Process Interviews: Salma Shaw as Desdemona
These interviews will examine different artist’s approaches to Synetic’s unique process of creating a show. We find that the Synetic rehearsal process is a fascinating blend of traditional approaches and out-of-the-box creativity. This week we’re asking Salma Qarnain, who plays Desdemona in the currently-running Othello at the Kennedy Center, to answer a few questions about creating a character with Synetic.
1. What are the biggest challenges that Synetic presents to an actor?
During my four years with the company, I have found that the most successful actors are the ones that are the most adaptable and willing to explore, improvise, and develop the piece as the rehearsals move along. There is a lot of collaboration early in the process, and what is blocked one day may change the next. Actors who cannot adapt or need to have everything set in stone on day one tend to get frustrated, but in order to develop a completely new piece from scratch, you truly need the discovery process. This is challenging but also extremely rewarding when you see your work on stage. It also allows Synetic to achieve the highest levels of quality and innovation, as we typically develop more material than we can use.
I love sports – I played tennis and volleyball in high school and played as much intramural sports in college as I could manage (softball, kickball, even learned to skate and play hockey!). I much prefer staying in shape through sports versus going to the gym, so Synetic training and rehearsals are perfect for me. In terms of dance, I performed in a number of musicals and took a couple classes in ballroom, ballet, and jazz. My parents were not supportive of my taking classes in acting, voice, dance or gymnastics when I was growing up, so I focused on sports. But I have had a lot of experience dancing in clubs.
3. What makes Synetic characters different from characters in a straight play? What does this mean for playing Desdemona?
Interesting question – I would say the only difference is in the heightened nature of the pieces. Choices must be interesting and extreme, but so are the choices you make in the most interesting straight plays. In terms of wordless works versus plays with language, I focus on ensuring my objectives are crystal clear at every moment. You always need to have clear subtext at all times, since your body and face are your tools for communication. If your subtext is not always on and clear, you’ll be blank – and that’s no good, even for plays with text!
4. Do you have any dream roles?
Definitely Elphaba in Wicked. I also love the classics, so almost anything Shakespearean or Shavian would be fun. And honestly, I would love to be in the next Star Trek movie or do an action film like Wanted. Having a successful and active career in both theater and film would be the dream.
Othello runs through the 3rd of July, with performances at 7:30 Wed-Sat, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30. For tickets, visit http://www.synetictheater.org or call the Kennedy Center at (800) 444-1324