Triple Threat, the title of stage star James T. Lane's one-man-show, which opened this week, may be a bit ambiguous. It's true, the singer, dancer and actor has talent in triplicate—he just finished a run playing Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway. But in this intimate retelling of life events, it's to express three very different words he uses to describe himself: Black, gay and someone dealing with addiction.
"My story happens to be one that took me to homelessness and being around people where I could have died doing drugs to getting through to the other side because I just had to get back here," he shared with EBONY during the swanky opening night after-party at Chez Josephine in midtown Manhattan. The drink menu prominently displayed lemonade and iced tea as its first offerings: Lane has been clean and sober since 2004.
Triple Threat chronicles Lane's life from childhood through addiction, exploring his quick descent into a life that revolved around drugs. "I just started writing stories about my experiences of being an alcoholic." His candor shocked many when they first read it on the page. "People who come to see the show know James T. Lane, the song and dance guy," he said. "They've only seen the guy with the smile, bright eyes and spirit."
But there was definitive pain behind those eyes. In the show, Lane details the abuse he suffered at the hands of someone he trusted. "That person was a father figure to me, so it's the ultimate betrayal when you think it's one thing and then it's another," he revealed. "How I dealt with that was to say 'I can handle it.' But it formulated all my patterns and behaviors, and that affects your actions."
Part of Lane's recovery included therapy. "When I first got back into my equity union as an actor, the first thing I did was get a therapist. I got a Black gay therapist, and I met with him every week for two years and then every other week for another two," he said. "You do the unpacking and the work." He's kept in touch with his therapist throughout the years, most recently reconnecting when Triple Threat made its way to the stage.
"We got back on the phone because this show does bring up that trauma," Lane expressed. "It's not reliving it because I'm acting. We've crafted a play and I stick to the script. But you still live in the emotion." His answer is prioritizing self-care. "You have to have a team of people taking good care of you, eat well, get lots of rest and hydration and maintain your mental health."
Triple Threat is 90 heart-pumping minutes with Lane dancing, singing and playing 20 characters from his life, including his mom. "She loves when I play her because I know her so well." As for the other characters from his past, "They were all just trying to live; the drugs and drinking were their way of coping with life," he shared. "You don't start drugs because you have a death wish. You're just trying to cope."
The play didn't start as a solo project. "I wrote the characters and invited people to the reading, but nobody came," he said with a chuckle. "So I said, 'Well, let me just read it aloud myself.' That's when I realized it was a one-man play, and I needed to play these different characters on stage and in projection."
In honor of Pride Month, Lane reflected on how LGBTQ+ stories are portrayed on stage and screen. "So many of our stories are told by people who aren't living it. I'm looking at the TV, and I'm like, 'That ain't quite right,'" he exclaimed. "I want a Black gay father doing the dishes at 8 pm on Thursday nights. That's what I want to star in. Because we're here, it's happening."
That's why he wrote his own story. "We all have a history," he declared. "Your story is important. Wherever you come from, your story matters."
Triple Threat is now playing at Theatre Row in New York City.