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BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME

Running with THE OXY COMPLEX March 21 to April 25 at IAMA

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME

Two solo explorations of female identity, written and performed by two funny Latinx-American women, are being presented by IAMA Theatre Company: ANYONE BUT ME, written and performed by Sheila Carrasco, directed by Margaux Susi; and THE OXY COMPLEX, written and performed by Anna Lamadrid, directed by Michelle Bossy. While following strict Covid-19 guidelines, both were filmed live at L.A.'s Pico Playhouse and will premiere virtually on March 21 at www.iamatheatre.com, where each will continue streaming through April 25.

Sheila Carrasco, a resident of Santa Monica, just wrapped filming ANYONE BUT ME. As a fellow Westsider, I decided to speak with her about that experience prior to seeing her show.

(Shari): What is the subject matter of ANYONE BUT ME?

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Sheila): My play is about women who struggle with self-identity, and why we create certain personas in order to get by, to survive, or even just to impress someone. In it, I play a variety of original characters - a grocery cashier, an executive, a receptionist, a teenager, a performance artist, a cult leader, a mom. And I explore what they have in common - the desire to be someone they're not. Someone better, easier, stronger... anyone but them. I hope that as people watch this play, their experience evolves and they find connection and emotional resonance with its themes.

(Shari): Do you identify as, or personally know, any or all of the characters in your play?


BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Sheila): Most of the characters are inspired by someone I know, but there's definitely a little of me in each of them, and in some cases a lot of me. I had fun exploring their flaws and idiosyncrasies, but also how I can completely relate to them. I think most women, at some point in our lives, tend to wrap our identities around a single dominant aspect, be it a relationship, our job or work ethic, our perceptions of ourselves as artists, or even whoever we are hanging out with that day. This play is about accepting the nuance of everything that makes me who I am. We don't have to be just one thing, and we certainly don't have to be someone we are not.

(Shari): What about your personal identity history is reflected in ANYONE BUT ME?

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Sheila): Growing up on the south side of Chicago, I was a bit of an anomaly to my friends in our neighborhood - kind of white, kind of Latino, kind of fancy because we went to private school 40 minutes away (my mom taught there so the four of us could get free tuition). Then at school, my peers seemed to be from a completely different world - they went to Cancun for Christmas, shopped at the GAP, and drove SUV's. On top of that, I was one of only two Latinx kids in my grade. Me and José Cornejo, whose mom worked in the cafeteria so that he could also attend for free. So I basically lived in two worlds, and my identity seemed to be defined by my context, if that makes sense.

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME As a kid, I don't think I ever felt truly free to be myself with anyone outside of my immediate family, and that makes me sad. And I wonder if that was because of actual pressures from my communities, or a self-imposed mindset I created for myself. Now that I'm older, I'm learning to really celebrate all the things that have influenced my character and identity.

I'm an actress and a writer, a proud sibling to two officers in the military, a preacher's kid, and a liberal. I'm the child of an immigrant who literally was born on a dirt floor in a remote indigenous region of South America, and I'm also the child of a white working-class, Southern woman. BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME I am many things, but at times I have felt as though I had to change or simplify my identity, so that I could be more of a singular "type", especially in Hollywood. There's definitely pressure for white passing artists to "accentuate" their diversity at a time when it feels very wrong to take space from BIPOC artists. If I can claim my Latinidad, I have to also acknowledge my white privilege. But to answer your question, haha, ANYONE BUT ME very much addresses the challenges I've faced regarding my own identity. And I hope that while watching the show, the audience can at some point relate to at least one of the characters, and find connection with me.

(Shari) Since this is your first solo show, and your first time doing one sans wigs and costumes, how is the experience similar or different than the others you have done?

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Sheila): I do a lot of sketch comedy and character work, so when I thought about doing a solo show, my first impulse was to just do a bunch of my best characters that may or may not have anything to do with me... and then I thought - why is my default is to hide behind wigs and characters... what is that? And why on earth would I think a solo show didn't need to get personal?? So, this show is my way of using my favorite medium - characters - to explore all the different sides of myself and other women I've known that are deluded or insecure, or just plain awful and in denial. It's fun!

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME And also vulnerable in a very new way for me, because I'm not just trying to make people laugh in a wig, I'm trying to get to the truth and explore some discomfort. And with the exception of one character that I've performed a version of previously in a sketch, all of my writing is new and untried, which scares me as a comedian, but also excites me. I'm excited to see how my writing and my comedy will translate on the screen. We'll see!! So basically, everything about this show is new and different for me.

(Shari): The other play THE OXY COMPLEX, written and performed by Anna Lamadrid, is a dark comedy set on the 500th day of quarantine, exploring love, sex, loneliness, trauma, and the hormone that affects it all - Oxytocin, also known as "the cuddle" or "love" hormone. Since it is streaming at the same time as yours, do you consider it a companion piece?

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Sheila): I actually don't at all, because neither of us has any idea what the other wrote, which I love! Anna is absolutely brilliant and unique and I can't wait to see what she made.

(Shari): Did you and Anna work on the two plays together? Who came up with the idea of presenting them together?

(Sheila): Anna and I created our own shows completely independently. IAMA decided to put them in rep, and I really have no idea what they have in common. I purposely did not want to know anything about Anna's play while working on mine, because I didn't want to make decisions or rewrites in a subconscious effort just to be different from her.

BWW Interview: Sheila Carrasco on Exploring Female Identity in ANYONE BUT ME (Shari): Thank you for speaking with about the shows. I hope my readers, especially those struggling with their own identity during these trying times, will tune in with me when both premiere virtually on March 21 at www.iamatheatre.com and continue streaming through April 25. Tickets are $15 for a single show or $20 for both if purchased in a single transaction.

(Sheila): Thank you so much for the thoughtful interview and great questions, Shari!

ANYONE BUT ME production photos by Shay Yamashita/TAKE Creative


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