Sunday, May 26, 2019

Q-and-A with Sacha Elie

Sacha Elie
Guest Contributor Grant Knutson of Minion Productions offers a brief Q-and-A with solo performer Sacha Elie.

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Sacha Elie is a California-based actress. She turned to solo performance while attending UCLA. She will presenting her show Who You Calling a Bitch?!? at the 2019 Dallas Solo Fest.

Q: Please give us a brief bio, what got you started in theatre/performance?

A: I’m a Haitian American Actress with a masters degree in acting from UCLA. I’ve been acting for over a decade, I entered Pace University as an English major but switched last minute two weeks before classes started and begged the chair to let me audition as a theater major.Luckily he took pity on me and let me audition and fours year later I graduated from Pace University with a B.F.A. in Theater and Performing Arts. Before I started Pace University my mother had recently passed away from cancer.  The biggest lesson I took away from her death was to do what you love with your life, that nothing in life is guaranteed, our time here is very finite, so it's up to us to be happy. Now the decision to do what you love has not been the easiest decision for me but I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow as an artist and performer. Every since I’ve switched my major, I’ve been performing ever since!

Q: What event or desire brought you specifically into the world of solo performance?

A: I recently graduated with my M.F.A. from UCLA in Acting. I choose my program because at the time it was the only one of its kind, offering producing, writing and an acting concentration. I wrote, Who You Calling A Bitch?!? while I was working and researching my thesis solo show. “Who You Calling A Bitch?!?” came about out of necessity. I choose to drop out of my thesis show my final year in grad school. I was cast in a role that was very stereotypical and misrepresentative. So I made the radical and very unpopular decision to drop out of my thesis show. I opted to write and produce a solo show instead. One that I felt would not only stretch me but also showcase my talents properly in my final year. I ended up writing two solo shows simultaneously. While researching my thesis show, Biscuits,  I stumbled upon an interview with Diahnn Carol, it was her first interview and first day on set for the iconic hit, 80’s, tv show Dynasty. In that interview, she spoke about changing the perception of black women on television. She was so proud and excited to play the “The first black bitch!” steering away from the, “good doers” and the one dimensional “cookie cutter” roles. I was very curious about this because the term and association of “Black Bitch” has evolved over the past 30 plus years. I knew it was something I wanted to explore and so I started writing and researching where we are now as a community and society with the term, “Bitch”, and how it’s affected my experiences as an African American actress now.

Q: Could you tell us about some of your particular kind of solo work?

A: My particular kind of solo work is very unique I think. I’m unconventional as an artist, I never feel like I’ve ever fit into a box that the “industry” can put me in? For example I’m Haitian American, and they are more roles for Haitian Actors, but now I have to fight the mold of what the “industry” believes a Haitian women might look like. Which is why I 100% believe it's important for people of color to have control of OUR narratives. To fully tell our stories from our P.O.V’s and our Truth! So that is what my solo show is. Its from my P.O.V. from my truth, for so long I was worried that people wouldn’t understand it, or it would be too controversial with some of the topics I address, but part of being an artist is telling your story, standing behind that and believing in that!

Sacha Elie

Q: Could you tell us about Who You Calling a Bitch?!?

A: My show is truly an interactive show, each time I perform it, I try to find new and innovative ways to include that. I think I deal with some deeply personal and painful truths about society, culture, appropriation, and finding identity and self worth in an industry that is constantly telling you to be “Uniquely like Everybody Else”. I think my show does it with a comedic punch that at times feels so uncomfortable that after the laughter you are left with deep questions to ponder. Overall this show is for anyone that feels or has felt like an “other” an “outsider”. It’s a piece of me, it's a very vulnerable place to be in when I do this show, so I hope that most importantly people can relate and connect from their own experiences.

Q: What is your favorite thing about doing this work?

A: Hmmm,do you want the real answer! Everytime I do this solo show I automatically think, wait what did I do? It's really a terrifying place to be in. As I mentioned before its a very vulnerable show. It really is a piece of me, my experiences as a black woman, a black actress in an industry I very much feel like an outsider.

