Latinx Feminist Comedian Sheila Carrasco Explores Identity In New Virtual Solo Theatre Show

Sheila Carrasco as “Emily” in ‘Anyone But Me | Image by Shay Yamashita

With many entertainment shows moving from in-person venues to the virtual space, it has become even more accessible to watch theatre and comedy shows right from the comfort of your lounge room or home office, which is probably going to become the “new normal” in some way even after the pandemic has ended.

And while you are continuing to battle through quarantine, we have the perfect way to help lift your mood and get entertained at the same time. Beginning March 21 and running through April 18, the IAMA Theatre Company is producing two really cool solo comedy shows by two Latinx feminist comedians. The Los Angeles-based company is dedicated to centering the voices of women, and producing live shows that cater to our streaming lifestyles. ‘The Oxy Complex’ by Anna LaMadrid, and ‘Anyone But Me’ by Sheila Carrasco are exactly the kind of shows you should be watching during Women’s History Month. Yesterday we featured Anna’s show, and today we are highlighting our interview with Sheila.

In ‘Anyone But Me’, Sheila Carrasco dissects the psyches of women who struggle with self-identity, exploring the personas we create in order to get by. From the local grocery clerk, to your neighbor’s teenage daughter, to that lady from the cult — this play is about women who want to be someone they are not. Someone better, easier, stronger… anyone but them. 

“There’s a little of me in each of the characters,” Carrasco says. “I think most women, at some point in our lives, tend to wrap our identities around a single aspect — a relationship, our job or work ethic, our racial or maybe immigrant background, our perceptions of ourselves as artists. This play is an exploration of all my different alter egos and the insecurities I’ve had in my life, and about accepting the nuance of everything that makes me who I am. We don’t have to be just one thing.”  

Originally from the South Side of Chicago and an alumna of NYU and Harvard, Carrasco’s most recent credits include IAMA’s ‘Found: A New Musical’. On TV, she’s been seen in ‘The Good Place’, ‘Jane the Virgin’, ‘Outmatched’, ‘The Odd Couple’ and more. Half Chilean/Mapuche, Carrasco is a creator for Más Mejor, Broadway Video’s premium comedy studio for Latinx voices. This is Sheila Carrasco’s first solo theater show.

How did the idea for “Anyone But Me” initially come about? 

Margaux Susi, my friend and fellow IAMA theatre company member approached me about working together on a solo show last fall. I had been meaning for years to push myself to make a one woman show, but I had never taken the leap, so this felt like the right opportunity. I do a lot of sketch comedy characters and so my first instinct was to do a bunch of my best characters, unrelated to each other and to my life. And then I thought- why is that, why is my default to disappear behind costumes and wigs and “voices”? So I started there, and began to build a show around the idea of self-identity, and characters that struggle a bit with this theme. And I ended up with a lot of characters that were way closer to me than I expected. 

You say there is a little bit of you in each of the characters. Can you share some of your own journey in regard to identity and anything you struggled with in particular?

To start with the obvious, I’m half Chilean and half white, and as an actress and writer in Hollywood, I’ve found it difficult to label myself. Out in the real world, I am most often labeled by other people as white. Which is one frustration, but ultimately I benefit from that privilege. I can’t sit here and say that I’ve been discriminated against in the last twenty years, and in that way, I don’t like to use my latinidad as a pass for auditioning for roles that urgently need BIPOC representation in how pertains to the story. This has been a journey and a lesson for me in recent years, and one of my characters definitely deals with this in my piece. 

I have also, like many people, attached my identity to being in a relationship. I think I was too afraid to break up with an ex because I didn’t know “who I was” outside of that relationship.  The family culture and identity of “not complaining” and stoicism is another identity I’ve sometimes taken on. It’s been great for building self discipline and work ethic, but also creates challenges to mental health and self care. Being an actress and not losing yourself to cults is another, haha… now I’m just describing the show, but basically there’s a lot of identities I’ve clung to at various times in my life. Sometimes all at once!

Sheila Carrasco | Image by Dana Patrick

We live in a culture where the notion of “identity politics” is constantly thrown around in a negative sense. How does your production work to bring back more empathy and understanding around the search for one’s identity? 

I really just tried to write from my gut and not judge my own writing. I tried to get specific with my characters and really ground them in emotions that felt true to me. And in that way, I think my production simply represents one person’s point of view, and that as specific as it is, its themes are universal. And I think that’s the point. We can all be wildly different and yet really relate to each other. And by standing in the nuance of our identity, and never painting ourselves in broadstrokes, we empower ourselves and can also forgive ourselves more and more as we go through life and give back to the world.

For instance, I don’t need to feel pressure to tell a “latina” story. Who is that for, anyway? And what does that even mean? In Latin America I would just be telling a story. Latinidad was created by white america to “other” Latinos and make us a monolith. So I reject that label, and instead I choose to tell my story. And in that way, I think I can connect to everyone, while also representing a latinx point of view that is not often told.

Why do you think so many of us women try to wrap our identities around a single aspect, rather than embracing ourselves as a whole, complex, flawed person? Does society/patriarchy/politics impact why we do this? 

I think all of the above impacts how we label ourselves. It’s tempting to want to be a “type” of woman, because it’s what we’ve learned from TV and movies, and the music industry. If you have an image, then you’re “that girl”, and people know what to expect from you, and how to place you. 

On top of all that, women are expected to be empathic and easy company. And while those qualities are in no way a bad thing, it can be dangerous when you lean too far into them and make them your personality. I personally have struggled with this, as well as the pressure to be perfect and “never mess up”. It took me a long time to embrace my failures and shortcomings, let alone admit them. 

Sheila Carrasco as “Bebe” in ‘Anyone But Me | Image by Shay Yamashita

Given this is your first solo theater show, what are you hoping audiences will take away from ‘Anyone But Me’? 

I’m hoping they have a great time! And I hope that there is at least one character that resonates with them. I also hope they have a theatrical experience. Margaux and I really tried to create that. We wanted it to be as close to pure theatre as possible, because it is such a special and unique medium that so many people are missing right now. So I performed the show as if it were a play, all the way through, with no “alts” and inserts, etc. Also the show is designed from top to bottom with set design, sound, lights, costume. We tried to create meaning with even the dumbest of props. And I hope that the audience enjoys all of these elements as much as they would in a theatre.

You can get tickets for ‘Anyone But Me’ by clicking HERE.

Sheila Carrasco as “Marta” in ‘Anyone But Me | Image by Shay Yamashita

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