BWW Interview: Safiya Kaijya Harris in AS YOU LIKE IT at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ 9/11 to 9/29
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) continues its 57th season, entitled Incredible Journeys, with William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Directed by long-time company member Paul Mullins, this timeless love story with a witty heroine at its center, has captivated audiences for centuries. The show will be performed on the Madison stage from September 11 to September 29.
As You Like It has not been done on STNJ's Main Stage in over a dozen years. Travel with the exiled Rosalind and her entourage to the Forest of Arden, where, disguised as a young man, Rosalind woos the love-sick Orlando. Inhabited by a multitude of colorful characters, royal and rustic, the play contains some of Shakespeare's most eloquent speeches.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Safiya Kaijya Harris who plays Rosalind in the As You Like It.
Harris is truly excited to be doing her first season with The Shakespeare Theatre. Her credits include: Marisol in Marisol, Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and Bunny in Detroit '67. She is proud to be a recent graduate from Carnegie Mellon University. She's from Miami, FL. and is looking forward to moving out west to Los Angeles, CA in October.
What was the very first show you ever performed in?
My first show that really transformed me and propelled me as an artist was in my 8th grade year. I played Reno Sweeney in South Miami Middle School's production of Anything Goes. I remember singing "I Get a Kick Out of You" and getting emotional because I had felt how magical and powerful it was to perform for people and for myself. It was liberating and humbling - just being able to exist on stage and take my space.
We'd love to know a little bit about your education and opportunities at Carnegie Mellon.
Carnegie Mellon was such a huge turning point for me as an artist. While there I was able to tap into my creative juices in a way I never had before. Being surrounded by such passionate and talented people truly helped me grow into my craft and fall more in love with art and the power of ensemble. Carnegie Mellon help me shed my skin and allowed me to believe in my abilities to tell stories in all forms, whether dancing, singing, acting, choreographing, improving. It's a true community that runs on the students that inhabit that place.
How do you like working at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey?
As my first professional production, I am so honored and happy to be with such an amazing company. The cast and crew consists of a wide range of ages and experiences making the project that much more fulfilling. Being able to learn and grow from people and with people is why I love doing what I do. I've always been a person who thrived off community and they have shown me nothing but kindness and support throughout this process.
What are some of the challenges of your role as Rosalind?
Rosalind is such a complex character, she's SO human. Some of the challenges I've faced is playing into her grounded energy while also playing into her curious and impulsive nature. Also, creating a difference between her in the court and her in the forest. The lesson I've learned from her is how close she is to me, in terms of the way I live my life. So, learning to trust that she's a part of me and to just enjoy the journey.
Tell us a little about your fellow cast members and the creative team for As You Like It.
My cast mates and the whole team are great. This is the first show I've done in a while where I didn't know anyone prior to walking in the room. So that first day was exciting and anxious, hoping my cast would be everything and more, and they have truly gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome.
What would you like people to know about the show?
I would like people to know that this is a play full of adventure and love and freedom. So come prepared for a journey that we will take you on and like whatever pleases you because you have the right to, just as much as we have the right to perform it. I encourage young artists to come and enjoy this show and all theater because I would've loved to experience shows like this when I was growing up. There's a $30 under 30 deal on the STNJ website - so know that we really want a diverse audience to share this phenomenal story.
What are some of your future plans?
After this show, I am moving to Los Angeles to pursue my career as an artist. I'm looking forward to the many opportunities that await me as I embark on my new journey, hoping to dip my toes in many different realms of the art industry. If you would love to follow my journey with me you can look me up on Instagram @_safikai3_
Anything else, absolutely anything that you would like BWW NJ readers to know.
Just thank you! To BWW for being the spotlight for all things theater and making sure we get our recognition as artists. Thank you to STNJ for trusting me with such a huge role, especially being the youngest of the cast. Lastly, thank you to all the people who believe in me and are rooting for me - you get me out of bed in the morning.
Tickets for As You Like It begin at just $29 for preview performances and $49 for regular performances. The Theatre is proud to continue its 30 UNDER 30 program which provides patrons age 30 and under with tickets for only $30 with a valid ID. The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is located at 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, New Jersey on the Drew University campus. For tickets and information call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Safiya Kaijya Harris