Asia Mark is currently playing Cornelia in Hook & Eye Theatre's production of She She She. She is new to New York City -she's only been here six months - but she is already finding her own pace and living out her dream of a joy-filled life. Keep reading as we dive into her work on She She She, Sisterhood, and how she defines success!
Tell us about yourself and your journey into the Performing Arts.
I'm from Detroit, and I have been performing since I was three. My mother is a poet and my father was an architect, now a business owner. I'm the second oldest of twelve siblings. I started writing scripts for my friend when I was little, directing them (not really knowing that that's what I was doing at the time) and by the 6th grade my friends and I were putting on these little performances. I didn't know that it was actually something I could do as a career - I didn't really see many people of color on TV back then. But in the eighth grade I auditioned for the Detroit School of the Arts, and so throughout high school I was performing with DSA and Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. I went to Western Michigan University and got my BFA. And then kind of, right away I went on to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
And now you're here, working on She She She! Tell us about She She She.
She She She follows six Women, three from the present, three from the past. In the 1930s, during the New Deal Era, Eleanor Roosevelt created camps for women called She-She-She camps. They were basically the female version of CCC camps for men that focused on job training. So it follows six women navigating pregnancy, sexuality, womanhood, death, race, class, women from both 2018 and 1930s and it weaves in and out of two different generations.
The show also touches on the relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauli Murray. Pauli Murray was a black feminist and political activist, who corresponded with Eleanor Roosevelt. The play also touches on epigenetics, and how past traumas can be passed down to generations. It's a quirky play.
And your character Cornelia? Who is she, and how did you approach the character?
Cornelia is one of the 1930s women who go to the She-She-She camp. She comes to the camp after working in a white household and is secretly pregnant by the white man of the household. She can't stay in the camp unless she proves she is married. She is the only black woman in her bunk, and she's dealing with her first pregnancy, being a black woman, and trusting the other women. In my research of the era, I found that so many woman during the depression were just suffering in silence, afraid to depend on others.
With Cornelia I think about my great grandmother who had a baby (my grandmother) by a non-black man. And my great- grandmother didn’t tell anyone about the man, so there are all these secrets in my family about who the father of my grandmother is, because at that time having a baby outside of your race was not something that people talked about. So, I kind of just channel my grandmother and imagine what it must have been like for her to have a pregnancy like that. To this day it’s still kind of swept under the rug and it’s a part of my history that I’m still trying to learn and figure out. And Cornelia is at the beginning of all that. There’s a lot of myself that that I bring to the character, but also a lot of my ancestry as well.
It's really a play about Sisterhood, right?
Yes, and Sisterhood has always been a huge part of my life, and I think it started when I was born with my big sister, and then immediately after I was born I had a younger sister, and it was the three of us for a while. So I was surrounded by it. But mostly, I grew up in the Nation of Islam, and if you know anything about the Nation of Islam - it’s all about Sisterhood and Brotherhood, so pretty much every Saturday was the M.G.T. - the Muslim Girls Training. So there were meetings every Saturday at the Mosque I grew up in, meetings literally about Sisterhood - how to cultivate sisterhood. Sisterhood has always been a part of my life and it has gotten me through so much. I still have my high school best friends. We have to actively cultivate and nourish our relationships as adults. In the Nation of Islam “A Nation can rise no higher than its woman” is one of the quotes repeated my whole life, so I’m really big on women supporting each other and leaning on each other. Having women in your life that can say to you “Oh no, I've gone through this too. I can relate." And so in She She She there’s a scene where the women, from different backgrounds, come together to help Cornelia stay in the camp. They put themselves at risk to help each other, exploring their sexuality as women, exploring class. And to be on stage with these women telling a story that’s woman centered, because a lot of theatre is male-centered- it’s cool to be in a play that is literally about women, women’s relationships
What keeps you going, as a performer in this industry?
I’m still very new, but I really just try to see the positive things in all situations, without ignoring the negative. I'm still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman of color in the industry. Theatre isn’t really a choice for me- it has saved my life. I had a terrible temper as a kid. I would get so angry that I would black out. Theatre really has helped me deal with those things. It’s literally my therapy. I consider myself to be a healer and theatre can be an effective healing tool. Just remembering that -Theatre is such a beautiful tool to heal.
How do you define success?
At this point, success for me is really just doing what brings me joy. So, the last 24 hours consisted of doing a show, and then after the show, a date night with my husband to a really nice spot, the vibes were amazing, black art everywhere. To be able to come home to a beautiful apartment in NYC, six months after moving here, and then to be able to wake up in the morning and go teach - which is another thing that brings me ultimate joy - that’s success to me. My day consists of what I want to do, it consists of love, being around my family, being with my husband.
Growing up I wanted to be the best, and in high school I was salutatorian, valedictorian, I did all that. And still suffered from anxiety and depressions, and I’ve learned that’s not what brings me joy, that’s not what fills me. Success is going to bed at night and saying “during this day, I did everything I wanted to do”. I’m also not big on doing things I don’t want to do. So if I can say “everything I did today is something I wanted to do. That’s success.”
When do you feel most BOLD?
When I feel in alignment with the universe. I’m very intuitive. I don’t know if you’re into astrology , but My moon is in cancer so I’m very connected to my feelings, and it’s very clear to me when I’m in alignment and when I’m not. My gut, you know, it screams at me when I’m not in alignment. And I feel most BOLD when I’m in alignment, and that’s usually when I’m creating. That’s when I know I’m here doing what I’ve been put on this earth to do and that is essentially to heal through creation.
You can see Asia in She She She through June 2nd! Use the discount code DESHAZOR5OFF for a sweet discount! Click here for details!