anti-war sentiments insulted former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, and eventually landed her on the CIA's blacklist.
Down to Eartha recounts that fateful day in detail, while also delving into Kitt's personal journey of power and freedom.
Down to Eartha will run Off-Broadway August 7–17, with direction by Marishka Phillips, who also produces.
“In today's political climate, the right to be heard continues to resonate,” said Phillips. “Kitt’s outspoken views are just as relevant and inspiring today as they were in 1968.”
Kitt was seen on Broadway in Nine, The Wild Party, and Timbuktu!, among other shows.