Thursday, June 11, 2009


Shawn Whitsell

Meet Shawn Whitsell, Nashville actor/producer and co-founder of The Shades of Black Festival

What role did theater and the arts play in your childhood?
The arts played a huge role in my childhood. I grew up singing, dancing, acting, writing and playing musical instruments. I had a number of interests growing up but I always knew it was my calling to be an artist and entertainer. My small hometown didn't offer many opportunities or much variety in the arts so I began creating my own projects, which paved the way for the producing that I'm doing now as an adult.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I've been very fortunate to have had several wonderful opportunities, specifically in theatre, and with every experience, I try to learn as much as I can so that I can grow as an artist and apply those lessons to the next project. I think I'm more confident and I have a stronger sense of what I want to do and where I want to go. My standards have definitely been raised. I'm a lot more in tune with both my strengths and weaknesses. It's important to me to remain a student of my craft, regardless of how much success I might attain.

What is the history of the Shades of Black festival and what has your role been in that history?
In 2006, three African American theatre companies, Robins Nest Theatre, SistaStyle Productions and Dream 7 Theatre productions were booked at the Darkhorse Theater back to back, so the original idea was to join forces to promote the shows together. The idea then grew into packaging the shows together as one event and adding some workshops to create a small festival. I was the assistant artistic director of Dream 7, so I've been apart of Shades of Black planning committee from the very start. I've been able contribute to the planning of all Shades of Black events and last year my company, the Destiny Theatre Experience, presented two shows in the festival.

What are some of the anticipated highlights of this year's festival?
Well, we're still in the process of accepting submissions so I really can't say what specific shows are going to be presented. However, I will say that I'm looking forward to the festival as a whole. Shades of Black is always a very exciting time in Nashville theatre and I guarantee that this year will be our best year yet. To learn more about the Shades of Black Festival, please click the post's title.

What are your thoughts on Nashville as a theater town?
I think Nashville is a great theatre town. I've had some wonderful experiences here as a theatre artist and I've been fortunate to work with a number of great professional and community theatre companies in various capacities. However, I think there's still a great deal of room for growth and development. I would also love to see more African American actors earning their living as theatre artists. I definitely see Shades of Black serving as a catalyst for creating those opportunities.

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