We had the good fortune of connecting with Shawnee Badger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shawnee, what do you attribute your success to?
What I would say has been key to my feeling successful are my determination, drive, work ethic and also how much care I try and put into what I do and how important it is to me to prioritize others in my art. In both my acting and in starting Dig Deep Theatre, my theatre company, it became important to me to take matters into my own hands. I was not going to sit around and wait for opportunities to come my way, especially during a pandemic when opportunities are in short supply. I wanted to create opportunities for myself and other artists. So, I started Dig Deep Theatre, and began producing and starring in plays that I’ve always dreamt of being in: classics like The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and All My Sons by Arthur Miller. It is really important to me to bring truth to any role I step into. The stories that stick with people, as classics often do, can come to mean so much because people see themselves in the story; it is a reflection of their own lived experience and identity. I feel a responsibility to honor that. I think it is that care that I value most in my approach to my art, whether I’m acting, producing, or even whether I’m creating a painting for someone or teaching a painting class, approaching art with care is important to me. Giving back is very important in my art and ties into how I marry my art with activism. During the pandemic, I donated all the money from the paintings I sold on my Etsy to Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, and various other causes I feel must be at the forefront.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am an actor. I am also a painter, with aspirations of diving deeper into pottery/ceramics and dance. Artistry and creativity is in my blood. My grandfather was a spectacular young artist, often gravitating towards pastels and charcoal. My grandmother was a professional dancer all her life. They met in an art class in high school, if I remember correctly. I never met my grandfather but, I remember being a little girl at my grandmother’s house, where I spent much of my childhood, and seeing my grandmother dancing in her home studio and being enamored with her. It was through her that I think I really began to gravitate towards the performing arts. There are few things I’ve loved more in life than performing, telling a story, on a stage, in a quiet, dark theatre; I can’t wait for the theatre come-back as we continue to vaccinate more people. In 2020, I performed as Eurydice in Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl; before that as Polly in Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady. I am also so lucky to get to perform at one of the most magical places there is. Most recently, I was accepted to California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), something I’m most excited about at this time. None of this has been without its challenges, of course. Acting, I think, is one of the bravest, most worthwhile professions there is. The training is challenging. The work is challenging. The industry is challenging. The rejection is challenging. But, when you love it, you work through. It is all part of it. The two most important things I’ve learned in the work is to listen and take personally. In life, people are afraid to love deeply, afraid to hurt deeply; but, the theatre is where people come to learn what it is to be human and so, the actor embraces fully love and loss and everything in between. That is what Dig Deep Theatre is all about. It is about digging deep into what it is to be human.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Being a Los Angeles native, I can’t imagine living anywhere else; my favorite thing being the food. I’m vegan and have been for 5/6 years. There is nothing like vegan food in Los Angeles. For a week long trip in LA, I would say these are the places you absolutely have to go and are my favorite spots: brunch at Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose, dinner at Pura Vita (or the pizzeria next door) in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd, an improv show at The Groundlings, Serial Killers show at Sacred Fools, a concert at The Greek Theatre or The Hollywood Bowl, Disneyland (duh!) even though its actually in OC, a visit to the Griffith Observatory, LACMA, and The Getty, stroll along the beach in Santa Monica, rock climbing at Malibu Creek State Park, meditate at Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, hike to Switzer Falls in the Angeles Forest or in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So much of what has shaped me comes from activism. Activism has shaped who I am, my art, the way I choose to live, what and who live in my heart…so much of me comes back to activism and, ultimately, to Bernie Sanders, as funny as that may sound. It was through Bernie Sanders that I met so many people that I’m grateful to for their support, love, and encouragement and their dedicated efforts to justice for all; and I am lucky to call them my friends. I couldn’t name everyone individually; but, in my activism, I found some of the most beautiful, sincere friendships, friendships that feel like family. I want to give a shout out to all the California Progressives and all the Progressives and Democrats in Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County. I have met the most giving, compassionate, beautiful people, who are dedicated to making the world a better place for all. Thank you for loving me, supporting me in every way, encouraging me, and for all your selfless work. You inspire me every day.