We had the good fortune of connecting with Malique Guinn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Malique, how do you think about risk?
Life at its core is trial and error. The only thing that we will forever fail at is perfection. Other than that, there are no rules in how we choose to go about our paths. What matters is that our core values are not lost in our journeys, regardless of what transpires. Risk taking is healthy and necessary. It also depends on how one looks at risks. Someone might live on the concept of risk and reward. It’s important to be clear on the reward you want or expect. In my eyes, no matter the result, the “reward” is the lesson learned. Your faith muscle becomes stronger and the question is no longer “should I do this?” It’ll be “What is the best way to go about this”? The decision is already made. As for me, risk is and has been integral in my life and my field. Entertainment is a weird world because it’s predicated on both trends and innovation. I’m on the side of the avant- garde. I’m not afraid to try a new structure or break the rules of writing for stage and screen, theatrical design, videography, etc. We as humans don’t get to where we are today without the folks who were willing to take a risk and challenge the conventions of life as they knew it. Everyone won’t understand right away and they’re not supposed to. The zoom space for theatre is something I’m on the fence about. I appreciate the fact that people are adapting but I am hoping for some tangibility when the time is right. Overall, I’m looking forward to collaborating with people from different walks of life, especially those who are fearless and desire to flip the worlds of theatre, film and eventually tech on its head in the best way possible. I wasn’t designed to live a boring life and not take risks.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When it comes to my art, I stay true to my gut. The first play I ever wrote is titled “Gang Sines”. It came about because one day I told myself, “I know math. I feel like writing a play about it or something in that vein”. I also knew hip hop pretty well. I was also skilled at writing in verse. However, I was still green in the world of playwriting. I had to learn “how to write a play”. But there is no right way to write a play. I’d rather use the word “craft”. Initially, I only had my sights set on screenwriting, where the rules are much more grounded and straightforward. I never want to limit myself to one thing though. I have way too many ideas that can and will extend across various media. So next thing I knew, I had a draft of a one act hip hop math play on my hands. Very raw. Very rough. But very much myself. I cannot stress enough how important mentorship and collaboration is. You can’t do anything on your own, even if you think you can. I started attending office hours to discuss my work, ask questions, and be a sponge. Listening to people who know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about is invaluable. After a year and some change of development, it was staged at the UCSB New Works Lab in 2017, directed by Rebecca Wear who was incredible to work with. Seeing it go from my brain to the page to the stage was the best feeling in the world. That feeling was preceded by nervousness however, but in a good way. That play got me my first trip to DC and my first award, the Kennedy Center Hip Hop Theatre Creator Award. Now, did I have moments where I told myself it wouldn’t work? Of course. Did I want to give up? Sometimes. But I knew where my heart was and I couldn’t give up if I wanted to. I overcame challenges by embracing them. I learned how to find comfort in discomfort. I dropped my accounting major and switched to playwriting not knowing how it would pan out, but that was the exciting part. I refused to let fear rob me of my purpose. I stand firm on writing stories that are honest and not shying away from truth, especially when it comes to the Black experience. Audre Lorde said “Your silence will not save you”. I have to remind myself of that everyday to ensure that I’m unapologetic with my work and how I navigate spaces that weren’t designed for people like me. I must have control over my story. Now at Carnegie Mellon (virtually), I’m grateful to be crafting alongside a cohort that is passionate and honest in their stories. I most recently won the Kennedy Center Region 2 Planet Earth Award for my ten minute play “Please Pass On The Syrup”. Side note, while I am humbled by the Planet Earth award, I definitely feel like I could do more to actually help the planet, and so I will. Lastly, I’m working on a new project with Julia Nieto, a dope dramaturg who you can expect to hear more about in the years to come, and I am excited to see how it’ll evolve and what it will do once it’s ready. The main priority now is to diversify my portfolio with plays, pilots, screenplays, maybe even audio pieces as well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ya know… I’ve grown to truly love and appreciate my hometown Lancaster, CA. It’s not as mundane as I was made to believe. Also, my best friend is already in the city. But I’ll play along. I’d definitely take my best friend to Apollo Park. They have a lake full of ducks. Who don’t love water and ducks? Great place to unwind, run some laps, fish, write, you name it. Then I’d take them to grab something from Modern Tea Room, a Black owned vegan business on Lancaster Blvd. Their walnut burrito is phenomenal. Shoutout to them, much love. We’d also have to grab some pupusas from the Cantarito Salvadoran Restaurant, also located on Lancaster blvd.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
God, first and foremost, who deserves infinite credit without a doubt. My girlfriend is nothing short of amazing as well, also a talented creative and just a sweetheart. My parents have always been loving, supportive, and crazy (in a nice way of course). Each of my four siblings are all brilliant and inspiring, interview them too. My cohort at Carnegie Mellon consists of a solid group of people who I wish I could interact with in person and I’m under the tutelage of great professors, Rob and Melissa. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is my playwright auntie and she’s been key in my development as an artist. I also have a great group of friends who I love dearly, they know who they are. And shoutout to the people I haven’t met yet. We’ll make special art together.
Michael Guinn II, David Bazemore, Tracy Hoida