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Interview with Dr. Floyd Gaffney Playwriting Competition 2019 Winner Sharece M. Sellem by Department Chair Allan Havis 

Each year, the University of California San Diego’s Theatre and Dance Department seeks from all enrolled undergraduate students submissions of previously unproduced, unpublished scripts highlighting African American experience in contemporary or historical terms for the Dr. Floyd Gaffney Playwriting Competition.

The 2019 winning play has just been announced, and Department Chair Allan Havis sat down with the playwright.

Daisies On Harlem’s Doorstep
by Sharece M. Sellem

About the playwright
A native of Hartford, CT, Sharece M. Sellem is a playwright, choreographer, director and performing arts instructor based out of New Haven, CT. She was trained by American
Intercontinental University’s Media Production Program, Headlong Performance Institute of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and Yale University’s Practical Approach to Directing Summer Program. Her writing credits include the following plays: Five youth plays (now
available on, Hope High: Class of ’84, Legends of the Forgotten Borough, Becoming La Baker, a one-woman show honoring the life of the first African-American Super Star Josephine Baker, and two plays in development - Dreams in Detention (featured in New Route Theatre's Black Voices Matter Festival 2018) and 1920's historical fiction, Daisies on Harlem's Doorstep, Winner of 2018 LezPlay Playwriting Contest, Chicago Illinois 2018).

The interview with winning playwright Shareve M. Sellem by Department Chair Allan Havis
Why did you choose writing for the stage as you central focus as a creative author? Do you write in other mediums? And how do you double as a choreographer?

This work started off as a novel back in 2009 when I was inspired by the research I was doing on the Harlem Renaissance for a kids play I was writing. It has 8 chapters and sat for a long time in the back of my mind. Daisy's world is a weird little place I'd often find myself in when dreaming. I have a couple of books in the works, but my primary medium is playwriting. I've self produced many works and to really carry the vision across I've found myself creating movement to go along with the work.

Is there a book or a professor or an artist that has influenced you in the last two years? How so?

I'd have to say that I've enjoyed my Sociology classes this past year. Peeling back the layers of society and human beings existing, creating, making rules etc... in their environment is always intriguing.

You also have written several plays for youth. Does that tap into a separate voice for you and do you adjust your aesthetics accordingly?

Yes, it does. I worked as a drama instructor for an arts magnet school for about 5 years and it was there that I learned how children in varying grades interpret, respond to, and put into practice material. So, I had to tap into a separate voice, in a sense, to reach them while keeping my own unique flavor in the storytelling.

What were the challenges when you set about envisioning Daisies on Harlem’s Doorstep? How long did it take to write the first draft?

The initial challenge came when I realized this story had an ability to take shape as a play. I thought, "this will make a great play!" then the reality set in that I would need to really dig deep and do my homework. I enjoy this part of building a play, but it's easy to get consumed which was the case with this piece. Many sleepless nights...

Will you continue to create plays set in historic periods? If so, what may we expect in the near future?

Yes, I love history! I have a few ideas. After visiting New Orleans, I was inspired by the architecture and its rich colorful past. I wonder what it would've been like to be a fly on the wall at a Quadroon ball.

If Hollywood came to your door next year with a lavish offer to adapt Daisies on Harlem’s Doorstep, would you demand your top list of preferred directors and actors or shut the door out of impatience?

Haha! No, I'm pretty flexible, curious and open minded. I'd be interested to see how someone would interpret my script - stage, film, made for TV series, whatever...