With the premiere of “The Lion King” just around the corner, I had the opportunity to interview Rashada Dawan, who plays the chief hyena, Shenzi, in the Austin production.
Rashada was delightful to chat with. While chatting about her first trip to Austin and barbecue, I made sure to tell her to check out First Thursday, so she can get the perfect experience of Austin’s live music and artists. Then we got down to business.
Q: When did you know you wanted to perform?
A: I knew I wanted to perform in fifth grade. My teacher asked me to sing for the parent orientation. I was really nervous, and I sang Whitney Houston’s “Miracles.” I stared at the planks the whole time, and I didn’t look up. And I think at that point the bug got me. I sang at talent shows, did theatre in high school and college. And apparently people love to hear me sing.
Q: What is it like playing the head hyena?
A: It’s a lot of fun, to be able to add the ferociousness to the group. I like that because it gives me a chance to be mean and bad. I work with two wonderful guys, and we just have so much fun. I don’t know how they managed to cast so close to the character. We’re like the hyenas on and off stage. The crew sees us backstage acting like the hyenas. It’s just so much fun.
Q: As a team, which non-profits do you work with while you are on tour?
A: One in particular we worked with was Helping Hands in New Orleans. And then we all put on benefits in each city that are a part of that city. We worked with women’s healthcare initiatives in San Francisco. Volunteering is a big thing we do, and that involves signing posters and taking pictures after the show. A big thing we do is take donations from the audience after the shows. We raised $100,000 last season.
Q: What has been your favorite role?
A: Oh man, that’s hard because I have so much fun with all of them. I would have to say Shenzi. Shenzi is the best because I get to showcase her all across the nation. I get to make people laugh, bring a character to such a great story like the “Lion King.” It’s such a wonderful story because it relates to everyone, adults and children. Seeing the adults cry a is beautiful to me, and being a part of that story, especially as a villain, is the best I’ve ever had in any production.
It’s not too late to purchase your tickets for “The Lion King.” Be a part of the magic.
WHEN: Wednesday, January 16 through Sunday, February 10, 2013
Bass Concert Hall
2350 Robert Dedman
Austin, TX 78712
TICKETS: To purchase tickets, visit the Bass Concert Hall ticket office.