Shift the Space: A Series of Interviews with Black Artists

Shift the Space: A Series of Interviews with Black Artists is a project through which we are interviewing black creatives (the interviews are in the form of zoom recordings or written interviews) whose art we either have witnessed first hand by working with them or have seen from afar and admired.

Every Friday we will be posting an episode and we would love for you to watch/read them and take the time to check out these people's amazing art. Along with the interviews, we will post a bio of the artist and a list of resources/inspiration they mention during the interview. 

Episode 1: Soma Okoye 

Soma Okoye @soma.okoye is an actor, content creator, and creative director. Her work takes on many forms but her through-line is to use her artistry to explore the nature of humanity, both through and beyond her identity as a Black, Queer, Nigerian-American Womxn. Most recently she founded the online platform Naked & Nourished @nakedxnourished that explores the nature of existence, our capacity to love, and our intrinsic role in the universe. She graduated from NYU Tisch School of Arts with a BFA in Drama. www.somaokoye.com

 

Here is a list of the inspiration Soma mentioned during her interview: 

- Jean-Michel Basquait

- "Children of Blood and Bone" - book by Tomi Adeyemi

- Ava DuVernay (director of the documentary "13th" and TV Series "When They See Us," both available on Netflix)

- Lupita Nyong’o

- "Pose" (Netflix)

- "Disclosure" (Netflix)

Episode 2: Cris Eli Blak

Cris Eli Blak is a playwright, screenwriter, performer, poet, producer and theatre practitioner. He wrote and co-produced the film The Brother’s Survivor, which won an award at the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival, and is a two-time poetry slam champion. His plays have been produced, performed and/or published by Urban Stages (Off-Broadway), The Quean’s Theatre and Flaw State (London), Melting Pot Theatre (Australia), Cleveland Public Theatre, Illuminate Theatre, Little Red Theatre Company, among others, and is currently developing new works with The Pressure Players, Eclectic Full Contact Theatre and, of course, Et Alia Theater Company. He continues to strive to tell stories of real people in our society.

Episode 3: Josca Moore

Josca Moore is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A in Drama. During her time at NYU Josca performed in several plays such as Crave, The Colored Museum, and We are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. She is also a trained ballet and modern dancer and has worked with legends such as Debbie Allen, Lisa Simone (Daughter of Nina Simone), Sting, and Paul Simon. Josca is a writer at heart, and aims to invoke a call to action in all of her work. She is currently working on a script that she plans to workshop as soon as it is safest to do so; in the meantime she is focused on submitting her work to theater festivals.

Episode 4:  Letícia Calvosa

Letícia Calvosa graduated from Centro Universitário Senac São Paulo with a degree in Multimedia Production and from the acting conservatory program at Globe-SP Centro de Formação de Ator. She performed in Aristophanes' The Clouds, adapted and directed by Hugo Possolo, as part of Parlapatōes' showcase. She was also a performer in the show  Distopia Brasil, directed by Pedro Granato. She is an actor and producer at Cia. do Liquidificador, a theater company focused on storytelling, literary interventions and children's plays, one of their recent productions being Vida de Pirata, written and directed by Fábio Spila. Her most recent project is Caso Cabaré Privê, an online immersive experience also directed by Pedro Granato, which will be running every Saturday and Sunday until September 6th.

Episode 5: Déja Denise Green

Déja Denise is an actor-producer-spoken word artist-model-content creator. With the belief that she has the gift of vision, she continuously strives to making her ideas into reality, including finding a delicate balance between her hyphenates.  Her work centers mostly around combining arts disciplines to enhance audience experience. What’s more? She’s a black woman in the entertainment industry and she believes her work should unapologetically exude and appreciate this piece of her identity. She’s an excel wizard and occasionally enjoys anime with her boyfriend on a good day... maybe a Thursday!

Episode 6: Joie Mitchell

Joie Mitchell is an actor, singer, writer, and Drake aficionado. The NYU Tisch graduate and New York native is currently writing her first feature film, starting a Youtube channel centered around lifestyle and music reviews, and working on the bones of a podcast titled Body as Protest.

