Stage & Dance

Actress-comedian Adele Givens is right at home in Lexington

Adele Givens was born in Chicago and grew up there, but her parents were both from Lexington. She decided to raise her kids here.
Adele Givens was born in Chicago and grew up there, but her parents were both from Lexington. She decided to raise her kids here. ASSOCIATED PRESS

She has appeared in the 2005 film Beauty Shop and on TV in The Hughleys, and she has a successful stand-up comedy career, but Adele Givens has quietly maintained her home in Lexington.

"My parents are both from there, and as a kid I came back there and hung out with my family," says Givens, who has called Lexington home for 14 years. "Eventually when my kids got to be 3 and 4, I decided to move on into Lexington."

By the time Givens was born, her parents, Nellie Bell Curd and Lewis Givens, had moved to Chicago, where she was raised. Her father once played for the Lexington Hustlers Negro League baseball team, and her mother was in a vocal group called the Angels of Mercy, Givens says.

Her mother might well have drawn inspiration from acts she saw at the Lyric Theatre as a little girl.

"My mom told me she used to go see some of the greats there," Givens says, although she can't remember whether her mother said she saw Count Basie or Duke Ellington.

Her parents didn't live to see it, but decades later, Givens was on stage at the Lyric in October as part of its grand re-opening.

"It was an overwhelming feeling just to know that this was a place my parents had sat in and some of the greats, as my mom put it, had played there," Givens says. "I love it just because of the history and because people of color had to come there to perform during segregation. It holds a special place just for that reason: There was a place that they could go and perform."

On Saturday night, Givens will have the Lyric stage to herself for a stand-up show.

"I hope I can do it justice," says Givens, who will hit the road next month with a few other comedians.

"I can tell you it will be funny, I can tell you it will be relevant, and I can tell you you will relate. Other than that? I might get a little racy in spots. It'll be fun."

It has been a long time since comedy was the sole focus for Givens, who first caught the public's attention in the late 1980s and early '90s, making a name for herself in several comedy competitions and on specials including Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam on HBO.

Her career has included the movie The Players Club (1998) and the TV shows Moesha and The Steve Harvey Show. In addition to some late-summer standup, Givens says, she is looking at a new film project called The Paperboy, with Lee Daniels, the Oscar-nominated director of Precious (2009).

"He just sent the script, and it's a really intense piece," Givens says. "I got so into it, I almost forgot why I was reading it."

Givens is doing all of this from a Lexington home base, though she frequently also goes back to Chicago.

"I love the people and the friendliness of it," Givens says of Lexington. "I'm a Chicagoan, and it was a nice, refreshing change from the hustle and bustle, and the whole 'We see you all the time and we are not impressed' mentality. It's a different environment, and I like that."