Every week, The Mac Weekly interviews one senior majoring in an artistic field at Macalester. This week, we spoke with a Salima Seale, who is majoring in theater.
Where are you from?
I am from Washington D.C.
Do you have any other majors besides theater?
Nope, just theater.
In what other ways are you involved on campus?
This year I’m involved in Scotch Tape, one of our co-ed acappella groups. In the past I was on the board for Black Liberation Affairs Committee, BLAC, our student org and the Black History Month Committee—but not this year, too much going on!
How are you involved with theater on campus this year?
This year I’m stage manager for the mainstage show, “The Government Inspector.”
Can you talk a little bit about your past work with Central Touring Theater?
It’s a group of high school students from Central High School. There are multiple acting classes, or at least in the past there were. They would meet two hours a day, Monday through Friday. So it’s high school students mainly juniors and seniors. And over the course of mainly the first semester but really the whole year, they create a piece that speaks to things that are bothering them, whatever that is. So they write pieces, they write poetry, they put together songs, music, monologues, scenes; they find ways to tell their stories.
What got you interested in theater in the first place?
I was forced to take an acting class my freshman year of high school. I didn’t want to do it at all. It was like mandatory—all 9th graders, we all took acting. And my school, there wasn’t a lot of arts programming, but they brought in, I think it was somebody’s cousin’s wife, was an acting teacher. And then they couldn’t find a different art thing for us to do, so we did that again sophomore year. And by the end of it, it had really helped to get me out of my shell. I don’t think I ever would have made it on stage if it wasn’t for that class.
What’s the theater piece that you’ve been a part of that of that you’ve been most proud of?
The summer after my sophomore year at Macalester, I interned with Penumbra Theatre Company, which is actually like down the street! They have this summer institute for middle and high school students. It’s similar to what they do at CTT, but it’s a month long intensive—they’re there from like eight to five everyday. There are various classes: yoga, acting classes, improv classes, a social justice theater class. So letting them learn about social justice issues that are going on. And the other classes, they learn how to talk about that, present that, perform all that. So I worked with a group of kids in their first years—it’s a three year program, so there’s three different sets of kids—I worked with the youngest ones. At the end of the month they put together a show and I was actually able to be a part of it too. And that was great because there were kids, one girl was 13, and all of the sudden she came one day and she was like, “I wrote this poem! Can I read it for you guys?!”And it was amazing and everyone loved it! They all pulled together to make it into this group piece that wasn’t just about her. So I think that was probably my proudest thing.
What’s the most important thing you learned from working with kids?
Another hard question! I’m always amazed by how much young kids, especially middle and high school students, take on and how much they really have to deal with. I mean, like, I had issues growing up, I had some issues with things I’d deal with—there’s friend drama, there’s parent drama, you’re trying to figure things out—especially in middle school. But a lot of these kids that I worked with are dealing with real life stuff that I didn’t have to deal with as a kid, and that I didn’t realize that my friends were dealing with at the time. At times it’s almost like it’s straight out of the movies. I’m like, “This can’t be real life!” But I guess the important part is not that they have issues but that they are finding creative ways to work on them. These kids that I’ve worked with are so articulate. And granted they get a lot of help through these programs, but they themselves are coming and saying, “I want to talk about this. People need to know.” And how, just how engaged they are is really really…empowering.
**What’s a show that you’ve worked on that you’ve felt the most connected to?
Weirdly enough, I haven’t acted since being at Macalester. I started off my emphasis with acting and then I switched to stage management last year because I realized I’d been doing that for a while. I really loved working on “The Laramie Project,” which is the first show that I stage managed here at Macalester. That was just a really big learning moment for me. I learned so much from that production, working with the director Harry Waters, one of the professors here. And the cast became a really tight knit group, and that was really, really important for me. To be able to work with people on a really personal level was really nice because we all felt like it was our production, it wasn’t just the actors or the crew—it was this really good mix.
Jumping back to your life here at Macalester, why is it that you chose to spend your four years here in the first place?
It sounds really really dumb, I think, at first. I came as a sophomore in high school and I came to visit because one of my older cousins was coming to visit, and we went on a tour, and I thought our tour guide was the, like, the coolest girl ever. I just remember, she’s giving us this tour, and then all of a sudden, she points up at one of the buildings and she has full on armpit hair! And you could tell that parents were kind of weirded out and my cousin’s like, “That’s disgusting, oh my gosh! I can’t go here!” And I was like, “Yup! This is where I’m coming to school!” If a tour guide can have armpit hair and be a representative of the school, that’s a cool place to be.
Once you do leave Macalester, how do you plan on using what you learned here and applying it to whatever you choose to do afterwards?
For one, I hope to get a job! Working in stage management or get various jobs, not just one, but to continue working in stage management. But also my work with middle and high school students, I think that’s really important, and really staying connected to them. Because I really feel like I have an obligation because of the people [who’ve] really taken the time, given me so many opportunities, to try and give them as many as I can. And really connect with, if I’m here in the Twin Cities, I’m not sure, especially the community around Macalester, because I feel like there could be a disconnect between the people who live in this community, especially high school students, and the Macalester students who come here from all over the place—so really trying to bridge that gap.
Any last words, words to live by, mantras or catch phrases?
The struggle is real.
I understand that.
I figured a lot of Macalester students will be able to understand.