You know the phrase, “Every family’s got one?” Well, in the Stevens family, it’s Aunt Rudele. She’s loud, bossy and opinionated — but she means well.
Everyone who knows — or knows of — Sharon Rudele refers to her as Aunt Rudele. Many people in Sarasota have come to love the woman whom she says “God made so pretty and smart”— and, humble, apparently.
Aunt Rudele first graced a Sarasota stage 10 years ago, but has been so busy with her fried-chicken business she hasn’t even had time to think about visiting. But how could she turn down Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, who invited her to WBTT to perform a one-woman show May 16 through May 19?
We sat down with Aunt Rudele to catch up on the last 10 years.
How did you get into the fried-chicken business?
I became an assistant dietitian (then assistant supervisor) in the food department at the local memorial hospital for years … until one day, I’m at home sleeping in my bed and I had this dream. All I could see was a fried chicken leg flying through this blue sky …
I rolled over and went back to sleep, and all of the sudden it appeared again in my dream; this time, it had a banner attached that said, “Aunt Rudele’s Fried Chicken.” I didn’t need no house to fall on my head — God was speaking to me.
What’s the Stevens family like?
We got your preachers, your singers (she points to herself), your lawyers, your liars and your wayward — those are the ones that get wayward and you gotta reel ’em in. These children come into the world with their heads empty, and it’s your job to fill it up with sense. I love ’em all, I surely do …
We are a bunch of people who love each other, who sometimes don’t understand each other. All of them always try to act like they don’t understand me.
They always say I try to come and take over, but I don’t. I just feel, well, if I see things that need to be done or said, I say them and I do them.
Who’s your favorite family member?
Robert is 25 years old, and he’s very smart. He’s a businessman in New York, and he comes all the way from New York to the reunion. Last time he came he brought this girl, and I asked her, “Baby, where’s the other half of your dress? That’s a T-shirt you have on.” I told her, “I never had the opportunity to meet a real hoochie mamma.” I really had to talk to him about her. I had to help her, too, because she didn’t know.
What advice would you give to the young people of Sarasota?
The first thing I would tell them is, “You don’t know everything.” Because that’s one of the sordid mistakes young people make; they think they know much more then they really do. Then I’d tell them, “Stay in school, will ya?” It’s not just about doing what they like. And, “Learn about your family; learn where you come from.” That’ll give them self worth and make ’em feel apart of something — no matter what they are, they’re yours.
What about the older generations of Sarasota?
The first thing I’d say to the older people is, “Don’t act like you didn’t do it, too.” They judge these children as if they committed a cardinal sin, and if you rolled the years back to when they were 14, it would drop mouths open!
How did you meet Nate Jacobs and what do you think of him?
Oh, that man! I love him because he inspires children. He helps, councils and mentors young people and that’s kind of what I do.
He’s giving me a show at his theater. And I’m going to sing; many people have never heard me sing. I want all the people to come out and see Aunt Rudele show her stuff — because I have some stuff to show.It’s going to be a good time, an evening of laughter, fun and wonderful singing.
IF YOU GO
‘Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion’
When: 8 p.m. Thursday May 16, runs through Sunday, May 19
Where: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Theater, 1646 10th Way
Cost: Tickets are $29.50
Info: Call 366-1505
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