BWW Interview: Jeannette Bayardelle Talks SHIDA at The Vaults
After a critically acclaimed run in New York, writer and performer Jeannette Bayardelle is bringing her show Shida to London.
The musical is based on the true story of an African-American girl who dreams of becoming a writer, and is set to a score infused with gospel, R&B, jazz and rock to deliver a universal tale of redemption, hope and friendship.
What's your favourite role in your career so far?
It's really hard for me to answer that question because I honestly enjoy every role I've played. But if I had to name three (outside of the roles I play in Shida, of course!), it would be Celie in The Color Purple, Deloris in Sister Act, and Mrs. Neilson in Girl From the North Country.
Is there a show you'd really love to be in, but still haven't got the chance to do?
At this stage in my life and career, I am grateful for the roles I have had the opportunity to play, and look forward to playing roles where the doors are open and the material is yummy. That may be something brand new - one never knows. But I believe I will have the chance to play any role that is meant for me.
Is it different to act in your own piece, Shida, after taking on parts written by others?
It is very different acting in my own piece. I'm extremely invested and attached to all the characters before I start the work as an actor...sometimes probably too attached. I'm grateful for my director Andy Sandberg, who understands the piece and has the same passion I have. He helps to bridge the gap between me as the writer and me as the actress.
What's the story behind Shida?
I was in the musical Hair on Broadway and we got notice that the show was closing after an amazing run. I had been fortunate to have a run of some amazing shows, but I also wanted to create new opportunities for myself and others. So I thought to myself, "I should write a musical". As soon as the thought came, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be about.
Growing up in the Bronx, there were so many challenges that I faced or witnessed. Because of my strict upbringing, I was able to avoid lots of pitfalls.
Unfortunately, that was not everyone's story. My childhood best friend had been through some rough times and overcame so much, and I felt like I really wanted to tell her story because I knew it would empower others.
Why did you decide to turn this story into a musical?
I absolutely love musicals. Confession: nearly every musical I see, I end up crying. It's such a spiritual moment for me. The form encompasses all I love about the arts and storytelling. What better way to tell such a powerful story about life, friendship, tribulation, and redemption.
What's the show about?
Shida is based on true story. It's about my childhood best friend who, as a child, was very smart, ambitious and hopeful. Unfortunately, as she gets older, she falls on hard times and gets derailed. Eventually, with the help of her family and friends, she finds her way back on the right path and finds her voice again.
Do you have a favourite line in it?
"Some write stories to recount the past, but I write mine to open the minds of the future."
Why do you think it resonates so much with people?
It's a story about real life, real issues, and overcoming. We can all relate to that.
Do you expect British audiences to react differently to it?
I'm excited to see how the British audiences will respond to Shida. The story is universal, but there is certainly a cultural difference. I don't think the streets in London in the 90s were the same as they were in the Bronx, New York. However, I'm hopeful this story of overcoming will touch British audiences the same way it has across America.
What should they expect and why should they see it?
You can expect a beautifully intense roller coaster ride. This character's journey will allow you to experience so many emotions. We hope you'll laugh, cry, cheer, and clap. Why you should see Shida? Because it's a story of hope. We all need a little hope in our lives. Shida is my story. Shida is your story. Shida is our story.
What would you like people to take from the show?
I want people to leave the theatre feeling empowered and inspired. We all have struggles, and we all need a community of people to help us make it through them. This story will remind people to be kind, to be forgiving, not to judge, and if you feel like giving up, to give life a second chance.