While the pandemic may have shut down in person theatres, the quest to make new art hasn’t stopped. In fact, some of the most creative, boundary-pushing, and innovative shows over the last year have been founded by those in the upcoming generation, who have embraced the Zoom calls, the Youtube airings, and the loss of the “status quo” to create works that are challenging, empathetic, and unique. One of those rising stars of the next theatrical generation is Hailey Mashburn, a San Diego native who has found her work more relevant than ever in the past year as her pieces find their spotlight at benefits, festivals, and even spanning the globe.
You could say that Hailey Mashburn comes by her artistic inclination naturally, an inheritance from her Grandmother who is a visual artist and a docent. It was this first loving exposure to art, museums, and finding the story within each piece that Hailey couldn’t deny. Between her supportive family, and a small role as a ladybug in kindergarten, she clearly caught the theatre bug. It’s no surprise then that her work gravitates to telling stories that find women and their journeys at the heart of the narrative.
“The world needs more engaging and thrilling plays with women at the helm and the heart of the narrative.”
Mashburn’s work has found inspiration in the past and the present, on stage, on screen, and even in a radio play. Her piece “(Fire) Embers (Ash)” which first premiered on stage and then was updated for radio audio play, brings to stage the lives of World War Two Soviet Union female pilot team known as the “Night Witches.” The piece is both intimate and vulnerable, fun and adventurous, and oddly fitting for pandemic times. These women deal with extraordinary circumstances, when moments of normalcy are punctuated by abrupt changes, and where all are wondering what their “new normal” may be after the war is over.
“I was starving for unique, complex roles to sink my teeth into – that’s actually partly why I wrote my first play, “(Fire) Embers (Ash).” There were these incredible women whose stories had more or less been buried over time, and I thought there had to be a play about them out there. When I found out there weren’t really any, there wasn’t even a hesitation. I just felt this guttural instinct to start writing. So I did, and I loved it. It felt right, like after years of being immersed in the theatre I had really found my place.”
Her play “I Am A Star” is a short play that was produced by Recover-Me as a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The short was filmed and follows someone’s interior journey as they process living through a traumatic experience. Mashburn finds that her artistic voice felt best suited as a playwright when exploring vulnerable and personal topics, while also bringing underrepresented people and situations to stage with empathy and a complex interiority.
“The plays I’ve written so far have sought to build bridges between communities to find a common ground and language when it comes to the more intimate and vulnerable aspects of the human condition. Grief, anxiety, relationships… I write plays with the goal of expressing and unearthing what is so nuanced and difficult to articulate, so audiences can have that catharsis, that breakthrough, that connection, and even just a moment of relief, of being seen and understood.
In particular, as a queer woman who has experienced mental illness, I don’t see a lot of myself on stage; I don’t see a lot of positive and authentic representation through dynamic, exciting stories, and I want to change that.”
Hailey may be a California girl, but she has some roots in the United Kingdom where she graduated from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Her new play, “Kimberlite” which contemplates perception, self-love, and mental illness will be workshopped and produced by the Manchester based Blue Balloon Theatre later this year. Like her other pieces, this one finds new angles in how to portray life’s “frustrating, beautiful chaos; always with honesty and love at their core.”
“Working internationally right now means some late nights and early mornings, but it’s worth it to be able to bring this play to life, especially in the UK. I love the theatre community in the UK, so to be a part of the arts sector there, even from a distance, is such an absolute joy.
“Kimberlite” dives deep into the ‘in-between’ – life before and after a breaking point. It is an intimate look at how someone presents themselves to the world, how they see themselves in the mirror when there’s nowhere to hide and the nonlinear and unpredictable journey of self-love. “Kimberlite” is a very raw and unapologetic portrayal of learning to live with a mental illness.
Finding that the team at Blue Balloon Theatre wanted to produce “Kimberlite” because they felt such a strong connection to its themes, characters, and style was humbling. There was this moment of understanding between us all that the play and the journey these characters go on is needed right now, and that the audience who will resonate with the piece transcends borders.”
At the heart of everything she creates, regardless of topic or time period is one fundamental core that can be traced back to her first exposure from her Grandmother; the love of art, story, and collaboration to bring theatre to people for them to enjoy.
“In every play I do, I love to find moments of magic, moments where every member of the team – designers, actors, directors – and the audience get to take a step back and just be in awe of and challenge what theatre can be. I love that. I love being inspired by my peers. I love that that’s what we get to do as artists. Collaborate and build together and constantly offer each other these opportunities to go “What can only theatre do? What if?” I think we’ve only begun to push the boundaries of what theatre can accomplish and how it can be experienced, and I’m so excited to constantly be discovering and developing new ways to tell stories and connect people.”
Hailey Mashburn believes in accessible theatre and so you can find her work “(Fire) Embers (Ash)” playing at no charge for you to enjoy at https://www.fireembersash.com/listen-now
Updates on her new work “Kimberlite” at Blue Balloon Theatre in Manchester, UK can be found by following the theatre at www.blueballoontheatre.com
You can also follow Hailey Mashburn on her social media at:
Twitter : @haileyjmashburn
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