Michael Fosberg was busy sprinting from one airport in one city
to another, one interview followed by another. "January and February are
booked solid," he told theGrio over the weekend, acknowledging his
increase in bookings at high schools, colleges and arts festivals for
events tied to observances of the Martin Luther King holiday and Black
It's high season for Fosberg, actor, writer, theatrical producer,
storyteller and a man who discovered a wholesale change in his racial
identity in the time it took to make one phone call.
Fosberg is the author of Incognito,
a one-man, 12-character play that chronicles his world-changing
discovery, what led up to that moment when he, a man whose outward
appearance marks him as white, finds out his biological father was
black. A book of that journey (out on Feb. 22; preorder on the Incognito website) distills his story in book form, and examines how the nation navigates the same turbulent waters.
It's a story that started in a working-class neighborhood of
Waukegan, outside Chicago. "I was raised by my mother and a stepfather,"
Fosberg said. "He legally adopted me when I was 5. I didn't know what
that meant, and we didn't have a lot of connections -- I was into
sports, he wasn't."
"They were getting a divorce when I was in my 30s, and I didn't know
anything about my biological father. I decided to press for some
By then Fosberg had gone on to pursue the theater professionally,
working in the Chicago area with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, among
others. A move to Los Angeles followed, with Fosberg working in
television and movies, and doing more theater work in the area.
But knowing about his biological father was the itch he couldn't
scratch. Finally, he said, after he pursued the issue, "my mother gave
me two or three bits of information. One was his name, John Sidney
Woods." The other was a location: Somewhere in Detroit.
"I went to the Santa Monica library and looked up his name in the Detroit phone book."
Fosberg went home that day in 1992 to the quiet of his
rent-controlled apartment, picked up the phone and called the first
number on his short list of possibles.
He relates what happened next with a passion and a sense of character
so profound, you know it's been pulled from the substance of his own
"I'm looking for a John Sidney Woods?"
"You're speaking with him."
"Did you live in the Boston area in 1957?"
"Were you married to a woman by the name of Adrienne Pilbosian?"
There was a pause.
"He said yes, and I realized I'd tracked down my father in the first phone call."
What followed was the catching-up conversation you'd expect, the revelations of family and connections revealed layer by layer.
"Then he says one other thing: 'There's something else I'm sure your mother didn't tell you. I'm African-American.'"