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#33 Priya Mahendra — Sonder's Not Just For Strangers

My guest on this episode is the possibility driven theatre-maker Priya Mahendra.

With the perfect balance of East and West, Priya’s parents moved to America from India and while she honours that heritage she’s also just a girl from Jersey.

Her love of rap, classic rock and pop music led her to studying Entertainment Business. She worked in the music department of the major talent agency ICM Partners before leaving to follow her heart into the world of acting and theatre.

Since then Priya has been on a very intentional path to build the career she wants and develop a platform where she can help everyone feel like they can belong in the theatre, whether they are making the work or experiencing it.

With Kevin Schuering and a team of collaborators, Priya filmed a sequence of numbers from the musical "The Last 5 Years" to plant the seeds of possibility and open people’s eyes (including mine) to broadening the scope of who can tell the stories of the pieces we already know and love.

Just like her blog Sunday Night Sonder, this episode with Priya gives you a chance to get to know the person behind the work. Learn about what drives her, what she believes in and what she hopes to achieve.

Find and follow Priya online:

website | subscribe to Sunday Night Sonder

Links and show notes from this episode:

  • Demons vs Daemons from Priya’s Blog Sunday Night Sonder
  • Let’s rethink the casting of existing theatre pieces. Why aren’t there a greater variety of actors playing these roles. Is it because the script says they must be played by an able bodied white actor, or is that just the only way it’s been done until now? How might we broaden the scope of who can tell these stories?
  • We discuss The Last 5 Years Project that Priya filmed with fellow actor Kevin Schuering, directed by another Studio Time guest, Billy Bustamante
  • Finding a team of collaborators who are possibility driven
  • Why Priya and Kevin wanted to share The Last 5 Years through the medium of video
  • Using the constraints they were given in terms of budget and time to their advantage
  • How to think about “when you are ready”
  • Planting seeds of possibility about what could happen and what things could look like
  • Knowing who your work is for and not for can turn negative feedback into fuel
  • Priya’s artistic home, the Jen Waldman Studio
  • Discovering My WHY Changed Everything - Studio Time ep 4 featuring Jen Waldman
  • The power of building a community around the ideas you believe in
  • An unconventional path to becoming a theatre-maker
  • Running Towards the Bang - Studio Time ep 16 featuring Peter Shepherd
  • What Priya learned from working in Entertainment Business about gatekeepers
  • Cultivating and nurturing your audience
  • GIving the audience a chance to see themselves represented, not just in the way they look but by what they believe in and what they fight for
  • Sunday Night Sonder - inviting people to get to know the artist behind the work
  • Being intentional about Building Your Career (listen to Priya on The Dreaded Question Podcast with Lili Torre)
  • The difference between a platform and a career
  • Why sonder can be difficult to practise with the people closest to us
  • How might we seek opportunities to challenge our conscious and unconscious expectations and biases?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this episode. You can reach me (Matthew) here.

Thanks for listening!