We had the good fortune of connecting with Sasha Maya Ada and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sasha Maya Ada, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
North Charleston, South Cackalacky! (Holla!)
Actually, I was born in New York, called Illinois and Virginia extended home for a while and now have grown some roots here in Dallas. From the windy city to the low country, I grew up finding that home was not as stagnant as one may think. That flexibility made it a bit easier to move 3.5 hours away from home at 16 years old for a residential arts program in upstate SC.
My mother, an overall badass, got her masters in education while I was just a wee lil beebee. Throughout my childhood, I got to witness her extraordinary dedication to her students, her fight to make sure each of her young people graduated high school, her support of young teen moms, and her power in uplifting her students. My mother’s impact popped up everyday in the “Ms. Davis! Ms. Davis!” shouted out in the middle of a Publix or downtown. It was clear that she meant and means quite a bit to her students. And still, because I was an angsty teen, I didn’t want to follow in her footsteps.
So of course, here I am, working to channel that same compassion and empathy in my own work. And while it’s nowhere near the scale she has developed over her last 30 years, everyday she inspires me.
But shhhhh no one tell her.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a theatre artist, collaborator, and teaching artist that focuses on activism. I coach young people for high school and BFA auditions as well as serve as the co-coordinator for the August Wilson Monologue Competition Dallas region. Luckily, I’ve found things that I love that keep me busy without being artistically draining.
I will say my relationship to acting has shifted over the last year. I used to love it. I frame that in the past tense because this year has been *rough* to say the least–and we know that–but I had no idea the toll it would take on that part of me. My willingness to be vulnerable and present has gone down. These last few months, I’ve tried to focus on nourishing that part of me again. In its place, I’ve started to direct more. Shout out to Bishop Arts Theatre for gifting me a space to dive back into it. I thoroughly enjoy working on new scripts with the playwright and actors. And for my 9-t0-whenever-I-get-a-break at Big Thought, I get to work with young people who are interested in sharing stories. Devising new works with them has taught me so much and and I work to make sure the space I build for them, supports all they need and want to explore. Yes, it must be a safe space, but that’s foundation. I want to be able to build a challenging, exciting, artistically risky safe space.
Honestly? I don’t know what “sets me apart” per se. Perhaps because I’ve always been on the outside–an other–a ‘not quite this or not quite that’.
My job over the last 8-ish years has been to develop a toolset for myself. Something that is rooted in my own passions and works to conquer the challenges or fears I may have. Sometimes my work resonates with people. Sometimes it doesn’t. A key that I’ve found is to be absorbent without allowing the outside to erase the previous work accomplished. None of that is easy. But it’s fun and intriguing and yes, sometimes exhausting. I’m a Black woman. I’m Afro Latina. I’m Queer. I’ve been discovering and connecting with bits of myself that were not yet ready to speak and that seems to resonate with people.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to move through things with passion and with empathy. Fire and kindness.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
How much time you got?!
First off, you gotta visit the patio at Rodeo Goat. Great view. Great menu for burgers and for those of us who don’t eat hamburgers, they offer a veggie option for all of their burger builds.
Eager to have a fancy date night? Toulouse takes me out of Dallas and pops me into Paris for a get away spot complete with some of my favorite oysters.
If you want to do a little vintage shopping, AAV Vintage Shop in uptown is a favorite. The owner, Caitlin, does a fantastic job of bringing in vintage denim that’s inclusive of different body sizes and shapes.
If you’re a plant lover, or picked it up during quarantine, The Plant Project is a cute new shop off Routh and Mckinney.
Want to chill in one of Dallas oldest buildings and sip on some great cocktails? Bowen House is one of my go-tos. The bartenders know their job like they were born for it and the fried brie is all I ever need in this world.
A year plus of my living room has got me I missing going out and dancing. The Free Man is a fantastic spot for good music and fun times. And or the karaoke lovers out there, One Nostalgia and The Goat are my jimmy jams.
Strangeways has beer for everyone and Rosie is a gem.
And because Fridays and Saturdays don’t start until after rehearsals, Lakewood Landing is a must. Their BLT is the reason I can’t commit to vegetarianism.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This is for my actual mother: Sheila K. Davis
To my mentor: Benard Cummings
For my young peoples: Thank you for teaching me so much.
Other: www.renovatedrenaissance.com (Big Thought Artivism Link)