Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! may be touring around the country, but one of its stars makes her home right here in Minnesota. Shinah Brashears, who plays Piggie, moved to the Minneapolis area two years ago and has appeared in shows in Duluth as well as the Twin Cities. Before the show comes to Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in September, we talked to Shinah about theatre, Minnesota, and of course, everyone’s favorite duo—Elephant Gerald and his perky pal, Piggie!
You’ve been involved in shows everywhere from Minnesota to Missouri, where did you first start acting? What kind of theatre background do you have?
As far as my theater background goes, it is quite a bit shorter than a lot of my peers because I did not start doing shows until my junior year of high school. After my first show in school I was hooked and went on to get my BFA in Theater Arts from Stephens College in Iowa. One of my favorite past theater experiences was working at Okoboji Summer Theater where I was able to perform in four shows and be involved backstage in three other shows all in 12 weeks!
You’re no stranger to Children’s Theatre Company—what CTC shows have you done in the past?
In the past I was involved in the workshop of Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Musical and had such a grand time helping the creative team build their show.
Since you’ve been involved with CTC before, what does it mean to you to come back for this show?
Being able to come back to CTC to perform is almost impossible to believe. I pinch myself every once in a while to make sure that the opportunity is real.
We’re glad to have you back! What are you looking forward to about performing at a children’s theatre, especially in a show that appeals to those as young as preschoolers?
I am most looking forward to performing for children because they have not learned the rules of being audience members of the theater yet. I can’t wait to get them dancing and to hear what hilarious things they have to say.
I’m sure that will be one of the most fun parts of the show, especially as you travel to different theatres and see all kinds of people. How do you feel about traveling with a touring show through an organization as well respected as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts?
Pretty lucky. I am beyond surprised and thrilled to be able to do such a fun show with such an amazing group of people.
When the show comes to Minneapolis, what Minnesota favorites are you most looking forward to introducing to your out-of-town acting colleagues?
I am sure I will take them to Glam Doll donuts—my favorite food—and maybe to Lake Nokomis to paddle board if it is still nice! Unfortunately, the State Fair will be over when we get back—I really wanted that huge corn dog.
Where else is the Elephant & Piggie tour going after CTC?
The Elephant & Piggie tour will be traveling all across the country after we make our first stop at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. A couple of places I am most excited about are Beverly Hills, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Have you ever acted in a touring show before?
I have toured in a show in the past as a magician’s assistant, but it was on a much smaller scale, and this time I don’t have to fit in tiny boxes!
True, you’ll get to be the one making magic onstage this time! What do you think of The New York Times best-selling Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems that this play is based on?
The Elephant & Piggie books are incredibly hilarious and heart-warming. When I found out I was auditioning, I went to Barnes and Noble and read all of them sitting by myself in the children’s section. I was laughing out loud and ended up buying two of them for my niece.
That’s the type of reaction a lot of people have to those books! What excites and challenges you most about playing a character like Piggie, who is already beloved by so many?
The thing that excites me the most about playing Piggie is being able to be this fierce bundle of joy every day.
That’s a great way to describe her. Why are characters like Piggie and Gerald important for children to see?
Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! is important for children to see because it shows two completely different “people” being the best of friends. Gerald and Piggie are so different that it would be easy for them to judge one another and feel like they could never have anything in common, but the two characters find common ground in their relationship and respect for each other’s feelings.
And those are things that parents and grandparents can also relate to—how do you think the show appeals to a multigenerational audience?
The show appeals to a multigenerational audience with comedy! There are actions in the show that could make a 2-year-old giggle and lines that would make a 1,000-year-old chuckle.
Finally, what other upcoming CTC show are you most looking forward to seeing?
I CANNOT wait to see Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches! I was lucky enough to audition and let me tell you…it is good.
Don’t miss Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! at Children’s Theatre Company beginning September 13th. Tickets start at $15 and subscription packages are still available.
Visit childrenstheatre.org for complete information.