Black Shakespeare(ans) Database

Shante DeLoach

Artist Profile by Addison Wood


Shante DeLoach is a Los Angeles based actress working in film, television, and theater. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts. Her Shakespearean roles include Juliet and Cobweb in the Southwest Shakespeare Company’s respective productions of Romeo and Juliet and Cobweb, as well as Puck and Philostrate in the Atlanta’s Shakespeare Company’s 2021 production of Midsummer.

Contact Information

Eileen O’Farrell Personal Management: (818) 985-3136


Full Interview Transcript


Wood OK, great, so thank you for being with me today. My first question would be during the pandemic and because of the isolation that we’ve all experienced, has that isolation in any way changed your approach to acting or made you aware of any aspects of stage performance in particular? 


DeLoach I would say yes.I am actually currently rehearsing a production of Midsummer in Atlanta. I live in Los Angeles and so we were locked down for quite a long time. And so I’m noticing in myself just being around this many people and talking, I guess, so much more than I’m even used to talking anymore and having to project and speak as loudly. It’s been daunting. And you kind of forget how much work it is or how you were so used to it. And then you go for X amount of time without doing it. And it’s a lot. To answer your question in terms of approach, not really differently. I guess just trying to give myself a little bit more grace and remember that I haven’t done this in a while and it’s going to take me some time to sort of remember what my process is and how to go about that. But I am very aware right now of how close you are to people on stage and how it is. Currently we’re rehearsing and wearing masks, but when we do the performance, we won’t be masked. And so I’m nervous about that. It’s like you haven’t been in stranger spaces for so long. And I forgot how much spit is associated with theater and talking and being on stage and in people’s space. so that’s going to be interesting. But that is something I’m super aware of now that I really didn’t. It was just sort of part of the territory before I think about it. And now it’s a little bit weird. 


Wood Do you think in any way that that kind of awareness or nervousness? Do you worry at all about the audience and potentially how the audience is on edge if they’re watching people so close to one another? 


DeLoach Absolutely, because I know when I’m watching something on TV that’s from a long time ago that’s not taking place during the pandemic, I almost cringe when I see people close to each other or when somebody walks into a place without a mask. And it’s not the same. I guess it was just a different time. So I definitely think that’s going to be an interesting aspect of a live production. And I’m interested to see how people receive that, actually. 


Wood Have you noticed a difference in the audience in terms of their reaction or reception to what they would consider a nontraditional approach to Shakespeare? 


DeLoach So it’s interesting because this production is actually an all female cast of Midsummer, and obviously we haven’t done it yet, so I’m not sure in that regard. But I had done a bit of a Shakespeare performance before the pandemic, and it was completely nontraditional. And people, at least for the audience that we were performing for at those times, loved it. People were super receptive to it. And I think that they wanted it to be that way. They were hungry for something. I mean, obviously these plays have been done a plethora of ways. But I think people are itching to see these same stories performed in different ways, with different concepts, with different types of people. So I’m happy about that. I’m happy that it’s going in that direction. But I think there is still so much further that we can go, that hasn’t necessarily been tapped into yet.


Wood Have you noticed a shift in approach or desire from theater companies or directors in terms of casting Black actors or doing an all female cast?


DeLoach Absolutely. Living in L.A., I hadn’t noticed a whole lot just because so much had remained shut down for so long. There is a Black theater company that I’ve worked with in the past where we did have some conversations around [casting Black actors]. But definitely after this past summer, with the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all the protests that were happening, I did notice, as I’m becoming more of a part of the Atlanta theater scene, that there was a huge reckoning. [This reckoning] came in particular with Black artists speaking out against ways that they felt they had been treated that were wrong in the past or the way that certain theaters have been run. And so there has definitely been a shift to more involvement of black artists on every level, not just as actors, but stage managers and set decorators and all of these things. So I definitely have seen the difference from before till now in Atlanta in particular. I would imagine it’s the same in many different areas of the country. I know in Chicago, a lot of theaters got shut down because of [the pandemic]. So to answer your question, yes, there’s definitely been a shift. It seems like it’s for the better. And I hope that it’s something that does stick. 


Wood Has that shift changed your view of your own work in any way? Do you view your work as any more racialized or politicized? Has that changed at all since last summer?


DeLoach Again, because I haven’t worked much since then, I think speaking for myself as I’ve gotten older as an artist, I definitely have. I am quite political personally. And I think that I do put that into my work, and I hope that that will reach somebody or in some way create positive change. But I think in terms of if we’re speaking in general, I definitely believe that once things start to really amp back up, that is for sure going to be something that we see permeating not only the theater, but television and film. 


Wood I was wondering when you play a character, especially in classical theater and Shakespearean theater in particular, do you come to view that character as fundamentally Black? Or do you view the identity of your character as separate from your own personal identity? 


DeLoach I would say typically, yes, I view the character as Black and I try to build that character’s world around that as much as possible. Because on stage, I can’t be a white actor. I’m not going to be perceived that way, even though it was written for a white actor. But I think it does also depend on the production. [In this production of Midsummer], I’m playing Puck, who is not even a human character. It’s a goblin, fairy, sprite-type being. And so it really does depend. Although I do think it is good for audiences to see a Puck that is not a white man. And so I’m excited about that. But yes, I do try to build my character with that in mind because it just is what it is.


Wood  And have you engaged at all in dramaturgical work in regards to gaining historical insight when you were taking on a Shakespearean role? Is that something that you find yourself doing or do you like to come to your own interpretations, irrespective of whatever setting the play’s taking in? 


