Supporting creative work by women
Shyko Amos is tearing up the stage in The Gin Baby, Sarah Shaefer’s bracing new play about addiction at the IRT Theater through February 2nd. She plays Lavender, the first person to tell Amelia the truth about her hard-partying ways. No surprise that Shyko is so mesmerizing. She has performed for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Prince Charles in the United Kingdom. She also toured with Mamma Mia! and was in the firstBritish revival of Tony and Olivier Award-nominated play Once on This Island.
Shyko spoke to Works by Women about the differences of performing in the United States versus the United Kingdom, how she finds inspiration and where she’s heading later this year.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Your character in The Gin Baby offers some get real advice and provides comic relief in the process. Tell me about playing her.
SHYKO AMOS: Lavender has been such a fun character to play. She’s a tough love kinda nurse who has a real sense of the harsh realities of life. She doesn’t let anybody off the hook. One of the most important things to me about playing Lavender was to find the authenticity in her as apposed to playing the caricature of her and with the help of Daniel Talbott, the director, and Sarah Shaefer’s writing I think we really managed to do this well.
WBW: What has it been like working on this new play by Sarah Shaefer, directed by Daniel Talbott?
SA: It’s been a real intense, collaborative process, and for an actor this is the kind of experience you want. I’ve been involved with The Gin Baby since workshops earlier in 2013 and to see how much the play has grown and to be able to be a part of it through to production has been fantastic. Daniel Talbott, our director, is so clear, giving and passionate. Sarah Schaefer, the playwright, is so open and brave, and the cast as whole has come together to really make bold heart-breaking theater.
WBW: You’ve performed on both sides of the pond. What do you enjoy about being involved in theater in the UK? and in the US?
SA: It’s really difficult to pick specific things that I enjoy about each place, but I do consider myself extremely lucky to be able to have the opportunity to work in theater both in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Actually, what I enjoy about US theater is being able to use various American accents. It’s so dope being able to work on them and get them specific. I really feel a sense of accomplishment when I nail it. I’ve been listening to Nicki Minaj interviews A LOT for inspiration for The Gin Baby.
WBW: Where do you find inspiration?
SA: I’m inspired by everything around me. For The Gin Baby specifically I really have been inspired by my fellow actors on stage. Watching Lesley Shires, Maxwell Hamilton, Jelena Stupljanin, Jenny Seastone Stern and Chris Stack act blows me away. They all have qualities that I watch and study and am captivated by. Yeah, being in great company inspires me.
WBW: What’s next for you?
SA: Oh LORD! The dreaded question. I’m not sure work wise, but I’m looking forward to my move to Los Angeles later on this year.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
SA: The same challenges that women from all walks of life face. I think ultimately women want their voices to be heard, they want to know that they have an equal opportunity to tell their stories in their own way in the same way men do, and be remunerated for it at the same rate men are. I think Black women want to be put in American theater in a way that doesn’t stereotype them. I think they have no problem playing nannies or the help, or the funny girl from the hood but they want to also know, for example, that they are in the mix to play the beautiful love interest that is the desire of a man’s affection without it specifically being a “black play”.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
SA: I see so much happening in American theater that makes me excited for women. If I just look at my world, I’m currently in a play written by a woman—the kick ass Sarah Shaefer who has written a powerful story. Addie Talbott, one of the producers of the show, is a great women. I’m a Lifetime Artist Member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre run by William Carden, and I am so encouraged by the importance he has placed on addressing the issue of gender within The Ensemble Studio Theatre. I’m around a lot of people in American theater who are committed not only to speaking about it but being about it.
You can see Shyko Amos in Mermaid Sand Productions and Kid Brooklyn Productions’ The Gin Baby through February 2, 2014 at the IRT Theater.