But on show time on the day of it feels like I’m walking on air when I see that people connect with the story. Its then I’m reminded about the power of storytelling. It offers us incite into each other, it's how we understand ourselves and one another. So, I guess when the lights dim after the final word is said and done I get to speak with the audience and see how much we all are truly connected.

Q: What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?

A: That’s a great question! It varies all the time because the challenges are always so different each time. But right now, for me, I think my community.

I have a very small community. But it’s the people around me that motivate me that are often my eyes when I feel a bit blind or lost. As a solo artists you can get wrapped up in the logistics, getting an audience, making the connections, re-writes, etc and as artists period you are faced with so many NO’s. I’ve probably had 100,000 No’s. In fact I just got a No, yesterday, and I won't lie, No’s hurt, they STINK! But I had three great conversations with friends who are also artists and they encouraged me to keep going, to flip the negatives, to find the joy, there’s always a silver lining.

So for me, it's my community, you need a community, you can’t do anything alone. Especially in this business!

Q: What is your approach to the development process when putting together a new project?

A: My approach: I think varies from time to time.

I create and improv during rehearsals, but generally I start off with a script. When I’m up on my feet, I get a better sense of how things work. I think as writers we are constantly rewriting. I’m doing that now for the show as it heads to Dallas!

Q: Who are some of your influences or people that inspire you?

A: Well I love Michela Coel, the British Actress from the Chewing Gum series on Netflix. I love her style, humor and writing. After I watched the Netflix show I obsessively googled everything about her and discovered that she has a similar origin story in the sense that she opted out of her thesis show in Grad School and wrote a solo show, Chewing Gum, which then turned into television show! If you haven't seen it on Netflix, you should, It's brilliant!

Q: Do you have a favorite performance, festival or venue you'd like to tell us about?

A: Probably when I first premiered my show at the Hollywood Fringe. The circumstances were CRAZY leading up to the opening. I had to literally re-write the entire show in a span of 6 days and rehearse an entirely new show for its PREMIER. It was the most stressful and exhilarating experience EVER. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t know if the audience would accept it because it's such a different type of solo show. I kinda have the same feeling as I take the show to Dallas in June. New area, I have no idea what to expect. So it's a whole new experience all over again! Except I don’t have to rewrite a new script! Phew!

Q: How do you bridge the gap between the creative and the business side of solo theatre?

A: It is a challenge to balance the artistic and producing side of solo theater. For me, the formula is: I just jump right in and handle what’s at task. With each performance I learn something new. But mainly the key component for me as been Organization, setting aside nonnegotiable times for rehearsal. Setting aside nonnegotiable times to wear the producer and marketing, hats. Lits, Lits, and Lits, regarding both aspects are what keep me going!

Q: Any advice for aspiring artist just starting out in solo performance?

A: Yes! If you’ve always wanted to do it know that is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of grit, courage, and hard work, but it is very rewarding because you get to tell your story! How awesome is that! So, if you feel that urge, that desire in your heart, just go out there and do it! All you have to do is take the first step. Write a title, or a topic of interest, or one line as the first step! That’s it! Just take it one step at a time.

Q: What do you see for the future of solo performance and for you personally as an artist?

A: That's a great question because theater varies from state to state, region to region! In Los Angeles, it is hard to get people to see theater, as opposed to London you see great theater for 5 pounds and it's something people do after work! Pub and show! So it depends, but I think there is a way to get people involved on a digital level somehow to keep it fresh and innovative. As artists we are also innovativers we create! I think sometimes we get caught up in the tradition and think, this is how its been done so this how we should do it, but we need to use our imaginations to explore, to go beyond tradition. I think its up to us to take things to the next level.That’s the question I’m constantly asking myself with each production. How can I take my story to the next level, how can I offer a new experience for the audience?

Q: Shout outs or links?
Yes please! Follow me on the social:
Please have a look at the promo and reviews from ABC Networks,  critics and audiences in LA.

Reviews Latest Review
Facebook: WhoYouCallingAB
Instagram: WhoYouCallingAB

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