DeLoach Whatever the setting is, I do want to make sure that I am cognizant of that world and the rules of [that place and time]. But it does depend on what the theme of that particular show is: when the director wants it to take place. But I do try to split the difference of making up my own world for this character that I’m trying to create and also draw from the world that they are actually present and living in. 


Wood Is there a specific Shakespeare play or role that you’ve had a special attachment to, but have never been able to perform on stage? 


DeLoach I actually really love the role of Margaret in Henry VI, Part III. She’s just a force of a character, and she’s essentially in charge and running that kingdom. And she has this one monologue in particular that I’m obsessed with. And I’ve never actually had the opportunity to do that show. But I would like to for sure. 


Wood Do you think that there’s a particular reason why [Henry VI, Part III] hasn’t been done more often? Because it’s rare that we see an adaptation or a presentation of that specific play.


DeLoach Yeah, just from my experience, the histories are not as popular. The histories are more daunting. They’re not as fun. It requires you to really sit and pay attention and focus. And I think it’s just not as much of a draw as a comedy or tragedy is. 


Wood  From your perspective, are the histories as daunting for the actors as they are for the audience? 


DeLoach It can be. It can be a bit difficult to follow what’s going on. I’ll speak for myself. I find it more exciting to do one of the comedies or one of the tragedies. And those are what I have in my experience. I actually have never performed one of Shakespeare’s histories. But like I said, I would like to try. I’ve worked on bits of them in college. But in terms of doing a full production, I have yet to do that. So I can’t speak on it so much.


Wood Is there a particular Shakespearean or non Shakespearean play that you especially connect to in regards to how it relates to gender or racial identity? 


DeLoach There is a play by Lanford Wilson called The Gingham Dog. It deals with a couple in the midst of a divorce. It’s a Black woman and a white man. It takes place in the ‘70s at the height of the Black Panther Party. And she is, as time goes on, becoming more and more political and realizing that she and her husband don’t necessarily have the same views. And so it causes a rift between them and they decide to get a divorce. Even though Lanford Wilson is a white playwright, it’s written so well and it’s so realistic. There’s this huge dilemma that you married the person who you love, but you don’t see eye to eye anymore, on these very important issues. And it reminds me of what we have dealt with these past four or five years with the Trump administration. There are rifts between family members because one person supports Trump and the other person can’t believe that they’re supporting Trump. And even though it took place so long ago, it’s so timely. I can understand that being a Black woman, having to deal with those types of things and explaining it to the people in your life that don’t understand where you’re coming from. It’s just very, very difficult to be in. So I have always loved that play, and I would love the opportunity to work on it. It is really nuanced and really heavy stuff.


Wood Is there any specific idea or concept or play from Shakespeare that you think is especially potent in our current political climate? 


DeLoach  I would have to say one of the most timely ones is Hamlet. I remember the first time when I read Hamlet, I remember thinking that it didn’t really feel Shakespearean. It felt very modern to me in the way that it was written, in the sense that the themes are things that we definitely deal with. When Hamlet’s father dies, Hamlet obviously has the idea that somebody has murdered his father, but his mother moves on, his mother marries someone else, and he’s definitely dealing with mental health issues at the time. He can’t let go and he becomes obsessed with trying to figure out who killed his father. He goes through all these crazy lengths to prove it. He starts to come undone from himself, then he’s no longer the same person and he’s speaking to his dead father. And in today’s climate, I’m happy that we’re at a point where mental health is a real conversation and people are actively speaking about their traumas and their triggers. And people are going to get help for them. And [Hamlet] makes me think of that. It’s just so interesting that we’re at this point in time where it’s becoming a strength, it’s becoming good to have conversations like that.


Wood When theater companies edit out material or exclude material because of its dated quality or dated nature, do you have any thoughts on that? 


DeLoach  As these plays are so old, I think people feel more comfortable editing them a bit, taking things out that they don’t want to be there anymore or that don’t fit the narrative. There’s a lot of language, even in Midsummer, that certain actors aren’t comfortable saying to other actors. For instance “Go fetch something” can be changed or omitted so that it does feel more inclusive. Obviously, these plays are very misogynistic. So there are some of them that are wonderful, like Taming of the Shrew. The ending of it is rather problematic. And I don’t really know how you get around that when it’s just such a huge plot point. But I think that that is also part of the fun. It’s part of the challenge, trying to figure out how to present it in a way that fits the narrative that you want to tell, without reverting back to these very dated mindsets. 


Wood And my final question is: if there is a specific change that you would like to see made either to Shakespearean theater, classical theater, or theater more broadly, what would that change be? 


DeLoach I think introducing these types of works to people earlier on in life is important. Past reading Romeo and Juliet in high school, I don’t really remember touching too much on classical works until I got to college. And I think that there is such an opportunity to take these plays that are from the 1500s and 1600s, that have obviously stood the test of time for a reason, and put a spin on them. By including different ethnicities and genders of people in these works, I think we can completely revive them and give them new life and give them a completely new perspective that you might never have even thought of before. And so I think by introducing these works to younger kids, you can spark those ideas in you earlier on. Then you heard about The Imaginary Invalid when you were in seventh grade, and then you get to see a production of it when you’re older. And it’s actually interesting because you remember it from back then. And I just think introducing it to everyone earlier, not just assuming only certain types of people want to hear about these things. Because that’s not true. It can be interesting to everyone. And the sooner I think that you can see yourself represented, the better. 

Wood Great. Thank you so much.

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