- Shaunda McDill: Give Yourself Permission to Tell Your Own Story. Patrick Huey 49:20
To Be Heard, To Be Seen, To Matter
Shaunda McDill is the newly appointed Managing Director of the Pittsburgh Public Theater. She is a rare type of new leader coming of age in the modern American Theater – black women who are ascending to top roles in major theatrical institutions across the country. She joins the ranks of theatrical trailblazers like Nataki Garrett, Artistic Director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Dominique Morisseau, Executive Artistic Producer at Detroit Public Theater; Patricia McGregor, Artistic Director at New York Theater Workshop; and Hana Sharif, the Augustin Family Artistic Director at Repertory Theater of St. Louis. All wrestling with that question of how do we create space within the canon of the theater to make as much room as possible for a multitude of voices, perspectives, and stories to emerge that are as diverse and as expansive as is the landscape of the country today. Because in the final analysis, it comes down to Representation. And whose stories get to be heard, to be seen and to matter.
For Shaunda, her answer to that question has its roots in her nontraditional journey to the Pittsburgh Public Theater. As a young girl her life as an artist began by performing in skits at the local Red Cross to highlight HIV/AIDS for kids, and reciting Bible verses in the Easter Pageants at her church. Along the way, she was mentored by such theater and literary luminaries as Ntozake Shange and August Wilson, and influenced by the words of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. She formed her own theater company called Demaskus – that unapologetically creates space for the underserved and underrepresented people in the theater to have the artistic license to succeed and fail, and to explore freely their artistry on their own terms. For as Shaunda says, “It is necessary for us to tell our own stories if they are going to be told. We must bear witness to what happens and what has transpired in our lives.”
She has built a life buttressed by her strong, unshakeable faith and her belief that her approach to creativity isn’t about struggling to convince others of her humanity, but rather a struggle to produce work and art that reflects her vision of the world. Her life and her career are not exercises in looking outward, rather they are the result of Shaunda looking inward into her innermost soul.
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