An interview with Writer and Director Shannon Dada of Evoladad Productions
FB and IG @evoladadproductions
Thank you to No More Martyrs for the opportunity to connect with Shannon! Follow @nomoremartyrs on FB, IG and Twitter No More Martyrs
When meeting someone for the first time, what’s the first question we ask? Hello, I’m _____, what’s your name?
What happens when you have No Name? Maybe you’ve had experiences trying to justify and defend your blackness because people say you “talk like a white girl”. Perhaps you’ve had to defend your reputation because of your popularity and outwardly expression of your sexuality. Maybe you have a big bubbly personality and a waistline to match that has gotten you labeled as the big Black woman. Can you identify with any of these women?
Shannon Dada gives us an in depth look into the lives and experiences of women who have No Name. Shannon is a published writer and new director in Atlanta hailing from California. A career student, Shannon has studied a plethora of subjects from theatre to classic literature, socio-linguistics, foreign language and human psychological development. Shannon is a compelling and powerful writer & director. She has the propensity for poetically capturing human drives and shining intense insights upon human character.
I asked Shannon if she’d be willing to share some of her anticipations for the upcoming premiere of No Name and the future of her growing production company Evoladad Productions. I was ecstatic to interview Shannon.
So let’s get to the Interview!
How did you get into writing and directing?
I’ve been a writer my entire life. I’m a career student and have done a lot of traveling. So I’ve studied everything from classical literature to human psychology. At the age of 10 I enjoyed Shakespeare.
What does Evoladad mean?
Evoladad is “dada love” spelled backwards. Evoladad serves as reminder of our love leadership model thorough which we want to empower black women through loving intentions. “Evol” represents evolution. Through my studies of Latin I learned that “vola” comes from the word volar which means to fly. I believed that building community amongst black women through loving leadership and progressive evolution in the performing arts enables collective flight.
Tell me about how Evoladad Productions and why you started it?
Evoladad Productions was started in 2017. I’d moved to Atlanta as a new teacher and I was just having a hard time with life. During Uber rides, I met many black women drivers who shared the same story. These women all wanted to know why the narratives of black women in mass media only focus on conflict between us. Where are the narratives of black women creating a culture of community? It’s not typical in the performing arts and entertainment industry for black women to be noticed by casting directors. Even if we are more experienced than our counterparts, casting directors don’t see us. There aren’t enough roles for black women.
Tell me about No Name
After hearing the countless stories from black women, I felt that their story, our story needed to be heard. So I wrote No Name and started casting for the original eight roles. Hundreds of women from all over Atlanta came to the auditions. By the second audition we were at standing room only and added a ninth character.
No Name is an emotional play that includes poetry and modern dance. The play is about nine black women with diverse stories that are representative of the various intersections of Black identity. Each character is given the opportunity to narrate her story and her journey to find her voice in the midst of mass media determined to silence her with stereotypes.
I want people to know that No Name was a group effort. After I wrote No Name, it was seen by 25 people who analyzed and contributed to the final production. We spent hours auditioning the cast, often stopping to cry and soak in the stories of the hundreds of women who showed up. I am thankful for the blessing of all of the No Name contributors.
Which No Name character do you identify with the most?
I identify with all of them. Each of the nine characters in No Name represents nine chapters of my life. At the age of 19 I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. I know what it’s like to go to therapy, talk about medication and the stigma that comes with a mental illness.
Why do you think the representation of Black women in the arts is important to mental health?
Black women have become nameless due to their stereotype state of mind and the issue of martyrdom. It is because of stereotypes and martyrdom that we have difficulty with the message of love and unity amongst us. We exist in a superficial community often not sharing in healing each other. We often interpret one another’s experiences as better as or worse than ours. We can build compassion for each other by collectively knowing that everyone has a place to belong.
What do you want people to walk away with after seeing No Name?
Black women have no reference for self-care which has created the issue of martyrdom. Going back to our grandparents and great-grandparents, Black women have collectively been dehumanized and taught to survive. We have been deprived of seeing ourselves. You no longer have to be superwoman and not take care of yourself. I want black women to know that you deserve self-care and you deserve mental health. I admire the work of Ntozake Shange in For Colored Girls. My hope is that No Name will become the For Colored Girls of today.
Will you meet No More Martyrs at the premiere of No Name?
No Name the play will be premiere on Saturday February 3rd 2018 7:30pm to 10:30pm
840 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd Atlanta, GA
Tickets can be purchased Here
General Admission Tickets are $30
Group General Admission for groups of 10 or more $25
Show After Party with live entertainment and food $25
I leave you with this thought from the late Malcolm X: “I don’t believe that groups should refer to themselves as “leftist” “rightist” or “middle-ist”. I think that they should just be whatever they are and don’t let people put labels on them- and don’t ever put them on yourself. Sometimes a label can kill you”. (January of 1965, in response to a question asked of him during a militant Labor forum regarding labels)
Peace, Love and Blessings!
Keta, No More Martyrs Ambassador