Here is a list of recommendations Joie mentioned during her interview:

- Search Party

- I May Destroy You

- Normal People

- Love Life

- Changeling

- Unorthodox

You can find her Youtube channel here and listen to her album "Afros Have More Fun" here

Episode 7: Katrina Newman

Katrina Newman is a senior at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and she will graduate with her B.F.A. in Drama in December. During her years at NYU, Katrina has performed on stage, such as in her lead role of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew through Shakespeare in the Square, and other productions with the Atlantic Acting School. More recently, she has been able to delve into her love for film and TV acting in her time at Stonestreet Studios. There, she has acted in short films such as Snap, Into the Badlands, and The Depths of Me; this final short film she wrote herself. As a professionally trained singer, she would love to do more projects that incorporate this skill that she has always been passionate about. Now, she would also like to prioritize writing collaborations with other artists on TV/web series, while continuing her own screenplays as well.

Episode 8: Adam Boggs McDonald

Adam Boggs McDonald is an actor singer, and dancer from Las Vegas, NV. He graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in 2018. His goal is to make space for young bari-basses and black men in musical theatre. He wants to thank his family, friends, voice teacher Jared Trudeau, and inspiration of Phillipa Soo to help guide him as a performer and as a human. You can follow him on Instagram for singing content here: @adamboggsmcd

Episode 9: MOZIAH (Marcus Moziah Guerrier)

MOZIAH (Marcus Moziah Guerrier) is more than just an emerging pop artist—he is a storyteller by trade. The 23-year-old Haitian-American creative from central New Jersey has been surrounded by artistic inspiration from an early age, and that energy went on to fuel his own pursuits as he grew into adulthood. After watching his dad sing around the house as a kid, Guerrier sang in church choirs, theater productions, and even played in a punk ska band in high school.

 

His first week at NYU’s esteemed Tisch School of the Arts, MOZIAH received a bootleg copy of Logic from his roommate ,and began making beats between classes while he studied Drama.  At age 18, he started to release music under the name MOZIAH—his middle name shared with Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey. With the help of his collaborators, MOZIAH wrote, co-produced, and released his first album Dax Nextdoor in 2018, which gained hundreds of thousands of streams across platforms and was a "coming of age story about fear, love, and learning to fuck with yourself." Along with the album, MOZIAH co-directed two music videos with his childhood friends, Cinematographer Nicolas J Capra and director Tyler Crosby:  “Can’t Stay In One Place” in October 2018 and ”Skerred (feat. Still Gosling and AANI)“ in June 2019. Last year, MOZIAH self-produced and released Finessa Hudgens which included collabs with CamRus (Camrus Johnson, CW’s Batwoman), Carter Ace, and mau.

 

On Aug 16th, MOZIAH dropped ZYEBOI—the first of 2 fraternal eps set to release over the next stretch. Strapped with an eclectic mix of influences and training in entertainment, MOZIAH strives to use music to tell true stories that KNOCK.

Here are the references:

  • Avenue Q

  • Rent

  • Tennyson

  • Philip Glass

  • Ludwig Göransson

  • Queen

  • Carole King

  • Stevie Wonder​

Episode 10: Marcus "Zebra" Smith

Marcus “Zebra” Smith 24, is from the sunny island of Bermuda. He recently graduated from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU in May 2018 with a BFA in Theatre with minors in Dance and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Upon graduating, he hit the ground running in the Big Apple. 

 

During this past year, his credits include being an Action Hero with the Streb Extreme Action Company, a background actor for Netflix’s TALES OF THE CITY, a contestant on MTV’s SINGLED OUT, a dancer in multiple shows for NYFW as well as Todrick Hall’s recent viral music video WIG. He has also graced some of the biggest stages in New York such as the Barclay’s Center, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre and the NYU Skirball Performing Arts Center. 

