ON Black is the New White with Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens

We’re really looking forward to spending the night with sisters Charlotte and Rose. In the time you’ve known them— what’s your favourite thing about each other’s characters? What has you kissing your teeth and throwing mad shade?

SHARI: I love that Rose speaks her opinions so freely and with such conviction knowing that not everyone will agree with her. To see a black woman so passionately stating things that others may find unsettling is really powerful. On the flip side, she wanna learn to shuddup sometimes before I grab that weave. Gammin! Nah, I love the bond between these two. You can tell they’ve spent their whole lives having these fiercely intelligent conversations about their core beliefs and they can trash as many Yum Cha restaurants on Mother’s Day as they like, at the end of the day their bond will bring them back together. That, and a growling from Mum.

MIRANDA: My favourite thing about Shari’s character, Charlotte, is that she is not afraid to be a dag. She’s not afraid to ask complicated questions, even if people might not agree with her. She’s determined to learn more about her identity and how it affects her life. I think what annoys me, and my character Rose is that because Charlotte is rightfully proud of the education she has had, she comes across a bit smug when she has the answer and Rose doesn’t.

Shari Sebbens (right) and Miranda Tapsell (left) covered in the remnants of their food fight
Having been in its first season at Sydney Theatre Company last year Shari, what’s it been like bringing the show back and sharing it with a bigger audience on this tour?

SHARI: It’s been mad bringing it back a second time around! All the actors are so much more settled into their characters, the big ideas aren’t so hard to reach, the comedy whips along so smoothly and the audiences seem to have a sense of what to expect so they’re so much more open to us from the first moment.

Tinder recently started a petition for Unicode to release interracial couple emojis. What new perspectives would you say Black is the New White brings to the interracial dating conversation?

MIRANDA: I think Nakkiah’s play has a wonderful way of exploring who has the power dynamic in interracial relationships – who has more privilege and is willing to give that up? But also, it normalises the idea that a non-Indigenous man can be in love with an Aboriginal woman without the idea of fetishisation or that she carries too much “baggage”. Because of Shari’s charm, everyone, black and white, believes Charlotte is deserving of love and equality

SHARI: I know that I myself have never seen these conversations play out on screen or stage this way before. I do feel like we’re letting the audience be privy to some really private moments that interracial couples/families have. Whether it’s making those bad jokes with each other about your backgrounds or whether it’s having to really ask yourself what marrying a person outside of your race or culture means for your family and community. I know as a Bardi, Jabirr Jabirr woman in a relationship with a white man some of the convos onstage have been quite confronting and there’s no black or white answer. Pardon the pun.

Nakkiah’s play does an incredible job of normalising black lives and black love through its form and genre. Miranda, what would you say a play like this adds in the larger “diversity and representation” conversation?

MIRANDA: In terms of diversity, to be honest, this show gives permission to the wide variety of opinions that Aboriginal people have about the society they live in–a type of diversity we don’t get to see much. There’s not just one perspective. It’s great to see just how multifaceted the Indigenous community is.

That’s such a valid point– deconstructing monolithic representations is such a crucial step we don’t talk about a lot. Lastly, I’ve noticed that sistas are slaying left, right and centre this year! What’s something that you’re looking forward to seeing?

SHARI: Okay, so I’m PUMPED for Nakkiah’s next play, Blackie Blackie Brown at Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne over May and July this year. Also, Sydney-based colletcive- Black Birds are bringing Brown Skin Girl to Griffin Theatre on April 25-27. I’m also looking forward to catching Single Asian Female running at Belvoir until March 25.

MIRANDA: I think Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female at Belvoir is going to be a knockout!!!! I’ve heard so many wonderful things and Asian Australian representation on our stages is well overdue!! I also look forward to seeing Michelle Lee’s Going Down at Sydney Theatre Company later this year as well!!

Black is the New White will be at Roslyn Packer Theatre until March 10th, Riverside Theatres Parramatta 21st-24th March then Canberra Theatre Centre 28th-31st March