( ENSPIRE She Did That ) She Is An Award-Winning Playwright With Three Independent Productions
ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabrielle Maya
Shaneisha Dodson is an award-winning playwright and entrepreneur who is bringing Black awareness and representation by storm. In 2012 her love for art inspired the creation of Black Girlz Productions, LLC where she has written, directed, and independently produced three full-length plays that bring awareness to social issues through theatre. In 2021 Dodson founded Brilliant Girl, a brand that gives diverse representation to the toy industry.
Dodson resides in Burbank, California has a BA in psychology from Grambling State University, an MA in counseling from Dallas Baptist University, an Ed.S in education from Walden University, and a Certification in women entrepreneurship from Cornell University. She has recently created the first-ever 18-inch Black superhero doll called Sugamama. It’s important for children to feel seen through their toys, it helps children with self-esteem and promotes diversity and inclusivity. Dodson has created an opportunity for kids to appreciate and respect others from different, cultures, races, and backgrounds to have toys that look just like them and others around them. In 2022, she donated over 90 dolls to children in need and she plans to increase that number in 2023. Shaneisha Dodson has taken the time to talk to us about her passions, her independent theater productions and writing, the future of Brilliant Girl and Black Girlz Productions, and the challenges of creating a brand.
Where did your passion for art come from and has it inspired both your businesses?
My passion for art comes from a writing class that I took in high school. I was given a narrative assignment and had three times to improve my score. All three times I earned a perfect score. I fell in love with the idea of creating flawed characters and unique worlds that are completely opposite of my reality. Creative writing is the foundation for both of my businesses.
What three productions have you written and directed and what were they about? Did they focus on specific social issues, if so please enlighten us on the importance of these issues and what we can do as a community to bring more awareness?
I have written three full-length plays, I’ll Be Single Before I Settle, The Coffee Shop, and Cheating on My Mistress. Each play brought awareness to issues from domestic violence, the power of forgiveness, and molestation. All these issues are important because a lot of families don’t like to air out their dirty laundry. They would rather sweep it under the rug. These topics need to be addressed for people to heal from their trauma. As a community, we can look out for each other. If you know that someone in your community needs help, lend a helping hand or give them a word of encouragement. This may be the push they need to speak out or to get out of a bad situation.
Tell us about your creative process and how you go about representing it within your theatrical work.
My creative process starts with me writing the beginning of a story and the ending. When I finish, I fill in the middle. I always know how my stories will end. In my theatrical work, I always know where I want my plays to break before intermission. It will always be a cliffhanger that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next. With my theatrical productions, my goal is to make the audience feel something. If you don’t feel some type of emotion, I haven’t done my job.
Any future theatre work you are planning on writing, any inspiration or takeaways during these past few years?
I’m getting ready to produce Love Letters to the Black Man. It’s a night of the arts to celebrate black men. A wise man mentioned that there are numerous empowerment events for women, but not many for men. So, my event will use different forms of the arts to celebrate the black man and to discuss trauma and mental health in the black community.
What is Brilliant Girl’s Mission for the future generations of girls and what other potential dolls do you plan to create?
Brilliant Girl’s mission is to inspire young girls to reach their full potential and to bring more representation in the toy industry. I’m currently working on my next doll. She will teach young girls about entrepreneurship. I plan for each doll to show young girls they can be anything that they want to be including a superhero.
What has been the impact of both Brilliant Girl and Black Girlz Productions on young Black Girls and what do you hope the outcome is for the future?
The impact has been powerful. When a young girl tells me they see themselves in my dolls, it makes my heart smile. When a person tells me, that one of my plays inspired them to speak out or changed their life, I know I am on the right path. I hope my future outcome will inspire the masses to reach their full potential.
What are some of the challenges when building both brands, what advice do you have as an entrepreneur for those who want to start a business?
Some challenges were obtaining funding. I used my money to get both businesses off the ground. Then, started a Kickstarter campaign for my first superhero dolls. For anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, I would recommend doing research so you can operate every aspect of your business, find a mentor, and pray before you make any decision.
Shaneisha Dodson is changing the lives of young Black girls everywhere. With the power of toys and power of play productions, she is representing diversity and informing audiences of inclusivity. Being aware of our wonderful differences will help future generations of children be more open-minded and aware of the diversity in this world. To learn more about Brilliant Girl go to Instagram or visit https://thebrilliantgirl.com/. For more information on Black Girlz Productions visit https://www.blackgirlzproductions.com/ or go to their Instagram for updates on new plays. Go follow Shaneisha Dodson, go to her Instagram.