Philly’s Own Rodney Mason Honors his Heritage in Acclaimed Hip-Hop Dance Performance Icon in Rennie Harris’ PureMovement Returns to the Philadelphia Stage
His mom told him to break the family curse and leave his South Philly origins behind. Rodney Mason took his mother’s advice. First he joined the Marines and fought in the Gulf War. Later he would appear on television sets across the country as the comical, aristocratic spokesman for Tanqueray Gin (under the pseudonym Tony Sinclair). His childhood passion for dance and hip-hop launched him into a flourishing artistic career with Rennie Harris’ PureMovement, with whom he has toured the globe.
But this month, Mason returns to Philadelphia to perform My Mother’s Son, a critically acclaimed piece of autobiographical hip-hop dance theater. In it, Mason shows how far he has travelled and how close he remains to the city his mother told him to transcend.
Mason’s mother desperately wanted him to escape the cycle of drunken depravity that had afflicted the men of his family, so it seems ironic that much of his success has come as the public face of a major hard-liquor producer. In some ways, Rodney Mason and Tony Sinclair couldn’t be further apart. The front-man of Tanqueray gin speaks with a British accent, conveys an aura of casual elitism, is utterly refined and always at ease. These aren’t at all the traits of a kid from the South Philly projects who pulled himself up with the grit of his teeth and relentless determination. But back at home, Tony Sinclair is every bit as popular as Mason. Out on 52nd street, where his family recently resettled after leaving the Passyunk Projects, people see the debonair dilettante as a source of pride. “I have gotten the most amazing response, far beyond what I could ever imagine,” Mason comments, “first of all from black people because Tony represents being seen on the highest of stages, on an international scale.”
Recognition on the world stage is one thing that Mason and Sinclair share. Mason tours actively with Rennie Harris’ PureMovement, which was also a great source of pride for his mother. “For a while she told me to get a real job,” he said. But she quickly stopped making such requests after seeing Rome and Jewels, Rennie Harris’ renowned urban update of Romeo and Juliet that starred Mason in the leading role. Mason won Bessie and Olivier Awards for that performance.
Shortly after Rome and Jewels, in 2000, Mason’s mother passed away. “That’s when I thought I really have to take more steps to be want I want to be, to live up to my potential,” Mason remarks. A year later, he debuted the first incarnation of My Mother’s Son under the title Origins of Man as part of Philadelphia Fringe Festival (2001). Later versions appeared at the NOW Festival (2004) and Aaron Davis Hall, Harlem (2005). The newest edition comes home to Philadelphia on January 23 and 24 at the Bride.
TICKET INFORMATION: Ticket prices vary for all Bride events. Many Bride shows sell out; order tickets in advance 24 hours a day at paintedbride.org or Tuesday – Saturday, 12-6pm at 215.925.9914. Bride members receive 50% off of single tickets. Students and seniors with ID receive a 25% discount. The Bride is located at 230 Vine Street in Old City, Philadelphia.
RODNEY MASON BIO
Transplanted to Los Angeles, from South Philly, Rodney Mason won the starring role of “Tony Sinclair” for the Tanqueray worldwide campaign beating out the Wayans brothers, and 800 candidates in the US and UK for this sophisticated Black Brit. Rodney has become a celebrated character in commercials, print/editorial, billboards, interstitials and live guest appearances at major events. You can view the on-going campaign at http://www.Tanqueray.com
Rodney has served his country, and is a Gulf War Veteran. His experience defending his country as a Marine has colored his work and his performance message. He is also a theatre and performance artist, utilizing his hip-hop dance skills, his spoken word poetry and rap to create a myriad of unusual and original characters for film, television, commercials, and stand-up comedy appearances. He has worked with the Groundlings and 2nd City in Chicago; toured the world with Rennie Harris PureMovement, a concert dance company out of Philadelphia, and is known for his award-winning role (Lawrence Olivier Award-Best Performance) in ROME & JEWELS. Other stage work includes TOTEM ROAD with the Olive Dance Company, and a stint with the Baltimore Outreach Program in YO BALTIMORE, where he was again, recognized with critical acclaim. His TV appearances include the MTV Vibe awards, hosting Comedy Central, and numerous cable TV interstitials.
His shows, Hollywood Africans and My Mothers Son have gained attention in theatres across America. Mason is currently working on an urban take on Richard III called Tricky Dick. As a song and dance man, his inventiveness springs forth when creating organically with copoeira, martial arts, yoga and hip-hop, all culminating in hip-hop theatre.