I love when I can chat with individuals who have decided to use their voice and skills to educate and inspire others. Shaneisha Dodson is not only a scholar who has 3 degrees under her belt but she is also a play wrighter who decided to quit her six figure job to follow her calling to create stage plays tackling social issues that plague some of our communities everyday. Check out Shaneisha’s strory and how she is using her company Black Girlz Productions to change people’s life.
THJW: Congratulation on all of the success and upcoming projects. How did this journey into the arts began?
SD: Thank you so much! My love for the arts began when I was in highschool I took a competetive speech class in Arkansas and we would tour around participating in improvisation, acting . Around the year 2000 I had a teacher who gave these writing assignments and you had to score a 100 percent and once I started scoring a 100 percent each time I knew I was on to something. When I graduated from high school and attended college I worked in the theatre department during undergrad for a fee waiver and continued with acting and would audition for small roles that would come about. Then in 2012 I decided to create my own production company Black Girlz Productions.
TJWJ: Can you describe some of the phases you went through before you starting creating stage plays full time?
SD: I worked for the government making six figures. I was great at my job but I knew something was pulling at my heart and I knew I needed to do something about it. I would pray about my situation and then I started to have dreams about water. I began to seek advice from individuals who were spiritual prophets and I was told that that was God purifying me to prepare me for something else. In my heart I knew it was time. And god kept putting me in situations were I had to get out.
So I wrote a resignation letter to my job letting them know the date that I was leaving. My job was running around trying to figure out what was wrong or who was the problem so they could fix it. I told them that I felt like I wasn’t walking in my purpose. People around me couldn’t understand why I was giving up six figures to jump into the unknown. They just didn’t understand that it was a higher calling on my life. What I was making in terms of money was fine but I needed to do what gave me peace I needed to fulfill my purpose and do something that I knew would make us as humans better people. So I let all that money go and here I am today living out my dreams and putting in those long hours for myself and my purpose.
TJWJ: Can you share the meaning behind the creation Blackgirlz Production and the type of shows you create?
SD: Well the first part is that I love everything about being a black woman. But Blackgirlz Productions was created so I could entertain and educate people about social issues that I felt needed to be discussed in our community. Issues that tug on my heart like domestic violence, sexual assault and rape. Whatever I see on the news I will write about .I created my own company so I could put on my own shows and talk about what I felt was most important in our community and society.
You have to be able to educate people about what is happening in the community. People do tend to avoid social issues because they don’t want to deal with the reality of these serious issues but it must be talked about. The conversations need to happen. In the black community you hear the saying ” what goes on in this house , stays in this house” and we can’t go on like this. People like to sweep major things up under the rug not knowing your neighbor is suffering through the same issues. I think it is sad that we can’t just talk about a situation, people are always worrying about being judged and what they fail to realize is that individuals are going to talk regardless if you are doing good or bad. A lot of lives could be saved if we could just open up about our sufferings and pain.
TJWJ: You have a upcoming play titled “Coffee Shop”. Will we be expecting this play to tackle some deep social issues? SD: Yes! This production you will expect to laugh, to cry and to be angry but when you leave the theatre you should leave with a better perspective of the effects of a victim of sexual assault and the mind frame of the individuals who decides to commit that crime.
The coffee shop has a deeper meaning than what the people may first perceive. It gets deep and dark we deal with issues like infidelity, sexual assault, abuse and more. But throughout the play you will see how my main character helps bring together a collection of people who are deeply hurt and help sort through the pain.
TJWJ: Not only are you a play writer you are also a big on education, can you talk about the ways you give back to the community?
SD: Yes, Learning is a never ending process. Going to college was one of the best experiences of my life I believe it shaped me into the woman I am today. People always say college isn’t for everyone but there are other options, some people skill set maybe more technical and more hands on. I am pro education all day.When you get out here in the world you have to compete and having that experience and extra degree will sometimes give you that step up.
So because education plays a big role in my life and I was the first person to graduate in my family I knew that I would want to give away college scholarships. We are giving away $1000.00 this year, people don’t realize how much anything can help, because books alone are very costly. I noticed that no one in my family knew about financial aid and I know that can be a scary task when it comes to money for furthering your education so this is really big to me. I soon hope to give full scholarships away in the future.
TJWJ: What can your audience expect from you in the upcoming future?
SD: I just completed a one act play called vagina rights which tackles the issues of transgender, HIV and more. We also tour around the southern states and beyond so you can expect to see my productions in more cities.
TJWJ: Whats a mantra you like to live by?
SD: Make sure your faith is strong because everything is not going to move when you want it to move. So you have to make sure you have strong faith.So I live by” trust the process”.
To keep up with Shaneisha and all of her upcoming projects please visit http://www.blackgirlzproductions.com.