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Bio:

A proud Iowan, Shanara has worked all over the country – from prime time guest star roles to Shakespearean heroines, she brings professionalism, impeccable training, and an open spirit to every job she takes on. Shanara makes a mean bowl of popcorn, can whip up a delicious meal from an empty cabinet, and since she’s an aerialist, she can probably climb a rope faster than you can. Though she loves her work, when she’s not onset or onstage, look for her to be road-tripping with her family and spending time in the sunshine.

Shanara Gabrielle is a theatre artist working in a wide variety of mediums.  As a director, actor, and teacher Ms. Gabrielle is keen to find these arts’ points of intersection and discover new ways to shape the future of American performance. Both in the classroom and in the professional world, Ms. Gabrielle is driven by exploring physical strength, courage, and emotional risk-taking in conjunction with clear storytelling and heightened language. She is interested in creating new work and reimagining traditional texts. She has been fortunate to work closely with filmmakers, playwrights, directors, actors, and musicians on a number of new scripts as well as had the pleasure of exploring the great classics, from Dickens to Coleridge to Shakespeare. 

Ms. Gabrielle is a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Foundation Award in theatre, a Visionary Women in the Arts Nominee, and Grant Recipient for the TCG Audience Revolution Convening. She recently received a Regional Arts Commission Grant to partner with Lovewell Institute in Sweden as a director and devisor of new musical theatre works. Ms. Gabrielle is also the founder of Artists-As-Tutors, a non-profit arts organization created in Ferguson, MO in August 2014, which strives, “With creativity and compassion, to connect artists and students through mentorship and arts engagement,” and which received a major grant from Talib Kweli’s Ferguson Defense Fund, and earned national recognition in Rolling Stone Magazine.  

Ms. Gabrielle has worked professionally at theaters across the country including: Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Guthrie Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Great Lakes Theatre, Northern Stage, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Imagination Stage, The Coterie Theater, Metropolitan Playhouse, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Stages St. Louis, Theatre for the New City, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Hollywood Playhouse, Musicals Tonight, The Black Rep, American Heartland Theatre, Upstream Theater, and has been an ensemble member at The Great River Shakespeare Festival. She has appeared in film, television, and commercials.  She is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association and Screen Actor’s Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. 

Artistic Statement:

Theatre is a craft. A skill. It is not easy. I create representations of humanity. I seek truth. I am a theatre artist. And, as every artistic community needs leaders of artistic excellence in their fields, I strive to be one. I believe in artistic excellence.

I believe theatre is for all. Theatre should never allow you to nod off. It should require more. It should offer more.

I believe in the transformative powers of all creative arts. I value partnering outside of my specific artistic field – to inspire me, to drive me, to challenge me, to excite me. I seek to discover the points of intersection between these arts. I am interested in where color meets word, where landscape architecture meets set design, where aerial dance meets heightened theatre text, where LeCoq meets film, where punk meets poetry…

I believe in Uncomfortable. It is the place that helps me grow as a director and actor, helps me to push through human frailty, to create anew, and to discover what I, uniquely, can offer the world around me – what I can contribute to the swath of the American Theatre, the World of the Arts. Because I believe in Uncomfortable, I believe also in Failure.

I wish for my art to engage a conversation. A conversation that prods the audience to reflect, urges them to look at their own humanity, charges them to belly laugh with a stranger, and plants the seed of recognition in them of our shared humanity. I believe in conversations about the big things in life. We are meant to seek understanding in this world. To create order and space and fill that space. In the words of one of my favorite writers: to create Cosmos from Chaos. I believe in cosmos. I hope my work inspires others to create and re-create their own cosmos.

I believe in entertainment. I believe in new work. I believe in great work seen anew. I believe in classics. I believe in tradition. I believe in devised performance. I believe in re-imaginings.

Theatre promotes and exalts the practice of transformation. Transformation is change. Change is a good thing. I believe in transformation.

I am an Iowa girl at heart, from the center of this country. I am direct, outgoing, and quirky. I believe in morals, talking to your neighbors, and writing thank you notes. My heart is midwestern to the core. I believe in Roots.

In the theatre, we practice the highest form of empathy. Our job is to walk a mile (or 2 hours and 15 minutes) in someone else’s shoes. Our job is to do this without judgement and with full trust in the inherent goodness of the other. Lack of empathy erodes our society. I believe the best way to create an empathetic, compassionate society is to demonstrate empathy, to show it skillfully practiced, and to inspire others to practice it as well. Artists must remain flexible, changeable even. Therefore, I believe in the task that is set before me: be it comedy, tragedy, musical, drama, classical, contemporary, devised, or new form. 

I also believe actors are athletes. Professional actors, like professional athletes, should be at the top of their game.

I believe in human beings. Only when we wholly understand our commonalities can we appreciate and be excited by our individuality. When we sit in the theatre together in the dark with excited anticipation, this sitting together creates connection. In a world that prizes isolationism, shut-down, privacy, and separateness, it is vital to create spaces that nurture basic community, interaction, neighborly-ness, public engagement, and commonality. I believe in the wholeness of humanity.

I am influenced by living a full life and engaging in new adventures. I am influenced by challenge. I am influenced by the 90% of people I encounter that never go to the theatre. I’m influenced by the progressive work of many international companies exploring new models for theatrical performance. I am influenced by institutions exploring alternative forms of resource-creation and building fresh versions of ensemble in the American theatre. I am influenced by physical engagement. I am influenced by current events. I am influenced by history. I am influenced by Old Actors. I am influenced by Very Young Artists. I am influenced by extraordinary shows of technical skill. I am influenced by bad theatre, boring theatre, theatre seats full of homogeny.

I believe in the Funky, the groove, the Blues of theatre, the belly, the guts.

I believe in making stories that create a bigger mind and a kinder spirit.

With credit due to Ben Franklin: I seek to increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interests, and to strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates.