Shannon Matesky is an actress, writer, producer, director from Berkeley, CA, now living in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate from Depaul Theater School, she has worked with theaters such as Steppenwolf Theater, The Inconvenience, Court Theater, Goodman Theater and The Public. As a poet Shannon has been featured across the country as well as HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Nylon Magazine, and BET online. Shannon has produced live events and festivals such as The Fly Honey Show, Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Festival, and Life is Living community festival in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Oakland, and Urban Word NYC’s Grand Slam finals at the Apollo Theater.
Blossom: Why did you choose poetry and theatre as your artistic outlet?
Shannon: When I was a young person, I grew up in foster care and my foster mother was kind of strict. I didn’t have much of a voice in the house, so theatre and poetry gave me that voice. Poetry gave me the opportunity to find my own voice, and theatre gave me the opportunity to kinda try on other people’s voices. Both of them contained the opportunity for catharsis and storytelling. Like, the ancestral history of being a griote and passing down stories about families is tied to theatre as well as your own story of self.
Blossom: A lot of artists don’t want to be labeled as LGBTQ or talk about LGBTQ issues. Why do you feel it’s important to put to the forefront?
Shannon: In my life, I feel like I’ve always been placed in a teacher/mentor position. I come from a pedagogy that teaches you that peer based pedagogy is important that everybody has something to offer. I know that I have a platform, and I know that I am a queer person. So I feel it’s so important to be visible and share my experiences. I do this in hopes that it can expose people to having healing opportunities, to have hard discussions with themselves or family members, to be a useful tool. We don’t talk about this a lot in communities of color. Seeing Lena White is so powerful, seeing Samira Wiley is so powerful. It doesn’t serve my mental well be in the closet. I hope I can be a conduit for people to ask ‘What are the dangers of that? What are the privileges that’s given me? What situations have I been in?’ I want to be an example of what it’s like to be out and proud. It can be scary, but it can also be beautiful. I got asked in a different interview who my queer role models are, and I kinda laughed at the question, because most of the queer people that I look up to aren’t out. They made a different decision. And I’m not knocking they’re decision, but my decision is very intentional and I understand that privilege.
Blossom: Who are inspired by?
Shannon: Oprah. I want to be an Oprah. Someone who’s had multiple careers and is really using her platform as ministry and as fellowship. I feel like we have similar missions. I want to use my platform to change lives. I respect her so much for her contribution to the culture. I have role models in different fields. I love Audra McDonald, Whoopi Goldberg will always be one of my favorites. As she gets older, she’s a little problematic, but we’re human, you know? Beyonce. Any boss chic. Sophia Amoruso is dope. Her story and watching her business model change throughout time was cool. And even my friends, people in my close proximity really inspire me. Any woman on their grind is my motivation.
Blossom: Why is important for women to collaborate?
Shannon: I feel especially amongst women of color and communities of color, we have the trope of the strong Black woman. We’ve seen it, and some of us take pride in it. But I’ve seen as I’ve gotten older that you can’t do it all by yourself. And sometimes, it’s not even that you can’t, but that you shouldn’t have to. There should be more co-op opportunities to grow and to work and to create business. Indigenously, there were groups of owmen that worked together to do everything. We shouldn’t all have to carry it all on one back. We all have so many different gifts, and there’s a lot of opportunity to have all the gifts in one body, but we can learn from each other, and I think there needs to be more communion and union and with that, we can find more empathy for ourselves, different perspectives, and encouragement. And besides that, there’s Boy’s Clubs everywhere. We should be doing the same.
Blossom: What are your upcoming projects?
Shannon: I’m writing my fourth solo play called Heartbreak Hotel Whitney. It’s a break up play using the songs of my ex’s favorite artist, Whitney Houston. And I do this thing called “live drafts” where I allow the audience to give feedback and notes and take away the experience feels, and use that as editing tools. Also working on some producorial projects, community engagement for a play coming up in January in New York called “Pillow Talk” about an interracial queer couple. We’re going to be creating song long table discussions as opposed to traditional talk backs, and I curate a monthly queer, trans, POC performance art night in Brooklyn called Queer Abstract. But most importantly, I’m trying to get some routine back in my life. That is a priority. We celebrate the culture of being busy, but I’m trying to celebrate and make time for the quiet things I need, like yoga, a grocery schedule, some recipes and spend time with my dog. Those are my for real goals.
Blossom: Where can we find you online?
Shannon: I’m on IG at @smatesky and my website is shannonmatesky.com