"It's not stand-up comedy, it's a one-woman show," actress and inspirational speaker Faith Alpher said while describing her upcoming production at Livermore's Bankhead Theater.
Next Saturday (Sept. 18), Alpher will perform "Got Faith?" an autobiographical documentary-styled comedy about humor, hate, race and grace in the form of storytelling.
"There are about 12 or 13 different characters that I am portraying -- myself, my mother-in-law, my sisters; I kind of throw a shout-out to my dad in the audience," Alpher told the Weekly.
"I think I kind of had to get away from stand-up comedy because I really wanted to share my stories. And I know people say, 'Oh, comedy is stories,' but the type of comedy I was exposed to was more jokes, jokes, jokes and I respected that genre but I'm more of a storyteller," she said.
Originally from Teaneck, N.J., Alpher is a trained actress, comedian and radio personality who is also a health and wellness enthusiast. She currently lives in Livermore with her family and "Got Faith?" will mark her fourth performance at the hometown Bankhead.
She said she booked her first show before she had even written it.
More than 10 years ago while at Peet's Coffee in downtown Livermore, she spotted the former executive director of Livermore Valley Performing Arts and pitched an idea she had for a show. After hearing the idea, she said he opened his calendar right then and there and threw out a tentative date and she accepted the opportunity.
"I called my husband and said, 'I'm about to perform a one-woman show' and he said, 'Oh, you have a show?' and I said, 'Not yet, but I can write it,'" she said with a coy laugh, admitting that was the first time she had shared that story.
"Sometimes I think I do things just to see if it works, you know, taking a risk," Alpher said. "I don't want to live with any regret. I always tell people this, if you have an opportunity -- if someone is giving you an opportunity -- just say 'Yes' and figure it out later," she added.
The first show was called "Through the Eyes of Faith" and she said it was her first and last two-act show because it was too laborious. Her second one-woman performance, which was a shortened and revised version of the first, was called "Black Girl. Funny World."
Since then, Alpher said she has had many more life experiences and gained more wisdom over the years, which she is drawing from for the brand new show, "Got Faith?"
"I think the older you get, the better you get and you're able to see that the hardships were able to produce something pretty good, so you have to persevere. That's the big difference between the stories," Alpher said, adding that there were some things she was previously hesitant to share in her act that will be incorporated in the new show.
At one point while writing "Got Faith?", Alpher said she had to stop and rewrite it because she felt that the way she was writing it was selfish. As an homage to her late sister, whom she described as someone who was very giving, she decided she wanted to produce a show that would give back to the audience.
"What I was doing before was I was just getting the laugh, but now, I'm more of a server. I'm giving you the laughter instead of taking from my audience," she said. "I'm writing from my heart -- my truth -- and my hope and prayer is that it can touch somebody."
Part of the truth she shares in her show involves her experiences as a Black woman married to a white man. The story of her 1997 wedding in Black Harlem is an audience favorite from previous shows that she's bringing back for "Got Faith?"
Alpher said that her stories about race highlight the value of diversity. "If all of your friend group looks like you, thinks like you, votes like you and dresses like you, then you'd better get some new friends," she said. "How can you grow unless you know someone else who doesn't look like you? That's the richness of culture."
In the midst of the racial justice uprisings last year, she said she recognized that she had to "wake up" as she realized that she had been subconsciously carrying some internalized racism.
"I know I'm a Black woman but my thinking, in the past, was that I shouldn't have to tell you," she said. "When everything happened and there was racial unrest, I just started opening my eyes and looking at people for who they really were and the people that were uncomfortable with me and I had to let go of a lot of people."
"Honestly, instead of calling people out, I'm trying to call people in," she said of her new material.
Alpher is also writing and performing music in this show for the first time ever.
"I'm doing something I've never done on stage before. I've rehearsed it for my family -- and my kids are not easily impressed at all -- but they jumped up and they gave me a hug and they were laughing," she said.
Alpher said she's very excited to perform "Got Faith?" later this month and share her stories with the community.
"Laughter is therapeutic," she said. "If you don't know the history of laughter and what it does to your body and releasing those endorphins, trust me when I tell you just come (to the show)."
For more information about Alpher and her upcoming "Got Faith?" show, visit here.