Today we’d like to introduce you to Shea Donovan.
Shea, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Cliche as it seems, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a performing artist. Growing up in a suburb of NYC, I was lucky enough to have access and exposure to an incredible arts education, and after training extensively in dance, acting and singing, I attended Tulane University in New Orleans where I received my BFA in Theatre Performance as well as a BA in Communications and a minor in Dance. Living and learning in New Orleans was an incredible gift and really opened my eyes to the possibilities of interdisciplinary performance art. I started getting my feet wet in dance film and devised ensemble work and was able to see so many possibilities beyond the label of “actor” or “dancer.” That being said, I was apprehensive to step outside of these labels, and moved to Los Angeles to start my career with the mindset that I had to be “one thing”. The initial thrill of getting paid to do what I love was extremely gratifying, and I ended up getting to teach, direct and choreograph as well, but after several years I started to feel like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what is was, and decided it was time to go get my MFA.
Fast forward to the present, and I have my MFA in Acting from East15 Acting School and am in the process of completing a MA in Contemporary Performance Practice at the University of East London, with an eye toward a PhD in the future. I split my time between LA and London and have started my own company, Indigo Arts Collective, to produce and develop my own work. Re-entering academia and moving abroad helped me contextualize my artistic goals and what I have to contribute. I finally had the skills and the confidence to create and curate narratives that interest me, in whatever artistic disciplines felt right, and it has been extremely liberating.
Has it been a smooth road?
I think many artists can relate to the sacrifices required to refine your craft and choose a life in this industry. Early in my career, I often questioned why I was opting to put myself in a place of perpetual financial uncertainly, and whether it was going to be worth it in the long term. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there over and over again and persevere through rejections and disappointments. Ultimately though, I decided that I owed it to myself to commit fully to the life I’d imagined and to do this, I had to shift my mindset. I started saying things like “I’m going to write a script” instead of I’m going to try and write a script”- “I’m going to produce a show this year” instead of “someday I’d like to produce something”- and that simple shift changed everything. With every no, I have the opportunity to redesign and improve, and with every yes I’m given the gift of telling stories and building communities, and I can’t imagine a better life than that.
Please tell us about Indigo Arts Collective.
Indigo Arts Collective is a fairly new company, born out of a desire to create my own process of investigative theatre making by distilling research and real events into compelling performance narratives. Creating work at the intersection of art, scholarship and activism, the company is committed to developing engaging interdisciplinary performance for theaters and alternative spaces. I have a particular interest in sharing untold female and female-identifying stories and generating work about and alongside communities in crisis.
Our inaugural production was a one woman show “By the Light of the Moon” which toured last summer to LA, NYC and London and was due to appear in the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe (which is now canceled in light of our current global health crisis.) The piece tells the story of a young woman who is forced into an asylum in 1928. With levity, innocence, and a strong sense of denial, she takes the audience on a journey full of playful poetry and vivid trauma until she’s forced to confront the reality of her fate.
Our current project “The Sonnet Response Series” asks 154 participants to transform Shakespeare’s sonnets into personal, interdisciplinary creative acts. In these uncertain times, the work is interested in exploring how to link individuals and communities in isolation, and how to generate creative work outside of our typical models of in person rehearsal and collaboration. While many artists are unsure of what the immediate future holds, this project aims to ground them in a global artistic community and encourage the creation of new work in crisis.
After posting a “creative call to action” on Facebook and Instagram on March 15th, the Facebook group exceeded its participant goal within 48 hours. With artists of all ages and disciplines from all over the world, the group is united by their desire to respond to these challenging times with performance art. It has really been inspiring to see a group of artists come together in this way and I’ve been receiving messages from participants sharing how much it means to them to have a creative outlet in these dark times.
The piece takes our desire to work in alternative spaces to a whole new level by existing on an exclusively virtual platform. All 154 Sonnet Responses will stream on Vimeo, Roku and Amazon Fire TV from April 10th. Indigo Arts Collective strives to be an inclusive creative community, so anyone that participates in any of our projects becomes part of the Collective. For many years I saw myself and my friends in between work searching for a creative outlet, and now I get to make my own work and invite my community to collaborate with me, which is an awesome feeling.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
If COVID 19 has taught us anything, it’s that people will always be dependent on the arts. Especially in times like these, entertainment media is not just something to pass the time, but it is a friend, an escape, an educational tool, and so much more. I think these quaran-times have encouraged artists to explore new ways of generating work and creating audiences and will hopefully foster a greater commercial appreciation for alternative performance practices in the future. We all get to ask ourselves, “What is performance? What is an audience? What story do I need to tell right now?” and I find that really exciting.
Prior to our current global crisis, we were seeing a huge uptick in the popularity of immersive performance, and I think this trend will continue to grow. In the age of experience economy, audiences are becoming more and more eager to not just attend a live performance, but to become a part of it and shape it in some way. There are already lots of exciting explorations of immersive theatre merging with virtual reality and other tech, and I think this will only continue to develop over the next 5-10 years.
- Our current project will stream for free starting on Friday April 10th. We are however operated on a “pay what you will” basis if you would like to contribute towards the cost of keeping the domain live for a year. You can contribute here: gf.me/u/xup8yg
- Website: https://www.sheadonovan.org/indigo-arts-collective
- Phone: 504-710-0243
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/indigoartscollective/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theindigoartscollective
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/IndigoArtsCo
- Other: vimeo.com/showcase/sonnetresponseseries
Headshot: Sam Irons, By the Light of the Moon image: Kyle Orminston