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Get to Know the Apprentices!

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2016-17 Apprentices

Each year, a new wave of apprentices descends upon The Lark, bringing with them a love for learning and an earnest desire to be an active part of The Lark’s mission. Through a season-long September through July residency apprentices work alongside the close-knit staff and get a unique, hands-on opportunity to be an integral part of supporting visionary playwrights.

I recently had the great pleasure of sitting down with my fellow apprentices, Nissy Aya (Artistic Programs), Kimille Howard (Global Exchange), Zoë Rhulen (Development), Sasha Sharova (Artistic Programs (Roundtable Focus)) to ask them an assortment of questions about who they are both in and out of the office.


ALEXANDRA GONZALES: How is your personality reflected in your work?

NISSY AYA: I legit don’t have the time/space/patience/energy to be anyone or anything but myself. I am far too tired to pretend or please others. So I live unapologetically or try my hardest to. And that’s exactly what my work does - it’s living its best life every day of its existence (or whenever I write the stories/tales down). I would hate to think the characters, places, atmospheres that lend me their voices are stifled because of the world that exists outside of their creation.

AG: What inspires you?

NA: I think of something Suzan-Lori Parks said in an interview, “History is not ‘was,’ history is ‘is.’ It’s present, so if you believe history is in the present, you can also believe that the present is in the past.” That quote is always my kick in the butt because it makes me so excited about writing. It’s my opportunity to rewrite, remember, reimagine any and everything that’s ever been written down or told and lied about through time. And since I don’t exist in a lot of these narratives, I can just pop up with a huge smile like “Hey! What’s up?? Hello! How you doing? I’m here. I’m alive. I exist!” And just strut through these washed out stories, loving the fact that I and all the Black Women who live inside me can claim our existence. And I love thinking this means I can also bend and push time forward and write a future with me in it. That’s my biggest inspiration. Reclamation keeps me going.

AG: If you could write yourself into any play or musical and become a character in that world, what would it be and why?

NA: Most definitely Rafiki from The Lion King universe. In the musical, she has the most beautiful and heartbreaking song (Rafiki Mourns) that I would love to sing. But in general, Rafiki is straight magic. Spending all of their time in a grand tree connected to and living through nature, gaining knowledge and wisdom by conversing with spirits while aiding others find love and peace of mind. That’s life. Also, when isn’t Rafiki laughing?


AG: Are there particular artists that have influenced you?

KIMILLE HOWARD: So many influences, so I'll just mention those at the top of the list. The work of Emma Rice and Kneehigh Theatre is a major influence for me, and they're on my bucket list of companies to work with. I fell madly in love with their style after seeing The Wild Bride at St. Ann's Warehouse a few years back, and I try to catch everything they bring to New York (hopefully I'll make it out to Cornwall soon). I'm very interested in developing devised work and collective, immersive storytelling that incorporates mixed media (when apropos). Steven Hoggett and Frantic Assembly are another big influence. I've seen a number of shows with beautiful, evocative movement choreography by Hoggett that have blown my mind. I have a dance background and aim to explore movement and dance elements in my work. I love the concept of storytelling with the body in the way that flows seamlessly with text. Denai Gurira and Lynn Nottage are two playwrights whose work has impacted and inspired me a great deal. Their plays about a plethora of different black experiences are compelling, dynamic, fresh, unabashed, and highlight aspects of life that I am interested in artistically.

AG: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

KH: I'd be one of those special crayons with multiple colors in one. One part Razzmatazz, one part Metallic Gold, one part the discontinued color Ultramarine Blue, and one part Macaroni and Cheese (yes, this is a Crayola color). Why? There are so many awesome colors I could be, and I can't settle on one. Being a combo of awesome things is more exciting and fun than being just one, to me anyway. I'm a writer, director, producer, and filmmaker, so I feel like my crayon encapsulates the essence of me. Can you guess which color goes with which? Also, Mac and Cheese is one of my fav foods, so it was a must. 

AG: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?

KH: Hmm, the most interesting thing about me that you wouldn't learn from my resume? For the documentary I made my senior year of college about my university's production of Shakespeare's As You Like It, I collected 52 hours of footage and edited it down to a 20 minute short doc film. It took the bulk of my second semester senior year to log all of the footage (from DV tapes - super ouch), go through all of it and edit it down. I think that's one of the projects I'm most proud of because of how much time, work, and creativity went into developing what turned out to be a pretty compelling documentary. The irony of all this is that I was very averse to documentaries when this project was suggested after spending the entire summer prior watching dozens of them for a film festival internship. I'm sure there may be better answers to this question, but this one popped into the forefront of my mind.


AG: How is your personality reflected in your work?

