Lakesha Arie-Angelo is a London-based (Wolverhampton-born and bred) theatre director, playwright and dramaturg. Her work as a playwright includes Graveyard Gang for Tamasha Theatre’s associate company Purple Moon Drama (Richmix, Poplar Union and community tour). Her work as a director includes Shuck ‘n’ Jive (Soho Theatre), Summer Fest (The Bunker Theatre), soft animals (Soho Theatre), The Hoes (Hampstead Theatre), Alive Day (Bunker Theatre), AS:NT (Theatre503) and Prodigal (Bush Theatre, Black Lives: Black Words). Lakesha is currently Soho Theatre’s Associate Director and was previously Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre, where she was awarded the Richard Carne Trust sponsorship. Recently, Lakesha announced her first full season of emerging new work as Associate Director of Soho Theatre. We spoke to her to find out more… Please introduce yourself? I’m Lakesha Arie- Angelo, Associate Director at Soho Theatre, also a Theatre Director, Playwright and Dramaturg. Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now. A series of tests to keep me on track/keep me out of my comfort zone which is where the magic happens. Could you please describe your role as an Associate Director, specifically at Soho Theatre? The majority of my job centres around artist development and creative programming. The former is the part of my role which comprises of co-leading our Writers Lab programme, supporting/ being dramaturg for some of our commissioned artists. The creative programming part is leading on programming our upstairs studio space- Spring 2022 being my first season. In order to curate a season of work, I do a lot of show watching across the UK and occasionally internationally and read a lot of scripts. Alongside all of this, from time to time, I direct plays at Soho (e.g. soft animals and Shuck ‘n’ Jive) as well as rehearsed readings/ R&D’s etc. ShuckNJive @ Soho Theatre - Image credit: Helen Maybanks How does it feel to programme your first season of work as Associate Director? Great! It’s been really rewarding to give a platform to artists we are excited by and stories we feel need to be told right now. Programming has also been a welcomed challenge to ensure there is a variety of shows that reach out to different intersects of Soho audiences but still also feel suitable to Springtime and to the times we currently inhabit. From Nathan Ellis’s experimental and actor-less, work.txt to Emily Aboud’s cabaret/theatre genre-bending Splintered, the work that you have commissioned this season is quite broad and different - why do you think these shows were best placed to usher in the spring season? As the first full season back post the turbulent few years we’ve all had, it felt necessary to bring in work that can help build a sense of togetherness and moments of joy alongside the sparky drama. I think since the pandemic, how we engage with theatre and our expectations have slightly shifted and so I am constantly learning what audiences may be excited to see. Soho Theatre has always been a space for experimental theatre and so I have leant into that with this season. You are a writer, director, a ’script doula’ and also have a BA in Theatre Production - how do you think these experiences have influenced your artistic/creative practice? A great deal. Each creative project and each academic study I have undertaken has expanded my knowledge and skillset. Whether it be from being a dramaturg on a writer's play which enables me to deepen my understanding of storytelling to directing a show that challenges me on how I can creatively articulate a story; each experience helps me grow as an artist. With the diversity of roles that you have held, what inspires you to keep working within theatre? Being an artist is my access point to understanding the world. Engaging in stories about people and worlds unlike and like my own really strengthen my ability to empathise with the array of human experiences and ways of thinking. I love the aspect of live performance that gives us an opportunity to share an experience and feel challenged, seen, enlightened or entertained etc. Emily Aboud's Splintered Soho Theatre has a history of supporting emerging artists, for example with the Writers’ Lab, what particularly excites you about new/emerging work? Writers of today commenting on contemporary issues and developing work that can shift what we think theatre can be is really exciting to me. I also love to witness artists develop their craft and projects from page to stage and be part of that journey. When programming new writers, is there a particular thing that you look out for? When programming new work we look for unique stories that are subversive, playful or experimental in form that challenges a populist perception of worlds, identities or ideas. What goals do you hope to achieve as Associate Director? To continue to make stimulating work and support great artists. To build on the studio programming to ensure we have a truly eclectic mix of theatre work that broadens the canon. To continue to decolonise my practice and processes within Soho. The last few years have been incredibly difficult for the performing arts industry. As an Associate Director, is there any way in which you would like to see the industry change/continue to change? It has been difficult and I feel now is the opportunity to be quite radical not just with our thinking but in our actions. To me, the challenges we have as an industry are routed in our systems and structures. There’s still much work to be done from addressing representation within spaces of power to creating equitable processes in all aspects of our work. Have you got any other projects on the horizon that you’re excited about? All under wraps for now, watch this space!… GETTING TO KNOW YOU… A book you have to have in your collection? Any one of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies. A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album. A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Sister Act 2 The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? I think it was Saturday Night Fever at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. After classic Disney, musicals were my route into theatre. The spectacle of high kicks, belty songs and extravagant sets totally enchanted me as a kid. What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? I have likely cried during an episode of the current series of This is Us in the last week or so. I generally don’t tend to engage in the news but when I occasionally do, I’m generally usually mad and/ or frustrated by things I do catch. Spending time with family recently has been a real treat.