StateraArts members come from all over the USA and all genres of art-making. They are educators, arts leaders, activists, content-creators, professional artists, early career, mid-career, patrons, and community organizers. The Statera Member Spotlight is just one way StateraArts uplifts and amplifies the voices of our members. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Malini Singh McDonald.
STATERA: What inspires your work most?
MALINI SINGH McDONALD: Other people. One of the great opportunities I have with Theatre Beyond Broadway is that I'm aware of who is creating. And I have to tell you, being able to see what other people are doing at all levels (when it’s very green; in the early stage of their development; a complete rewrite or reworking of a piece; all of it) and the fact that we are all willing to keep creating, inspires me. Also, whenever someone has a desire to create something and I'm able to have a hand in making that come through, it fulfills me. I always tell people, "if you have a dream go after it!" You can. Dreams do come true. You just have to have a clear path about what you're going to do to achieve them.
SA: What is your occupation or calling in the arts?
MSM: I am a director, producer, and publicist.
SA: What organizations are you affiliated with?
MSM: Co-VP of Communications for the League of Professional Theatre Women, a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Associate Producer for the Broadway Artist Connection, producing partner for The Anthropologists, and a member of StateraArts!
SA: Tell us about your favorite project you've done thus far.
MSM: That's hard! Recently I directed The Wiz in Liberia, West Africa with a group of young people (Matsiko World Choir) who had never done theatre. They've never seen it or performed it. They definitely had experience singing in front of crowds but that is a different platform. It was definitely a teaching opportunity. It was also difficult because we were only there for twelve days and The Wiz is not an easy show! The luxuries we have in NYC isn’t quite available. You can't simply run down the road to grab a prop or call your theatre connections to ask for glow tape. It was literally, "What do we have at hand and what can we do with it?". But it was magical because we had 42 kids performing and 8 on the production team and to get to see 50 kids' eyes light up and the theatre bug bite them, it's inexpressible. Theatre is lives in all of us. The desire for acceptance and validation is universal. Watching them take in the fact that they made this from scratch (we let them create the set), and to hear the applause they received was inspiring.
SA: Why did you become a STATERA member?
MSM: There's something fiery about how you inspire and talk about artists of all backgrounds. I often wonder, "Are we creating a bigger conversation or just talking amongst ourselves?" We could all sit in someone’s living room and talk about the woes of the world for hours, but what action are we taking? Statera is fueling that action. The way Statera builds opportunity is so important. StateraCon is also really exciting to me - to get to see what other women are doing. I'm at a place in my career where I don't need to do things just to do them. Being in action is really important to me. However I show up, I want to make sure I'm making a change, a difference, being a voice for someone who doesn't have a voice yet. I can do that. I also have a ridiculous circle of warrior women (and men) who are my sisters and brothers in arms. The women I surround myself with are fire-starters. I'm looking forward to making more of these connections through Statera.
SA: Any upcoming projects you'd like to share with us?
MSM: I'm producing the Cherry Orchard at Dixon Place at the end of this year, and am on the team for Chasing Rainbows at Paper Mill Playhouse. I always try to have a commercial project and an indie project on my docket together!
SA: Tell us about another woman or non-binary artist who inspires your work.
MSM: Marina Abramovic is someone I'm kind of obsessed with. It feels like she is doing what I don't have the guts to do. She’s the person who I think "Okay, wow you are truly an artist. You are breaking boundaries." I think at times I channel a little bit of that energy, but never completely. Not to that extent.
SA: Mentorship is at the core of the STATERA mission. Tell us about one of your mentors. How did they shape you or provide pathways for opportunity?
MSM: My mentor is my professor from undergrad, Eleanor. I've known her since I was 18. She embodies everything I want to be. She is strong woman, clear about what she wants, and clear about her needs. That attracted so many of us to want to be under her tutelage. Eleanor taught us that we had to learn every aspect of the theatre, respect everyone on the team, that not one artist was better than the other because of "title". Her casts were diverse regardless of the time period of a production. As a result, we all had a chance to perform in classics, musicals, etc. She's the one who said to me, "Malini, why don't you direct?". She's my biggest fan, and I still see her often. There's yet to be a show where I didn't have a conversation with her first. Eleanor is always so proud of me. I can tell. This industry is difficult for someone who looks like me. It didn't come easily for her either. She lived and worked in the midst of the theatre community here in New York City in the 1970s and so forth, and while she was perfectly qualified, she never directed on Broadway, like she'd dreamed. There weren't many women being given that opportunity then. She’s been a happy retiree, still teaching and still inspiring me. I hope I am carrying that fire.
MALINI SINGH MCDONALD is a native New Yorker who has been involved in the arts for her entire life. She received her BA in Theatre Arts and English Literature from Baruch College and her MFA in Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School. Select theatre credits include the upcoming Chasing Rainbow (Paper Mill Playhouse), the revival of Godspell (Producer, Broadway Revival); The Year of Living Dangerously (Publicist, 54 Below); Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg (Publicist, HERE Arts Center); From Ship to Shape (Publicist, Winner of Two United Solo Awards); The Eternal Space (Associate Producer & Marketing Director, Theatre Row); The Wiz (Director, Matsiko World Orphan Choir, Liberia); Torch Song Trilogy (Director, ATA); Hamlet: The Viking Prince of Denmark (Producer, Black Henna Productions). Malini is also the founder of Theatre Beyond Broadway which provides a platform to promote and support independent artists. Malini is the Co-VP of Communications for the League of Professional Theatre Women, a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the Associate Producer for the Broadway Artist Connection, producing partner for The Anthropologists, and a member of StateraArts. Malini has been recognized for her role in the community with the Woman of Distinction Award for her contribution to Media, Arts and Culture from the City of New York. www.malinism.com and www.theatrebeyondbroadway.com.