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Thursday, 25 April 2019

Interview with writer and performer -Grace Aki

Grace Aki, lovely lady with southern charm is leading her dream in New York City with her solo show To Free A Mockingbird. She's been gracing the stage since she was five and has performed in numerous productions with her many gifted talents of acting, storytelling, painting, singing, dancing as well as set designs. She shares some fun facts with me as well as what inspired her to write her show among other juicy tidbits and where you can see her perform live.

What do you love about your life right now?

I love that regardless of how tough life can be, I love that I don’t let it affect my productivity!  I have a great living space, a tolerable cat, and a decent husband.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being super excited), how excited are you about your upcoming solo performance in New York with your first performance of To Free A Mockingbird?

Well my NY show is actually a workshop. Basically, I’ve invited a ton of people to view the production before it is finalized (kind of like a dress rehearsal.) In the workshop process, you can ask the audience what they remembered or forgot about during the show.  Things that help the writer/director what to keep or discard in the show. This is how changes occur in the developmental process.  Basically, I’m very excited, I’d say I’m at a 12.

Tell me what inspired you to write your show To Free A Mockingbird?

I’ve gotten really inspired by comedians that have turned to storytelling instead of a traditional hour-long stand up special. I have a lot of stories inside me, just bursting to get out ya know? In particular, a roommate of mine when living in the Bronx, Joe, heard me tell a story one late night and convinced me to turn it into a one-woman show...and here we are!

To my understanding, this is going to be a standup performance with storytelling, as a dramedy. What have been the challenges and joys of writing a work directly from your heart?

It’s very scary to perform as yourself, you can’t hide behind a character when the character is you.  The joy, however, is working with people that you feel artistically challenged and elevated by. My director, producers, etc. are a dream and I feel so lucky to have them working with material so close to my heart.

Was there a particular comedian or actor who had the most impact on your writing your solo show?

I think about Mike Birbiglia (Broadway’s The New One) and Hasan Minhaj’s (NETFLIX: Homecoming King) were huge inspirations for me. They were so crafty at blending their tone and execution with humor and drama. I highly recommend their work! The director of Mike Birbiglia’s show, Seth Barrish worked with me on the original workshops of my piece.

What’s your writing process? Do you have a particular place or cut on some music to get the thoughts flowing?

My director, Kate, always says to create a playlist that inspires you and your show. However, my writing process doesn’t involve a lot of writing. I’ve done a lot of transposing from voice recordings. I’m not an organic writer. I have taken recordings from rehearsals and performances and decide what works and what doesn’t.

There’s a quote by George Bernard Shaw that says, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” What are your thoughts on his quote?

I’ll say this, I’ve never had a year where I said, “I did exactly what I did last year.” I believe you should constantly be learning, creating, doing, volunteering. Nobody is ever too young or too old to be trying and perfecting something. I’d say I reinvent myself every year.

Your performances are going to be in New York and Atlanta and possibly Chattanooga as well? Any other cities that you’re planning to perform in?

I may have a show in the DC area in September, stay tuned!
I’ll perform wherever people will have me… seriously.

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I am trying to finish out the year having published the script for this show. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in just a year.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

I hope to be illustrating more and completing my first DIY guide, more information on that later.

Tell me three fun facts about you. Something that maybe your hubby, Damon, doesn’t even know.
  1. Nobody loves cheese more than me. Nobody. Fight me.
  2. I love all forms of trivia... like honestly. trivia on apps, at bars, whatever. Even if I don’t win, I like learning what the right answers were.
  3. I’m an extroverted introvert. I happily enjoy the solitude of watercolor painting at home, a tea and my cat & Damon by my side.
In one word describe yourself.

To Free a Mockingbird
Director: Kate Robards
Written and Performed by: Grace Aki
Wardrobe Consultant: Damian Dominguez
Producers: Double Back Bone Productions + Damon J Gillespie

For tickets to her show at the Atlanta Fringe click here

Keep up to date on her show and fun Instagram Posts with incredible pics and laugh out loud tweets by following her on her social media:

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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