“When the Water Runs Clear,” “Nine Days in the Sun,” “Christmas is Coming Uptown” and “Sarafina”…
These are not just random titles. They are only some of the stage productions in which Pittsburgh native Carter Redwood performed all before he was 16 years old. In addition to these performances, by age 12 he was given the opportunity to direct a play for the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. Before graduating from Pittsburgh CAPA High School, he had applied to and made the final 40 out of 1,100 applicants to The Juilliard School—he finally opted for Carnegie Mellon University, where he walked away with not only high honors, but many other awards, as well.
Now 26, he returns home for a starring role in Dominique Morisseau’s “Pipeline,” a Main Stage production at the City Theatre, running now through Nov. 18.
The list of Redwood’s accomplishments since that time are very comprehensive and include additional stage roles like “Footloose” and “Fences,” big screen movies like “Blood First,” “Underdogs” and “The Yellow Birds,” television performances in “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods” and “Madam Secretary,” and most recently, Redwood had a role on the Netflix hit “Orange is the New Black” as well as the role of Medic Pete Guzman in National Geographic’s “The Long Road Home.”
Redwood and his brother, Maurice, have a strong legacy in Pittsburgh; their parents have endowed in them a sense of community and service to others. Their father, Carl Redwood Jr., is a household name in the Hill District, known for his work and advocacy for the cause of the people. Carl Redwood Sr, Redwood’s grandfather, also an icon, was known as well for his work with youth. His footprint is ingrained in this same community.
It is this foundation that would help build Carter Redwood’s work ethic and provide him the “chops” necessary to keep pushing in an industry that is super tough, and also makes him uniquely qualified for the role he is undertaking.
Eileen Morris directed Carter when, at age 12, he played the Ghost of Christmas future in “Christmas is Coming Uptown,” when she was the managing director for the University of Pittsburgh’s Kuntu Theatre, which was part of the Department of Africana Studies for over 25 years. Currently the artistic director of the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Tex., Morris shared that “Carter’s parents poured into him that all important sense of community, one that holds community and caring for community in the highest regard.”
Concerning Morisseau’s “Pipeline,” Morris said that Morisseau’s art “often has a political underpinning, she has a heart for community and does for Detroit, through her work what August Wilson did for Pittsburgh, in that many of her plays have Detroit as their backdrop. The theme of this play is relevant in the Black community today; Carter’s background is the unspoken preparation for this role.”
His first acting role was at the tender age of 10, he played Andre, a store owner’s son. When he came out onstage, in that instant he felt he was at home. “I felt so comfortable in that moment, I knew this had to be my life work,” Carter recalled.
Mark Southers, founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh Playwrights and author of that play, “When the Water Runs Clear,” said that Carter’s “commitment to the art was made abundantly clear, even at that age. At the time Carter was wearing his hair braided in cornrows; the time period of the play would not have called for a young boy wearing his hair in braids. Carter had no problem cutting his hair close to keep the integrity of the play. This move really spoke to his determination and understanding of professionalism when it came to theater.”
Southers was a personal mentor to Redwood, and early on believed in the youngster’s abilities. “I knew he could handle himself onstage. I was aware that he was comfortable with previous public speaking opportunities, and I knew that if he wanted this, theater,” it’s something in which he would prosper.
Just four and a half years removed from CMU, Carter Redwood is in the midst of a full-fledged acting career, living these days in New York City.
A product of Pittsburgh Public Schools—Madison Elementary, the former Frick International Studies Academy, Schenley and CAPA, Redwood originally told his mother he didn’t think it was necessary to attend college because by the time he was 18, he already had an impressive track record. He felt equipped and experienced.
But his mother was troubled by those comments. “I knew it was important that I responded carefully,” she said. “I asked him, what if he had to have a serious back surgery, and a friend of his with lots of experience in the health field, but had not been to medical school, was going to do the surgery—who would he find to do the surgery? That gave him a new perspective and he went on to enter CMU.”
Carter Redwood feels that being back at the City Theatre is his way of coming full circle. “It’s the place I made my professional debut, and received my equity card; so this is an honor for me. Being in Pittsburgh, period, is important to me. I get to connect with my original supports, those who kept me lifted and encouraged—I am eternally grateful. Without them I may not have had the drive to get to where I am.”
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