We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists of all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. It is vital that we make room, make way for women from all backgrounds to have a chance to have their voices included in the future of theatre. It is my delight to introduce the yummy yummy Shari Walker! Shari continues to defy stereotypes and expectations. A #HFF19 Scholarship recipient, Shari states, “SUGARFREE FOSTER CARE combines the difficult journey of foster youth through my perspective as both a social worker and foster child, using poetry, personal narrative, humor, and real-life experiences.”
Constance: How long have you’ve been sitting with this work? What led you to Fringe?
Shari: The work has been consistently a part of my journey since exiting foster care, and I was inspired to put the work in my heart and mind on paper this past six months because of the high epidemic of homeless foster youth and the lack of housing resources available. As a social worker student interning for United Friends of The Children, working with youth emancipating out of the system, I see that the same obstacles I met are even more difficult for the youth transitioning into adulthood today. I was led to the Fringe by my mentor Kathy Rubin who met me after I had transitioned out of foster care; she shared that my story was powerful and could help bring awareness and create social change. Fringe is such a beautiful place for storytelling, shows, inclusion, and diversity and I just knew SugarFree: Foster Care Cognitive Dissonance would have a place at the Fringe.
Constance: The work is now out there. How does that feel?
Shari: It feels absolutely amazing. I have learned that I am not alone and that many have stories similar to my own; others who do not are open to volunteering with nonprofits and getting involved. I am so grateful. Though each show is difficult because it is my journey, it is also beautiful because it opens the door to others sharing their truth, inspiring the community to take action and support children and youth to push through obstacles and barriers.
Constance: What are you enjoying most doing your show? What has been the biggest surprise?
Shari: I enjoy being able to see the progress I have made. I am on an emotional rollercoaster with the audience as I share the various impacts on my life before, during and after foster care, and I enjoy the ending. The biggest surprise from the show is that I still have much to learn. Even as a social work student and foster youth advocate, I have in no way arrived. I am am happy to discover that that’s okay as long as I continue to learn, grow and consistently advocate for change.
Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development process?
Shari: Reflecting back on the trauma and going back to some of the most frightening moments in my childhood. I think acting and writing is one thing, but to have my real-life journey and experiences both on the stage and page brings so much up, internally, and requires me to emotionally, mentally and spiritually stay grounded before, during and after each show. I am grateful to have a great support system in my heart parents, Stephanie and Neil, and my amazing husband Matthew.
Constance: What do you hope audience members take away from your show?
Shari: I hope that audience members can hear my journey and take action to volunteer, mentor, donate and outreach to transition age foster youth within Los Angeles County. I also hope that if audience members have experienced or are currently experiencing – or witnessing – abuse, neglect and violence that they will reach out to gather help. At the end of the show, I give out resource booklets from an amazing agency that is located in LA county that can refer emergency services and support that may be needed.
For more information on COMEDY HOE in HFF19, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5839