Thursday, July 9, 2015

Spotlight On...Shakina Nayfack

Name: Shakina Nayfack

Hometown: Laguna Beach, California

Education: BA in Community Studies, Minor and Graduate Certificate in Theatre Arts from University of California, Santa Cruz. MFA in Experimental Choreography and PhD in Critical Dance Studies from UC Riverside.

Select Credits: Founding Artistic Director of Musical Theatre Factory, 2015 Lilly Award Winner for Working Miracles, (The Lilly's recognize the remarkable contributions to the American Theatre made my women, I'm also the first Transgender recipient!), One Woman Show, my autobiographical solo piece, which played Joe's Pub, 54 Below, Sophie's, TheatreWorks Palo Alto, and Barrington Stage Company.

Why theater?: Since the beginning of human civilization we have depended on live storytelling to honor the past, understand the present, and make way for the future. There is a sacred component to the work of theatre. We are in the business of creating alternate realities.

Who do you play in Manuel Vs The Statue of Liberty?: The Statue of Liberty (of course!)

Tell us about Manuel Vs The Statue of Liberty: The show is based on the true story of Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Princeton undergrad who was also an undocumented immigrant. In our show, Dan-el (renamed Manuel) challenges the Statue of Liberty, the personified goddess of US Immigration, in a battle for citizenship. We use the metaphor of a boxing match to bring his struggle to life in a dynamic and irreverent way. There's rapping, belting, stage combat, spanglish, and some fierce dancing, everything you want in a musical!

What is it like being a part of Manuel Vs The Statue of Liberty?: Working on a new musical is always a challenge. You learn more about the piece as you explore it, and that means scenes or songs can change at a moments notice. For me it's particularly exciting because, while I've been working on new musicals as a director and producer for over a decade, this is my first time being involved as an actor. I'm experiencing everything from a whole new perspective, and it's awesome! Also, I came of age as a director and performance artist through the Queer Chicano Theatre of Los Angeles. It feels so great to be contributing to that legacy (albeit on a different coast) with this show.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I'm excited by performances that move energy, where you feel like you're in the presence of a shaman, like anything Mark Rylance is acting in, Steven Hoggett is choreographing, or Tina Landau is directing. Thematically, I'm moved by stories about coming of age, loss of innocence, strangers in a strange-land, social justice and revolution, and border crossing.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Um.... Hedwig?

What’s your favorite showtune?: It's not exactly a showtune, but Joe Iconis' "Broadway, Here I Come!" has left an indelible mark on my life.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Joe Mantello, he's kinda my career idol, both as a director and an actor.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called: Well I don't know for movies, but my friend Howard Emanuel and I are working on a TV pilot about my life, also called One Woman Show. I'd hope to play me during the most recent years. The younger, more renegade me would have to be played by someone pretty shameless and brilliant. Or should I say, pretty, shameless, and brilliant? (I love an oxford comma)

If you could go back in time and see any musical or play you missed what would it be?: The Original Broadway Cast of A Chorus Line. I've seen a grainy black and white bootleg, but I wish I could have experienced it live, at the beginning, when it changed everything.

What show have you recommended to your friends: I still have a candle lit for The Bridges Of Madison County. I can't wait for the National Tour.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Escaping, and not telling anyone where I've gone.

What’s up next: I'm really hopeful for the future of Musical Theatre Factory. We're trying to lay some groundwork so that MTF can be a sustainable home for new musicals for years to come. I'm also really hopeful that One Woman Show gets picked up! As for what I'm working on, there is a new solo project in the works, tentatively titled Post-Op, about my pilgrimage to Thailand, where I went for my gender confirmation surgery last fall.

For more on Manuel vs the Statue of Liberty, visit or

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