We had the good fortune of connecting with Shira Lee Abergel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shira Lee, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think it’s all about risk! As a creative I’m constantly risking. Whether I’m singing, acting or curating a show on the wagon, it’s a vulnerable thing to reveal your deepest self through your art, and THAT is really the big risk. You don’t know what people will think or how they will judge you until after you show your soul through your art or business. But that is also why the pay off of risk is so rewarding. If people like it….GREAT! But even if they don’t, you’ve put yourself out there, and you’ve learned something. Unless you risk it and put yourself out there, you will never learn and grow. For me, even making a phone call to connect with someone about recording, or looking for business opportunities is a risk. My heart beats fast and I get nervous that the answer on the other line will be a no. But again, unless you do it, you will never know how much you could succeed. I’m by no means a pro at risk taking, but I’m getting braver every day because I don’t want to lose any more time being shy about my talent or business. Sometimes my tendency for perfectionism holds me back and becomes an excuse to not release new music, or express myself fully, or connect with others. Although I realize that now, and am inching towards making those initial big risks. Because once I take some risky steps, they will get easier to take more often.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My name is Shira Lee, and I am a musician, actress, writer, director, dancer and wagon lady =) . I feel like I’ve dipped my toes in a lot of different art disciplines. I have written and performed plays & multi-disciplinary pieces, I have acted in theatre/musical theatre, tv, and film, I have danced with Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre, and in dance shows by Ana Mendez and Natasha Tsakos, I have done performance art shows with artists like Christina Petersson & Brody Condon, I have hosted Burlesque shows for years with the incomparable Shameless Burlesque, I have toured as a whistler and back up singer with Rachel Goodrich’s band, I have written and recorded songs, and I have sung and played my own music and jazz with some great musicians all around miami & nationally. If it is performance related, I have done it! I was in school my whole life for acting, from elementary all the way through college where I got my BFA in acting performance at New World School of the Arts/University of Florida. Today, professionally, I still act in commercials and the occasional tv or film project, but I mostly write & play music and work on my traveling theatre wagon; Baba Yaga Arts Wagon, also known as the Baba Wagon. Right now my main goal is to finish up some recordings of my music and release an album. I have yet to accomplish that, and that has been one of my main challenges as an artist; releasing. The magic of releasing is that you got to be creative, make something, and let it go. It is so fulfilling to release a work of art because it has completed it’s full cycle of life. Inception, birth, creation, and (not death) but MORE LIFE! It’s like a child growing up and leaving it’s parent’s and the home to make a life of it’s own. That’s what happens to the work. It is released to take on a life of it’s own; be interpreted in different ways, and live without it’s maker’s hammer and chisel. I have made and released theatre work, I have made and debuted the Baba Wagon, but I have never made and released an album of my original music. It’s the anxiety of that first release. It’s not easy to overcome, and I still haven’t! But I am on my way. I have found that just taking action, little by little, whether I “feel” like it or not, helps me to push passed the fear of success. It’s definitely a daily struggle, but as long as I have my to do list for the week, and carve out time for self care, and creativity, then I know I will overcome. Just showing up and congratulating myself for the little milestones helps a lot. I also love to talk out my blocks with friends, and write in my journal every morning to help plan the day and release anything holding me back from success. You will definitely hear some of my music released before the end of the year. I also am working on the Baba Wagon, which has been a labor of love. It is a traveling theatre wagon made of wood, and adorned with beautiful art by local artists like Nima Yazdan, Christina Petersson, Hans Lau and Pedro Jiminez. It was designed & built by my college set building teacher, the late great Dorset Noble and Pauly Homza. So many friends helped to make it happen, and it was generously funded by The Knight Foundation and so many other generous donors through Kickstarter and Give Miami Day with The Miami Foundation. I made the wagon to bring the arts outside of the box and to the people. Most people don’t know what’s going on in the theatre world unless they’re a part of it. So I wanted to connect the everyday working citizen to high quality art and performance and make it accessible. The Baba Wagon does pop-up shows as a mobile theatre where we present dance, music, & theatre. We have done 305 Day and A Nightmare in Leah in Hialeah, Miami on Sight sustainable fashion show at the Bass Museum, “7” an multi-disciplinary journey through the chakras by me at the Perez Art Museum for The Knight Foundation 25 Anniversary, The Youth Music Fest at the Northbeach Bandshell, and more! It has been a wild ride. I have learned more about wood working than I expected, and have had the joy of seeing people light up when they see the wagon roll. My biggest challenge with the Baba Wagon has been the ability to build and create a team to really get it moving as a business. It has mostly been me doing the full-time logistics, bookings, grant writing, and even making the website. Although I have had a lot of help over the last 3 years, and am so grateful for that! If I had a consistent team I know the wagon would be a lot more active and streamlined. The lesson I’ve learned with the wagon is….ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT! Even though I’m not an engineer, or wood worker, there were some things while building the wagon I knew I needed to do but didn’t because I handed my power over to “the experts.” Well, the experts don’t always know. Trust your gut! I also learned that I cannot do it alone. Cannot. Do. It. Alone!! Community and teams are so important for building energy and lifting spirits and growth! So that is what I am looking to do with the wagon. Build a team and grow =) I would like to surprise our South Florida community with more and more pop-up shows, especially during this pandemic. My goal is to make covid-safe, outdoor, public events with the wagon. One will be November 28, 2020 at The Miami Beach Botanical Gardens for the band Afrobeta’s album release of “Illusion Motel.” We’re super excited! If you’re starving to go out and haven’t seen them, now is a good time for an outdoor event in a beautiful place! Bring your masks and sanitizer =) All in all, I would like the world to know that I’m just a girl trying to build a world of art and music and watch it go round while it creates community, confidence and love.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I know it’s a weird time for traveling, but if you’re in Miami, listen to this Miami girl =) Of course you have to go to the beaches. I really dig the spots that don’t have too many people, especially right now, so collins in the 50’s or 90 streets is chill. Also 1st street and ocean in south beach. Or if you’re feeling adventurous Dania Beach just north of Sheridan. While you’re up there in Hollywood you can go to Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, which has paddle boarding and kayaks, a little beachy cafe, a little river called “whiskey creek” AND a very private beach for a small entrance fee. You can go thursday nights 7 pm – 10 pm for some outdoor live music at Naomi’s Garden, with authentic creole food and beer & wine. Hosted by my good friend Fabi World Music who is a great musician. Trust me it’s a great time, and entrance is free! Wednesday nights live jazz (amazing band!) at the very cool (outdoor) Melinda’s in downtown Miami. And of course a chill spot to hang is Lagniappe which is also outdoors for good beer, wine and food. If you want to go to an amazing park, Matheson Hammock Park is magical. And I’m not sure if they’re open again, but see what The Rythm Foundation & Miami Light Project is up to. They have great acts grace their stages. Always drive or walk through wynwood and check out the gorgeous mural work on the walls. Grab a coffee from Panther and just stroll. And pass through calle ocho to get some cuban food, a colada (heavy duty espresso), and see the guys play dominoes in domino park. Oh!! and if you want some bomb taco’s go to @taco_dealer_mia and slide him a DM. =) Ok, I think that covers it =)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Man! Sooooo many people to thank for backing me up over so many ups and downs. These are my undying fans & supporters!! I really couldn’t have made it to where I am without them. Shout out to: Stephanie Ansin who hired me for one of my first acting gigs and just kept on bringing me back and supporting all of my projects in so many ways, Beth Boone another big booster and believer who gave my my first grant and has supported me as a fiscal sponsor and in so many other ways, The Knight Foundation who gave me my first huge grant to build a traveling theatre wagon I call the Baba Yaga Arts Wagon (aka Baba Wagon), The Arsht Center who hired me for one magical summer in The Donkey Show and made me feel like a star, Rosie Herrera a brilliant choreographer who gave me the opportunity to dance in her company and travel the USA as well as believe in my talent, Ana Mendez another genius choreographer who is a great friend and collaborator, Sean Edelson one of my best friends in the whole wide world who is always there no matter what, my entire extended family (and of course my siblings Shani & Aviv, dad Avi Abergel and mom Laura Levene) who always supported my dreams, Mrs. Kidd my high school drama teacher who pushed me to be more disciplined and believed in my talent, Amy and Pablo Landi my booking agents and close friends at Litus Music that give me nothing but love and support, my partner and collaborator Rey Rodriguez for all his love and support, and basically all of my friends past and present who gave me love, boosted me up, and told me that I could do anything. Trust me there are more names that go here! You know who you are <3
Other: Wagon Info: www.babawagon.org Instagram: @babawagon Facebook: www.facebook.com/babawagon
Photographer Zura Lagarde Thanks to Litus Music Inc.