Hello, My Name is No Name
By Keta Polite
When meeting someone for the first time, what’s the first question we ask? Hello, I’m _____, what’s your name?
What happens when you have No Name? Maybe you’ve had experiences trying to justify and defend your blackness because people say you “talk like a white girl”. Perhaps you’ve had to defend your reputation because of your popularity or outward expression of your sexuality. Maybe you have a big bubbly personality and a waistline to match that has gotten you labeled as the big Black woman. Can you identify with any of these women?
Shannon Dada, Founder and Director of Evoladad Productions, gives us an in depth look into the lives and experiences of women who have No Name. No More Martyrs is celebrating the African American Heritage Month with a special theme: #RepresentationMatters To Our #MentalHealth! To kick off the month of February, No More Martyrs will be on-site in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, February 3, 2018 for the debut of No Name. Click here for details on how you can join No More Martyrs for this special night of theatre and sisterhood.
Hailing from California, Shannon Dada is a published writer and new director now residing in Atlanta, Georgia. A career student, Shannon has studied a plethora of subjects from theatre to classic literature, socio-linguistics, foreign language and human psychological development. Shannon is a compelling and powerful writer & director. She has the propensity for poetically capturing human drives and shining intense insights upon human character.
I asked Shannon if she’d be willing to share some of her anticipations for the upcoming premiere of No Name and the future of her growing production company Evoladad Productions. I was ecstatic to interview Shannon.
So let’s get to the Interview!
How did you get into writing and directing?
I’ve been a writer my entire life. I’m a career student and have done a lot of traveling. So, I’ve studied everything from classical literature to human psychology. At the age of 10, I enjoyed Shakespeare.
What does Evoladad mean?
Evoladad is “dada love” spelled backwards. Evoladad represents our intentional approach to theatre. We aim to empower black women through loving leadership and authentic representation. “Evol” represents evolution. Through my studies of Latin, I learned that “vola” comes from the word volar which means to fly. I believed that building community amongst black women through loving leadership and progressive evolution in the performing arts enables collective flight.
Tell me about how Evoladad Productions and why you started it?
Evoladad Productions was started in 2017. I’d moved to Atlanta as a new teacher and I was having a hard time with life. During Uber rides, I met many black women working as Uber drivers who shared the same story. These women all wanted to know why the narratives of black women in mass media only focus on conflict between us. Where are the narratives of black women creating a culture of community? It’s not typical in the performing arts and entertainment industry for black women to be noticed by casting directors. Even if we are more experienced than our counterparts, casting directors don’t see us. There aren’t enough roles for black women.
Tell me about No Name
After hearing the countless stories from black women, I felt that their story, our story needed to be heard. So I wrote No Name and started casting for the original eight roles. Hundreds of women from all over Atlanta came to the auditions. By the second audition we were at standing room only and added a ninth character.
No Name is an emotional play that includes poetry and modern dance. The play is about nine black women with diverse stories that are representative of the various intersections of Black identity. Each character is given the opportunity to narrate her story and her journey to find her voice in the midst of mass media determined to silence her with stereotypes.
I want people to know that No Name was a group effort. After I wrote No Name, it was seen by 25 people who analyzed and contributed to the final production. We spent hours auditioning the cast, often stopping to cry and soak in the stories of the hundreds of women who showed up. I am thankful for the blessing of all of the No Name contributors.
Which No Name character do you identify with the most?
I identify with all of them. Each of the nine characters in No Name represents nine chapters of my life. At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. I know what it’s like to go to therapy, talk about medication and the stigma that comes with a mental illness.
Why do you think the representation of Black women in the arts is important to mental health?
Black women have become nameless due to negative stereotypes that we have internalized and our adherence to the stifling concept of martyrdom. It is because of stereotypes and martyrdom that we have difficulty with the message of love, self-care and unity amongst us. We exist in a superficial community that encourages stoicism and discourages us from sharing in our individual and communal healing.