Royal Shiree - Playwright, Author, Actor
Royal Shirée is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer, storyteller, and actor specializing inoriginal solo shows. Her work has been produced by Lynchburg College, Randolph College,Waterworks Players Theatre, Leading Ladies in New York, and Live Arts Charlottesville. Shirée's full-length plays, Angel Eyes, had a professional reading at Live Arts Charlottesville and Out House had a professional reading by Virginia Playwrights and Screenwriters Initiative (VPSI) also at Live Arts Charlottesville, VA in May 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Originally professionally read/performed by the author as a solo piece for script and performance development, her full length play, Clippings, debuted at Second Stage/Amherst August 2013, then at Troupe 30C in Roanoke October 2013, again at Downtown Urban Theater Festival New York, and Waterworks Players Theatre Farmville April 2014, and is slated for Randolph College in February 2016. Her ten-minute plays have been accepted at various festivals, to include her play, Cat House in the Red Eye 24-Hour 10 Minute Play Festival and produced simultaneously in all four US time zones. Her full-length radio play, The Widows, debuted December 2014 at Virginia University of Lynchburg. Cat House is published by Original Works Publishing eTens on May 5, 2013.
Shirée earned an MA in English at Lynchburg College in 2012 and an MFA in Playwriting at Hollins University in 2013. She is a member of the Dramatist's Guild, The Playwrights' Center, Association of Theatre in Higher Education, Virginia Colleges and Universities Studying Slavery (VCUSS) Committee, and is a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA).
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? How does your personal story influence your work?
It was almost my Frieda moment. Frieda from Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye moment. I remember a tall white, blonde, blue-eyed doll my mother got me for Christmas. She was as tall as me. Okay, good. I have a partner, but I shortly tired of her. She didn't talk back! Her plastic body could hurt when I tried to help her walk. I even held her hand. Got behind her and walked her legs. Even when she was just standing. She kept falling. In the second grade, 45 minutes were given me at the end of every day to be the official storyteller of never-written journeys of Jack and Jill, Red Riding Hood, or something completely improvised. My parents split and my sister went with him. About an hour before they left, she asked that I do the Canada Dry commercial. I did. Completely memorized and blocked like the black-leather-clad female gangsters. I was 5 or 6. Each character. Then, and now. I didn't know I wanted to be an artist. I just was. I have written and performed 27 unique characters in my growing repertoire.
After caregiving my totally dependent father for 2,454 days, my writing became social and personal in nature. I started noticing the marginalized, invisible, and voiceless people, and the producers of their fate. I wanted to give them voice and tell their stories. Everybody has a story. Even the producers.
Which of your works are you most proud of?
Clippings is probably my greatest achievement. The conquered challenges to write and finish it. It was my second play for my thesis and I wanted to graduate on time. I heard a story on Mychel Martin's, Tell Me More, about the rape culture in Detroit (and unfortunately, globally) and the failure of the system sworn to protect. I began to explore other means of abuse, such as domestic abuse and female genital mutilation, which parts of African has banned, but other countries continue to practice it. While the language and subject matter are strong, my goal is authenticity. A couple of friends and I recorded the improvised hauntingly beautiful music. This play praises and celebrates three abused women who survived on their own terms. It shows Traumatic Stress. Clippings has really stretched my creativity and a new character was born: Afarika. She is my first international character. The play has since been heard in New York and several venues in Virginia. Oh, and I did graduate on time.
Clippings will be performed at Randolph College in February 2016.
“I think the production is completely extraordinary. I think the way she shifts from character, it takes such skill, and they’re such very different individuals, and dealing with different issues in terms of violence against women, it’s hugely important and she makes me think of Anna Devere Smith and the characters that she plays . . . Royal is doing what Anna does. The different backgrounds and the different cultures and the different violence and what it does to women, it’s just immensely important for people to see. So I hope she’ll be performing this all over. I was blown away. She is really fabulous.” ~~ Jan Freeman, Paris Press (Clippings review)
What is the hardest part about being a professional artist?
This will not be your sole source of income.
Spreading your wings.
What other artists inspire you?
To mention two or three would exclude the other important everybody elses. Who doesn't inspire in one way or the other? Contact info: www.anypersonyoucanthinkof.com. Everyone is a source of inspiration.
What advice would you give aspiring artists who come from minority or other under-represented groups?
Support us. Collectively, we could be great! We all have the same goals and aspirations, and we all have unique gifts and talents to bring to the table with unique voices and stories to be heard. We could have a strong presence in the arts if we could conquer societal hindrances and ground green monsters and extinguish inflamed egos. And we don't have to be under represented. Not anymore. The artistic aquarium has a lot more room for a lot more fish.
"I have freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."