COLLAB Corner: A Guest Blog Post by Shavanna Calder, Equity & Diversity Strategist

July 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter. Over the last month, Tim and I have furthered our dedication to learning, listening, and reflecting on how we can use our cis-hetero-white privilege to better protect and advance the civil liberties of our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ clients and collaborators. One way we can do that is by introducing you to our newest IVS team member, Shavanna Calder. She will be working with us to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, respected, supported, and encouraged to let their unique artistic voices be heard both within the voice studio and within the entertainment world at large.


Please read more about her work as an actor and EDI consultant below!


Who are you?

My name is Shavanna! I’m a first generation, NYC born, CA raised creative! Post Cali upbringing, I returned to the east coast to attend Wellesley College. After school, I moved all of my stuff to NYC and worked at places like North Shore Music Theatre and The ZACH. Right before grad school at NYU, I performed in the national tour of Hairspray. Since graduating from NYU, I started Arts in Color (a site about people of color in theatre), had hip surgery, relearned to walk, worked full time at NYU for a handful of years before leaving to return (once again) to performing. :)


Why are you passionate about this work? 

Why wouldn’t I be?! Haha. No honestly, everyone should be invested in creating an equitable world. If you’re not, I am giving major side eye. In addition, I have to be. Unfortunately, within a white supremacist society, the majority of this type of work falls on the shoulders of the communities that are already oppressed. To ignore it or avoid it can only be done from a place of privilege.  


What's your experience working in this industry- both as an Equity & Diversity Strategist as well as an actor?

I started performing when I was 5 in a mixture of community and youth theatre. When I turned 7, I started working commercially. At 16, I started earning EMC points in my first equity show (The Wiz). From there, I performed in Boston while I was at Wellesley and then worked a bunch regionally once I moved to NYC. Post grad school, I transitioned to focus more on plays (at Symphony Space, Milwaukee Rep) as well as film/tv (HBO etc.)! Regarding EDI work, I studied Sociology at Wellesley and that informed part of the work I did with Arts in Color. I also consult with theatre companies taking steps to create more equitable environments in building their company of actors as well as their audition processes, etc. 


What's one of your favorite theatrical experiences in your career thus far? What made it special?

Equally, seeing Porgy & Bess and Hamilton before they transferred to Bway. The music director for Porgy & Bess was a Black woman at A.R.T. (I sobbed during the overture, once I realized this). Hamilton...I mean...getting to see that at The Public, & meet the original cast, was a once in a lifetime experience.


Who's your Broadway Jesus aka the person who inspires you more than anything? What do you love about them?

Tie between Cynthia Erivo and Tonya Pinkins. Cynthia’s voice (as we all know) is incomparable. Couple that with her acting skills and fitness...all around #goals. Tonya also for her acting talent and ability to speak truth to power and stand up for her beliefs within our industry. 


What's a story of a time where you had a life-changing a-ha moment?

Seeing an ENT in Milwaukee who normalized my struggles, who was familiar with vocal studies that centered Black people. The way he spoke to me gave me a bit of hope in relation to my voice and was one of the first times outside of working with a Black voice teacher that started to restore confidence in my experience.


What fun media have you been consuming during shelter-in-place?

Anything Hashtag Booked, Casa De Papel, Mindy Kaling‘s new show Never Have I Ever, Dead to Me, many of the Versuz battles, PBS NewsHour and old Sidney Poitier movies.


Hey remember when we could see shows- what’s a fun show you saw recently?

Mine! Haha. Only partially kidding as The Legend of Georgia McBride IS a fun show with a lot of heart, and I sincerely miss that experience. I would watch the parts I was offstage for every night. Outside of that, the last thing that I saw in theaters that I loved was Kate Hamill’s Dracula. It was the last time I was in New York in mid-February for a week, and I wanted to see my friend Lori's Off-Broadway debut. Jessica Frances Dukes was in it, and she’s my other Bway Jesus (moreso for plays). So far, I have loved pretty much everything Kate has done, so it was two of my favorite worlds coming together!


What's your go-to midtown pre-show quick dinner spot?

There used to be a soul food spot! I’m really sad it’s no longer there. I took my mom there for her birthday right before taking her to see Color Purps :-) With that gone, I do love City Kitchen for various options in one place.


Do you have a favorite moment with Tim or Jenna that you'd like to share? 

Jenna is definitely one of my show buddies, and we have a lot of the same Bway crushes (Josh Henry being at the top of our list). Seeing shows with her is one of my fave parts of being in the city, and I definitely miss it during these corona times.


What's Arts in Color? Where can we find out more information about it? How can we follow the work you've done?

Arts in Color is a site I created in 2013 to celebrate, inform and inspire people of color in theatre. As my acting career took off, it became more difficult to manage. The main space you can go to to follow us now is our Facebook page. The website is making a reappearance, so that folx can have access to the valuable info and work we provided over the years (interviews, reviews, history all poc related). Stay tuned!


What's your favorite guilty pleasure show tune? 

I’m not sure that it’s guilty, just pleasure :) Cynthia Erivo singing  ‘I’m Here’ forever changed the game.


What's your favorite Black-owned business?

Oh my gosh it’s so hard to choose one! One option is my hairstylist Nicole who is based in Brooklyn! I found her through a friend, and she is the truth and the light! I’m so sad that I haven’t been able to visit her since February. My hair can tell! The other is my cousin, Akeila who started @cookingwithkeeks_. She’s a chef based in the Bay Area that can cook anything amazingly & her food is accessible. I’m incredibly proud of her.


What are they selling that you've loved and would recommend?

For Nicole you’d have to visit her salon. She sends her price list via her email, Akeila, I would just say follow her because, sadly, for folx based in NYC, she’s so far away (!), but you can spread the word about both of them. If you want to purchase something online/in stores, I’d say my friend Naa-Sakle Akuete’s new line called Mother’s Shea. It’s sold at Target and is the most deliciously smelling shea butter I’ve experienced in my life. 


If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be?

How dare you make me choose just one! I would be really anything at Morgenstern’s. Their ice cream is fancy, thoughtful, custom and every experience feels unique unlike any other experience I’ve had. I’ve loved mint chocolate chip since I was a kid, so, for my last bday, I had a mint chip ice cream cake (from them) with ‘Down with the Patriarchy’ written on it :)

For more information about Shavanna, please visit her website.  


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