The Interview Project: Aleshea Harris
Interview by Will Arbery
April 7, 2020
"Every caption idea I have is lame and contrived.
Feel free to use the above as a caption. Or not." —Aleshea Harris
What fills your days?
Writing and its adjacent triumphs and failures
Connecting with friends via video
Fretting over the news
Playing The Sims
What is your relationship to work during crisis?
Crisis is often the impetus for my work, so I try to hang in there when it comes to call.
I find solace in knowing that crisis (personal or global) can feed work so long as I don't suffocate beneath the bleakness of it all.
One could think of it as a kind of channeling anger/pain/uncertainty into what I hope will be useful art.
To be clear, I don't begrudge myself or anyone else a break or time to mourn and must acknowledge that I have the privilege of being able to stay home and write.
But I try very hard to reach for the solidity of writing.
It's been my ride or die for so long, through countless private and collective fiascos.
When things ache, I go to the work.
It is essential fuel.
What or who is inspiring you right now? What or who is beautiful?
1. Anyone giving in a meaningful way right now. A few examples:
Mutual Aid L.A.
the Dramatists Guild
Anonymous Was a Woman
2. Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, who signed an executive order giving undocumented immigrants access to COVID-19 relief. So heartening to see such care enacted by a politician.
3. I read a short story this morning called "Po' Sandy" by Charles W. Chesnutt that surprised me.
Just really provoked me to new thinking about conjure and the brilliance of Black people. Highly recommended.
4. "Trickster Makes This World" by Lewis Hyde. Truly a useful tool for any artist looking to upend cultural/personal/political fuckery.
5. "The Rest I Make Up," a film by Michelle Memran about late playwright Maria Irene Fornés. Very, very inspiring to see one of my theatre heroes in action. It reminded me that much is possible. A gift.
6. This incredible song/video by A Tribe Called Red featuring Yasiin Bey, Narcy and Black Bear. One of my all-time favorite reminders to stay in the light.
What are you dreaming of making, once we can gather in rooms again?
What would you say to your younger self — the one without many connections in theater, the one without a Playwrights Horizons commission — if your younger self were confronting or considering a future as an artist during this time of tremendous uncertainty?
Keep writing, Aleshea.
It is scary but hasn't it always been?
Look at yourself
made for the weathering
for the bringing of joy, for the shaking up and on and on.
You cannot see the way
(such is faith)
but you can feel it.
Keep writing, Aleshea.
Aleshea Harris is the recipient of a commission courtesy of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Program for Commissioning Women in the Performing Arts.