April Axé Charmaine on Self-Discovery and Queens Girl in the World

Elicia James/Aurora Fox Arts Center
Janae Burris stars in Caleen Sinnette Jennings’s Queens Girl in the World.
April Axé Charmaine, CEO of the nomadic lifestyle company Sol Vida Worldwide, is no stranger to performance art. But directing her first full-length play, Caleen Sinnette Jennings’s Queens Girl in the World, resonates differently with her because it's a coming-of-age story she can relate to about navigating race, sexual abuse and addiction.

“I know what it’s like to be caught between a ‘black and white world,’” she explains. “To live with sexual trauma; to wonder about cycles and sexuality. I love [the play] because it’s a beautiful ode to the Black experience, and historical remembrances are imperative at this time."

Queens Girl in the World tells the story of Jacqueline Marie Butler, who lives a middle-class life in Queens, New York, during the 1960s, and is suddenly transferred to a predominantly Jewish private school in Greenwich Village.

Actor and comedian Janae Burris, who lived in Denver and now resides in Los Angeles, plays the lead and twelve other characters in this production.

“It’s pretty easy to play Jackie because her story is universal,” Burris says. “It’s a coming-of-age story that most girls and women can relate to. We spend our youth trying to figure [out] how to fit in the world, and one day, we wake up and realize that everything we are is already enough.”

Charmaine has enjoyed collaborating with Burris.

“She's embodied, intuitive, sharp, graceful, quick-witted and understands the depths of soul, nature and relation that’s taking place in a scene and character,” Charmaine declares. “She’s a director’s dream. [She] holds the work and brings it to life, and cracks you up while doing it.”
click to enlarge Queens Girl in the World is the first play that April Axé Charmaine has directed. - MELANIE MORENO/FIREFLY PHOTOGRAPHY
Queens Girl in the World is the first play that April Axé Charmaine has directed.
Melanie Moreno/Firefly Photography

Charmaine has choreographed, taught and produced many performance pieces in and out of Colorado.

“I left Denver in 2017 and became an international traveling artist, implementing work in Spain, France, Colombia, the Bay and New York,” she says. “I have been part of some amazing productions, including The Emperor Jones directed by Donnie Betts at the Aurora Fox, Once on This Island at East High School…[and] Winifred Harris’s One Race Woman at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.”

For this production, Charmaine wants audiences to acknowledge Black history.

“I also want to empower people to create their dreams and lives,” she says. “To honor one’s personal truth and to be yourself no matter where you are or who is there. Connect with the spirit and do what you need to do to speak your truth.

“This [play] is one of those once-in-a-lifetime projects that is contemplated by an audacious and brilliant lighting, sound and projection scheme,” Charmaine adds. “The fact that we are able to create and work in a live theater at this stage of a global pandemic is an amazing blessing and an opportunity to say yes to the brilliance of life.”

Queens Girl in the World runs April 16 through May 9 at the Aurora Fox Theater, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora. Tickets are available at the Aurora Fox website.