SASHA SHAROVA: I’m a very brash and blunt person, especially with my friends. I like to be very honest with my work and what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling and conveying that in what I’m writing, especially if I’m working on something more experimental. That’s definitely such a great space and opportunity to throw a lot of stuff at the audience. I think that I take a lot of pride in myself. I’m usually an unedited version every day and I try to be as honest with my voice as possible. I like strange things. I don’t like things that are ordinary. So I think that’s also whether to have a comedy that’s a little off kilter or having something set in a parallel universe. Adding some kind of twist that’s not the every day. It can still be the everyday but not what we perceive the everyday to be.

AG: How do you overcome creative blocks?

SS: My really good friends and I are huge nerds. We play tabletop RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. We play Star Wars and we’ve been doing this since the beginning of the summer and our campaign has just gone off the rails. It’s so great because everyone is either a writer or someone that works with narrative, so we really get into our characters. We have a lot of arguments with each other over that. Me and my friend Katherine are prison buddies and then we find out Katherine’s in prison for tax evasion. When I’m blocked as a writer, it’s because either the characters stop talking to me or I don’t really know the world anymore so it’s really nice to still be creative but just in a completely different space. For me, taking a walk doesn’t quite do it because I can leave that creative space. I think that doing something like RPG allows you so much freedom, especially if you’re doing fantasy RPG. There are so few limits on what you can and cannot do. So it’s just a nice creative space to be in. People get into it. We’ve gotten into screaming matches.

AG: Tell me something about your last job, other than money, that would have inspired you to keep working there.

SS: I was working at The Box. It’s called a theater of variety. That’s what it’s coined as. It’s this downtown, burlesque, circus nightclub. I kind of accidentally fell into working with them. I knew a guy that worked there and we had a class together. I was there for 9 months and I was terrified for at least 6 months of it. I was terrified but in a really good way. I was like, I’m so out of my depth. I don’t know what I’m doing but it was still fun and creatively stimulating. Overall, it was a positive experience because I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone that I found another side of myself as an artist. I actually liked working with circus performers and just being in a space where we made the audience uncomfortable. I was in college at the time so a lot of it was sitting around in a circle and talking about plays. While that’s such a safe and nurturing environment, I think what I really needed was something to push me out of my comfort zone. It was challenging but I had a lot of fun. There’s so much in that world that I want to bring into my work.


AG: How is your personality reflected in your work? 

ZOË RHULEN: My work a lot of times is about people in or out of love with each other. I fall in love really easily and I think that's something I try and work through in my creative endeavors.

AG: Are there particular artists that have influenced you?

ZR: Sam Shepard, Gabriel García Márquez, David Lynch, and Richard Siken I think would be the big ones. 

AG: What inspires you?

ZR: Other artists inspire me, especially dancers. And cowboys, and laundry, and when the exact right song comes on at the exact right moment.


And since here at The Lark we believe there's never anything wrong with asking yourself some questions and doing a little reflecting...

ALEXANDRA GONZALES: When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?  Why?

ALEXANDRA GONZALES: When I was a kid, I wanted to be many things. I wanted to be a performer and I had a specific order in which I thought I’d do everything. I wanted to be a singer and then an actress and I felt very loyal to the idea that I was a singer first and foremost. My dreams then transformed to include being an astronaut. Why did I want to be all these things? I always loved performing. I’d sing Selena songs at every family event and every summer I’d write a play for all the neighborhood kids that we’d perform out of my garage. It was an elaborate event. I’d somehow get all the neighborhood parents involved too. Everyone had a role assigned to them. As far as being an astronaut? I was and still continue to be intrigued by space travel.

AG: Where have you lived?  How do you feel like those locations have influenced you?

AG: I have lived in four places now. First Houston, Texas where I was born and raised. Then Huntsville, Texas for my first year of college. That was followed by Norman, Oklahoma, home of a pretty well-known football team (Sooners) and an excellent School of Drama. And now, New York. Growing up in Texas has been one of my biggest influences thus far. Texas is the second largest state in the United States and I think when you live there you feel that. I have a need for open spaces in a literal and metaphoric sense. Living in New York is learning how to live in a small space but as a large presence. In a way, Texas gave me freedom space-wise and New York gives me freedom expression-wise, opportunity-wise, dream-wise. Living in Huntsville taught me how to get creative. There wasn’t much going on there. Usually, a fun weekend would begin and end with hitting up the local and ONLY Walmart. Friends and I would run around and try things on in the clothing section and buy things we probably didn’t need. Looking back, I now see how sad it is that that was the height of entertainment for me. Most of my college years were spent living in Norman which is this charming college town. The town itself was not too influential but my years spent going to the college were. I learned a lot about myself and overcoming fears I had of performing. Thinking back to it I can see that those years spent in college were the years I stretched myself most.

AG: What is your favorite reading material?

AG: My favorite type of reading material in the entire world are meaty, psychological thrillers. I like not knowing what’s going to happen. I have a great and enduring love for suspense and mystery, which I’ve often brought into my own work.

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