JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
HANA SHARIF: One of my earliest theatrical memories was seeing Porgy & Bess at the outdoor theatre with my parents. I was maybe six years old. I still have such clear memories of the costumes, the music, and feeling of sitting on the blanket with a picnic basket and feeling joy. There are many defining productions in my childhood and youth that inspired me A Soldier's Story, Long Days Journey Into Night, Funnyhouse of a Negro, Noise / Funk to name a few. But ultimately, I fell hopelessly in love with beautiful intimacy and infinite possibility found when rich stories, fearless artists, and a willing audience collide.
JL: Where do you feel we are in terms of gender and race in larger landscape of the American Theatre?
HS: It depends on how you contextualize it. The American Theatre has never been more diverse in terms of the balance of art and artists being produced. That being said, the balance of power is far from equitable. It would not be unreasonable to look at a snapshot of the field and take away the idea that it is a very monolithic community. I think the larger question is how do we dynamically shift the way we think about the art we produce in a way that opens the door to a larger range of artists.
JL: How do you feel your community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to practice your craft?
HS: I am new to Boston, but I have been impressed by the number of female directors, producers, theatre service organization leaders and multifaceted artists that are at the forefront of the Boston Theatre Scene. I am fortunate to have a range of mentors, advocates and angels that have taken great leaps of faith in support of my craft. Most of my career has been spent walking into rooms where I am the "only" - Only African American, or female, or both in the room. I realized early on how important it is to have a support system and reached out to others around the country that are sharing the experience of trying to produce, direct, or write in room where no one else looks like you. Some of my most valuable collaborators, mentors, and friendships have been found by reaching out a hand to say "I am here and this is my experience. How has it been for you?"
JL: Why is it important that we continue to have these conversations that address gender and race in theatre?
HS: There is no future without progress, no progress without change, no change without discourse. The theatre is an inherently transformative space. Every time we challenge ourselves to further clarify and define the challenges of racial and gender disparity, we become the architects of world large enough to hold all of our stories.
JL: What excites you about taking part in the XX Playlab Festival?
HS: I am exciting by the level of discourse XX Playlab team is committed to nurturing and the incredibly talented playwrights featured this year!
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!