Who’s Upstairs: Dahlak Brathwaite

Dahlak is the writer and per­former of Spiritrials, at Alexan­der Upstairs 20 — 25 April.

DahlakBrathwaite01Home town?
Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Tell us a little more about Spiritrials?
I started working on this project almost five years ago. I had only the slightest idea of what I wanted to create and present but I knew I had something to express. I had proven to myself (and others) that I could do music, or do character voices, or hold an audience’s attention for 45-60 minutes, but I had never attempted to bring it all together. Spiritrials was my attempt to break down the compartments that separate my art.  What I do has always been one art form to me. Spiritrials allows my audience to understand that when I rap, when I act, when I speak poetry, I’m just using different tools to tell different sides of the same story.

What’s the next project?
I’m hoping to adapt Spiritrials into a “choose-your-own-adventure” coffee table book. The book would include the script, related poetry, the music, lesson plans, and essays.

And the one you’re dreaming of?
I’m in the early stages of conceptualizing another multi-dimensional project called Commercial. The music, writing and media would serve to document the experiences of an actor in Los Angeles struggling with existentialism and alienation in a world of loose-morals, compromise and fantasy.

How did you get into theatre?
My brother took a theatre class in high school and showed promise. His enthusiasm about it and his success with it inspired me to take the class as well. I took theatre classes throughout high school and was encouraged to continue pursuing it.

Dinner with any two figures from history: who would you invite and what would you serve them?
Malcolm X and Tupac Shakur; Injera – my mother’s home dish from Eritrea.

Favorite spot in Cape Town (besides Alexander Bar, obviously)?
This is my first time in South Africa, ask me after the show.

What excites you about theatre?
I love how great plays end. When I’m experiencing a great dramatist at work, I find myself bracing myself for the end, taking a great inhalation as the final scene closes, and then unable to breathe as the lights go down. This experience only happens to me in the theatre. It is a mixture of catharsis, amazement and gratitude occurring all at once.

What mistakes have you made and learned the most from?
There were periods in my artistic career where I did not know how to filter criticism. I doubted myself too much and began to put my belief in others, who may not have known more than me or may have know even less. I’m more critical of criticism these days. I inspect where it’s coming from and what the intentions might be. I’m also aware that most people are not able to see artistic vision until its fully realized.

Who do you think people should be talking about?
I’m less concerned with WHO people are talking about than I am with WHAT they are talking about.