 

His main goal is to spread joy while traveling the world (COVID-19 permitting)! He’s very excited to be moving back to New York City.

Episode 11: Benjamin Freemantle 

Benjamin Freemantle is a New York and Toronto based director, editor, and dancer, whose narrative and documentary works focus on themes of pride, identity, and race. He graduated with a BFA in Film & Television from Tisch School of the Arts with honors Summa Cum Laude.  

 

His short film Wishes and Dreams has received numerous awards and official selections, including an Award of Merit in the Social Justice category at The Best Shorts Competition. His latest short film, Squeak, finished as a semi-finalist at the Dumbo Film Festival, a finalist at the FROSTBITE International Film Festival, received an Award of Merit from the IndieFEST Film Awards, and has competed at festivals across North America and Europe. Currently Freemantle has two projects in post production, Our Problem, a short surreal satire, and Where Are You From Again?, a short drama, both starting their festival circuit in the fall. 

 

As an editor he has had the pleasure of working with many different directors and clients. His narrative, experimental, and documentary projects have been featured on Booooooom TV,  and have screened at festivals such as The Fight Club Film Festival, the Asian American International Film Festival, and the Academy Award Qualifying Santa Barbra Film Festival. 

 

Freemantle has worked on the production teams for top industry names such as Jigsaw Productions, Our Time Projects, and Truly Original, producing content for Netflix, Youtube TV, Paramount Network, and most recently a two-part Tiger Woods documentary series being released on HBO this December.

 

Recommendations Ben mentions:

- Avatar: The Last Airbender (Netflix) 

- Tiger King (Netflix)

- 13th (Netflix)

- I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)

- 1984, book by George Orwell 

Episode 12: TaNia

We are Talia Paulette Oliveras and Nia Farrell, collectively Ta-Nia. We are a theatre-making duo committed to challenging the limits of theatre to create unapologetically BLK spaces of liberation and actualization. We are creators and performers who focus on developing new work that foregrounds identity, collectivity, and celebrations of dreams. 

We studied experimental and collaborative theatre-making at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where we both received a BFA in Drama. During our studies, we participated in the MLK Scholars program and graduated with honors. Our work has since been presented in Ars Nova’s ANT Fest 2019 and will be in Theatretreffen’s Stückemarkt 2021. Currently, we are members of the Soho Rep 2019–2021 Writer/Director Lab and finalists for SPACE on Ryder Farm’s Creative Residency 2020.

We are both multi-hyphenate artists who apply our interdisciplinary nature to the art we create in both process and product. Talia has performed for and/ or collaborated with Musical Theatre Factory, Big Green Theater, Theatre Mitu, JACK, Mabou Mines, The Public, and BAM. Nia has collaborated with Second Stage Theater, The Public Mobile Unit, National Black Theatre, New Ohio Theatre, and Williamstown Theatre Festival.   

Episode 13: Bruno Lourenço Dos Santos

Bruno began his artistic career at 12. Since then, he has worked with TV, cinema, music and with a lot of theater companies in São Paulo. He directed the music of three theater shows and was awarded for it. He was also awarded as an actor in different festivals. His most recent work was Silvio, in the show Onisciente, directed by Isabel Valiante and Julia Jordão. He also played Rudel on the HBO show PSI, directed by Fábio Mendonça. Currently he’s shooting a HBO new show called “A Névoa”.

Episode 14: Darius Al-Aziz 

Darius Al-Aziz is an LA/NYC based actor and singer. He is a senior at NYU Tisch Drama. His acting training includes time he spent at the Atlantic Acting School studio, NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, and the Black Arts Institute (an extension of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting). Some of his credits include the role of Tonton Julian in a production of Once on This Island (Lynn Ahrens / Stephen Flaherty) and Troy Maxson in Fences (August Wilson). He was most recently involved in a digital online musical titled, The Legend of Astrophela, written by Rushalee Nirodi and directed by Alex Ramirez. When he isn’t acting, he enjoys writing poetry.