Aysan (she/her) is an actor and theater maker focused on new plays, experimental performance, interview-based theater, and comedy.
Tell us something you’re currently excited about.
Books! Frankissstein: A Love Story, Jeanette Winterson’s new novel about gender, sexuality, and artificial intelligence. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, an autobiography by journalist William Finnegan, whose love for surfing took him backpacking all over the world before cell phones or the internet.
Comedy! MENASA comedians like Maysoon Zayid, Negin Farsad, Hasan Minhaj, Ramy Youssef, and Kumail Nanjiani (his appearance on "Gay of Thrones” was my comedy highlight of 2019).
How does your MENASA identity inform your artistic work?
When I took part in the Middle East America Convening hosted by The Lark in 2016, I felt a powerful belonging to a beautifully, diverse, shared community. I performed in readings from plays by Bianca Bagatourian and Mona Monsour; it was deeply meaningful. That experience really made me want to show up more for this community in my artistic work, and I am happy to say that I have and continue to.
Do you have a bucket list project?
I have an insane fantasy of building a compound in the Pacific Northwest where I can host retreats for artists and writers who could really use it. Intentionally find folks whose voices need to be heard. I am a Middle Eastern Californian introvert, so living in a cabin in the woods and hosting people is pretty much my dream.
What are the big questions you're preoccupied with right now?
Our democracy is being held hostage right now, and Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert get me through the day. They give me energy, relief, and courage. I am interested in how theater can do that, too: how can I dig into that intersection of comedy and social justice?
Last summer, my nine year old niece burst out, “Aysan Teyze, the earth will be over when I’m forty!” How can that tiny beautiful creature even hold that idea in her head? I am really struggling with what I am doing about climate change, as an artist and a human who is passing this earth to her.
What’s the weirdest thing about you you’re willing to put in print? Or anything else you want to tell us!
I am into astrology right now. I have been obsessed with Chani Nicholas’ Instagram feed for months, and am reading her new book You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance. She is an articulate intersectional feminist committed to social justice and empowering her readers, and she is just fabulous.
Any upcoming projects you want to tell us about? This summer at Cal Shakes, I’ll be performing in 1001 Nights (A Retelling), a contemporary response to the classic tales for five MENASA women, created by Leila Buck and Evren Odcikin, and directed by Evren Odcikin. I am also currently doing something that terrifies me, which is writing, specifically a performance piece in collaboration with director KJ Sanchez.
You can contact Aysan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credits: Hamlet/Ur-Hamlet created by Theater Mitu, directed by Rubén Polendo
(Photo by Alex Hawthorn); Gone Missing by The Civilians, presented as part of Encores! Off-Center at New York City Center, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll (Photo by Emon Hassan); The Undertaking, a production of The Civilians at 59E59, directed by Steven Cosson (Photo by Carol Rosegg); War of the Roses at California Shakespeare Festival, directed by Eric Ting (Photo by Jay Yamada).