The next time you see an old clip of Al Jolson performing in blackface, don’t feel awkward, says Carol Bradshaw.
“The reason they started using blackface in vaudeville was so nobody would know who was white and who was black,” said Bradshaw, the producer of “Brevities: A Matinee of Vaudeville Vignettes,” set for Sunday at 3 p.m. at Proctors.
“When you think of great performers like Al Jolson performing in blackface, they weren’t being derogatory. They were honoring those black performers and were trying to bring that tradition into vaudeville, because for the longest time it was illegal for whites and blacks to perform on stage together. Vaudeville helped change the world.”
Bradshaw is from the Kingston area. She is a collector of vaudeville memorabilia and has assembled a group of performers with Broadway credits and a deep appreciation of vaudeville to perform in a special concert to benefit the Proctors History Committee.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: Free, donation is suggested
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Admission is free, and included on the list of entertainers are Tony Award winner Paul Kreppel, Carol Woods and George Marcy. Also scheduled to perform are Richard Danley, Michael Townsend Wright, Dana Lorge and Warren Schein.
“I’ve been coming to Proctors for years, and I regard it as a national treasure,” said Bradshaw. “I was an actor for many years and I can still get up and sing. But now I’m more about producing and directing and writing, and we’ve put together a wonderful cast for this special event.
“It’s a nostalgic tribute to vaudeville. We’re trying to preserve all this glorious entertainment history, and Proctors is a great place to have something like this because it started as a vaudeville theater.”
Bradshaw will discuss briefly the history of vaudeville and talk about performers such as Buster Keaton, Bert Williams, Paul Whiteman and Joey Faye.
“Those are the people who changed the world through their art,” said Bradshaw. “Bert Williams was a black man who used blackface. Joey Faye was the first talk-show host. It’s important that we remember them and their contribution.”
Bradshaw will also show a few film clips from the early 20th century, and then her cast of characters will perform a series of vignettes celebrating entertainment history.
“I am semi-retired, I’ve had a great life, and I’ve amassed my own vaudeville library,” she said. “So I love putting on these show for people every now and then. They’re usually community events and I want to make them accessible to everyone so that’s why they’re typically free or benefit events.”
Kreppel, who is a Kingston native, was the Wizard in “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz.” He also played the wise-cracking pianist Sonny Mann in the 1980s television series “It’s a Living.” Marcy, meanwhile, has a number of Broadway credits on his resume, including the original productions of “West Side Story” and “Carnival!”