Shá Cage on Kirby and her career

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Shá Cage is a singular presence in Twin Cities arts scene. Indeed, from her base here, the skilled actor, recognized playwright and stellar spoken word artist, is internationally accomplished. She has acted at Pangea World Theater, Theatre de la Jeune Lune and Frank Theatre, wrote Famous Amos (directed by Kim Hines at Illusion Theatre), the true telling of a homophobic hate crime and criss-crosses the globe performing spoken word in L.A., London, Paris and beyond. As well, she owns and operates Minnesota Spoken Word Association (MNSWA) with her intimate — wordsmith and actor e.g. bailey, who has solidly established a name of his own. MNSWA founded and administers the talent agency TruRuts Endeavors, the film company Tru Life Films and Speakeasy Records which features celebrated firebrand Truthmaze and released Sha’s recording debut, Amber People in June. There’s much more, but you get the idea. Currently, she is at History Theatre (St. Paul) through Nov. 4, in Syl Jones’ Kirby, taken from the life of Minnesota Twins immortal Kirby Puckett She spoke with Dwight Hobbes for Twin Cities Daily Planet.

DWIGHT HOBBES: Who are you in “Kirby”?
SHA CAGE: I primarily play Kirby’s wife, but [it’s] a dual part which has me also portraying his mother Catherine. The sexy and slightly attitudinal voice you hear from the house is also moi. His mother colors the picture at the beginning of his career as it relates to his ambition, his love for the sport and the web of love and support he was raised around. His wife paints the canvass mid-career to end of the career. Through her, we see both of their fears, his vulnerability, his depression years and the struggles they had inside and outside the public’s eye.

DH: Has doing this character given you any opportunity to strengthen your craft?
CAGE: Absolutely. Acting is an art form that is always pushing and inquiring. It’s always asking questions and demanding honest answers. Playing Kirby’s wife — and mother — has taught me a lot about focus.

DH: You’re not much a sports nut, are you? What’s being in a play about a baseball player mean to you?
CAGE: Actually, I am a bit sweet on some sports. Basketball and football in particular. My brother was an athlete most of his life and I attend a huge percentage of my nephews little league games. I’m the crazy aunt on the sideline that screams and shouts at the referee. The play has definitely piqued my interest in [baseball] and the admiration of the sport as a whole. The way Syl writes the play makes me feel as if I’ve been missing out on something big. More than anything, I think it brings home Kirby’s deep unfledged love for this incredible sport and his ability to defy the odds. There’s something that’s truly amazing about that! Even for a non-baseball fan.

DH: How different do you find acting in a script from performing spoken word?
CAGE: I find the two quite similar. My ability as a Spoken Word poet are hugely strengthened by my acting training, from breath control to projection to performance qualities. The largest difference is that most scripts require that I become someone else to bring that story to life, whereas with 90% of my Spoken Word performances, I am the writer and am telling stories. There’s a different type of vulnerability in Spoken Word.

DH: You’re so successful with MNSWA and Tru Ruts. Why do keep returning to acting?
CAGE: Because it’s my first love. I can’t imagine myself not being able to act. Frankly, doing plays and film work informs the other work I do through MNSWA and Tru Ruts performances. At the end of the day it’s about craft right? About fine tuning and shaping and sculpting new parts of yourself that you can stand back and look at and smile. It’s funny, but that’s how I feel after each play I do.

DH: You’re working in this cast with a veritable living legend, Terry Bellamy. How’s that feel?
CAGE: Terry’s the man!. He’s always full of great advice, laughter, and of course talent. It’s been great to work with him and observe how he approaches his character with fierce
commitment. I love his energy.

DH: What’s next?
CAGE: I’ll be featured on the BET Awards on October 14. As well, a Spoken Word spot I did with e.g.bailey for Target is running at this time and again on CBS. Then I’ll be doing some traveling through the end of the year. Back to England for a week, then to Kenya where a satellite program of the MN Spoken Word Association has been launched. On Nov. 10th I’m curating a show at the Minneapolis Central Library titled “I Could Not Live at Home” which raises awareness about youth that live on the streets or outside of home. Outside of finishing a play titled “Women & War” with Mama Mosaic, I’ll of course continue writing, performing, youth-work and listening to what the wind whispers in my ear.