Shanì Brown, a senior at Conn has made her mark around campus. As a Theater major and Dance and Anthropology minor, Shanì has been able to incorporate all of her interests into an academic career that she loves and is passionate about. When I sat down with Shanì to ask her about her experiences, she explained that when she arrived at Conn as a freshman she intended to study Marine Biology. Dance had always been part of her background and family history, but it was something she had not really considered. However, a change happened almost spontaneously after being recruited into the 2009 musical and with the realization she had taken enough dance classes to consider minoring. This year, Shanì has been able to bridge her interests in culture, body language, feminism, and womanhood with a dance performance that will take place on May 4th at 7:00 and 8:30 PM in Myers Studio. Be sure to check out this original performance to see one of Conn's own talents!
Hometown: Harlem, New York City
Dorm: Katherine Blunt
What was your first theater experience at Conn?
I had done some theater in high school but really stumbled upon it here, after I was recruited to audition for Hair: The Musical my freshman year (Spring 2009). Couldn’t leave the department after!
What has been your most memorable theater experience at Conn?
Playing the role of Mrs. Muller in the Conn Fall 2009 production of Doubt had to be my most memorable experience. I remember and have enjoyed all of the productions that I have been able to be a part of, but with Mrs. Muller, Nancy Hoffman (Director, Professor & Mentor) and I had time to invest in her story and make her a part of me. And for one of the shows, I truly became her – I saw my son and who I was fighting for – and it truly felt like I was another person. Those are the moments I look forward to in theater.
What is your favorite part about acting/dancing? What is the most difficult part of being an ‘performer’?
My favorite part and probably the most difficult part about acting and/or dancing is the audience – it’s all about the audience! I love getting to see and hear their reactions to what I am putting out to them on the stage. For dance, it’s a bit harder because of its more fleeting nature, but I still try to find a least one person in the audience to make eye-contact with, to make a connection with. Their energy is what gives me mine, and it can be both fortunate and disconcerting depending on the nights. But that’s just it – every performance must be different and newer because the audience will be completely different! So I come with what I have, and offer it to them, looking forward to whatever they throw back at me. It’s a beautifully visceral exchange.
You probably get asked this question all the time, but what is your favorite play or movie? Are there any actors whom you look up to?
Because I have just been getting into my Theater life within the past four years, I have really just been using this time to read more plays, see more plays, and just give myself as thorough of an education in the field as I can. So I couldn’t say I have a favorite play, but amongst the one’s I have seen, I still have to say that Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey still holds a special place in my heart – it was my first Broadway show and the story so profoundly touched me. But I just saw the environmental production Sleep No More, and I have an idea of where I am auditioning next!
What has been your favorite theater class at Conn?
I think my favorite Theater class at Conn had to be Acting Three: Scene Study with David Jaffe this past Fall (Fall 2011). It had been a while since I had been in a workshop class with all of the other classes I had to take, and Jaffe really called upon what makes an actor work which I performing with ‘intention’. In a small amount of time, I have learned a lot from him.
Have you been involved with any theater work outside Conn?
I have! This past summer was a whirlwind as I attended the CC and Washington University at St. Louis Made In France summer intensive performance program, came back to the city and assisted the stage manager for the Cape Playhouse production of Crazy For You while they were rehearsing in New York (Thanks Rodney!) and interned at the Looking Glass Theatre New York as an acting apprentice for the remainder of the summer, which culminated with a scene showing that myself and the other interns produced. My best summer yet! I am currently work with the Didakan West African Drumming and Dance Troop, and touring with their company while I’m still here in Connecticut. It’s been an amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to many more!
Do you have plans to continue your acting career after graduation?
I do! Through a generous scholarship from the Theater department and their benefactor, I will be attending a full conservatory year at the Lee Strasberg Institute for Theater this coming Fall. From here, I hope to save my pennies and go for their Two-Year certificate program, and after that, I hope to do dance-theater work as a career, and for world peace, of course!