Sunday, October 23, 2016

Spotlight On...Shara Ashley Zeiger

Name: Shara Ashley Zeiger

Hometown: Bensalem, PA (right outside of Philly)

Education: Ithaca College, The National Theater Institute at The O'Neill Center, UCB, etc.

Favorite Credits: Awhile back I got play Toinette in a billingual tour of Moliere's Imaginary Invalid (Le Malade Imaginaire) It's one of my favorite plays.

Why theater?: I love the immediacy of theatre. It's a world that gives permission to play and effect people in ways no other medium can. You can make someone laugh whose having a bad day and feel it because they are in the room with you. You can also teach people or create catharsis. It's cool. Theatre is dangerous because it's live so anything can happen, but in that danger there's a sort of magic that happens. I live for that magic.

Tell us about Roughly Speaking: Roughly Speaking is a play with rap based on 200 interviews with the guests of Xavier Mission, most of which are homeless.  It takes place over the course of one meal service at the soup kitchen through the eyes of Lightning.bolt (lightning dot bolt) a rapper bound only by his wheel chair and a cast of diverse characters on a not so typical day. It's about a group of people over a period of time stuck in the round robin that we call "the system". There are 9 actors playing 13 characters, and there's a little bit of magical realism that takes place. (there I go again with the magic!) It's funny, it's sad, it's a lot of things.

What inspired you to write Roughly Speaking?: My husband is a volunteer director of Xavier Mission in Chelsea, so I've spent many Sundays there over the past 6 years. At first it was let's find the play about the homeless that exists and we'll put it on stage, but I couldn't find the play. I couldn't find a play that spoke the reality of the homeless in a way that was honest and truthful. I also used to be "salad girl" on the serving line a lot. The woman next to me "dessert girl" one day told me her story. This woman whom I had become friendly with I learned was a guest at the soup kitchen for many years before she became a volunteer. It was eye opening. At first it was about exploring her story. Then the more I became comfortable with the guests at the soup kitchen I decided to explore a lot of stories. Other people helped me interview early on, but I conducted most of them, and eventually I realized I had talked to over 200 people about their struggles, and fears, and hopes, and dreams, and eventually Roughly Speaking basically wrote itself.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theatre that makes me feel something. It's not about a specific genre, its about how I feel when I leave. A lot of people inspire me. Lin Manuel Miranda of course. Someone who makes his own work and plays by his own rules. As an actor, I'm constantly in awe of people like Meryl Streep and Daniel Dae-Lewis who physically become their characters. Honestly I'm inspired by kids a lot. My day job I devise new works with kids through different residencies through the Queens Theatre and am always amazed by what they come up with and how they play with abandon.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Do I have to pick just one? There are soooo many.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I'm a big Third Rail Project nerd and recommend everything they do.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Maybe Julia Luis-Dryfus? We have a similar sensibility. My father in law always calls me "The Unsinkable Shara" so perhaps it would be called that.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Maybe back to 70s and see the original production of Hair? I also learned that my great grandmother traveled with a troup in eastern europe when she was young. Maybe i'd go back and see her perform. That would be cool.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Everything on TLC.... it happens.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: When I was younger I wanted to be an animator for Disney because I wanted to create characters. I feel like I'd be doing something with creating characters with visual art for sure.

What’s up next?: I'm not sure. We'll see :) I've been working on this for so long it's hard to think of a next.

For more on Roughly Speaking, visit www.ThePlatformGroup.org. For more on Shara, visit www.SharaAshleyZeiger.com

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