Aseem Shukla ’11, after his stunning performance as Zeus in The Flies, receives his crown as this week’s Indy Artist.
Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic persona at Harvard—what type of activities are you involved in?
I act and sing, but I haven’t taken any classes in Dramatic Arts. I felt like I could get that somewhere else. I preferred to make use of other academic options at Harvard.
As for my artistic persona, I like hamming it up. I like to be goofy and funny on stage. I very much enjoy singing. I sang in Din & Tonics. During my freshman year, I was in two plays: Bodas de Sangre, a play by Federico García Lorca, and Shahrazad. I’ve been in two other plays in my sophomore year, and I was in The Flies this fall. I’m also a correspondent for On Harvard Time. I’ve done a broad range of things but I enjoy myself most when I get a chance to be funny. I’m over the top wacky.
Is it important for you to mix and match big roles with small ones?
I don’t like playing lead roles—they’re boring. I much prefer to play supporting characters. It is also because I’m not convinced of my ability to be a lead actor.
Do you have insight into the spirit of the character you play?
It depends. I’m not the type of actor who says that he wants to change something in the script. I do what I can with what is given to me. If it is adopting a particular accent, I’ll do it.
What inspired you as a youth to want to think outside the box and become an actor?
I always enjoyed getting people’s attention. I started acting in seventh grade and haven’t stopped since then.
What was your first play?
Oklahoma. I played Curly.
What are you doing next?
I’m auditioning for Hasty Pudding Theatricals and thinking about directing a play next semester.
How is your academic life at Harvard? What are you studying?
I study linguistics and I’m also interested in international politics.
Singing and acting are my hobbies, but I cannot rule out the possibility of going into entertainment. My dream job is probably to be some kind of a funny man, but I’m not hedging my bets on that. I might try to go to the law school after here.
If you were to make a choice: singing or acting?
Acting. I feel like there is a greater range of expression in acting. I would call myself an actor who sings rather than a singer who acts.
Do you have any advice for the new actors and singers on campus?
Definitely join the Dins. If you are even remotely interested in something, don’t give it up. Do as many as you think convenient. Plays are short–term things. They last a month or so. Don’t hesitate to try anything that you want to do. Don’t get sidetracked either. Don’t get obsessed with prestige of what you are doing. If you are choosing a smaller role over a main stage one, do that. There is no stigma doing something that you like.
What do you do in your free time besides acting and singing?
Lots of Wikipedia surfing. I read The New York Times and The Economist. I play piano when I get time. I do that a lot when I’m home. I love reading the books of P.G. Wodehouse. I don’t really go out that much. I prefer staying in, talking with my blockmates.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Realistically or ideally?
Realistically, maybe a PhD student at some decent university, wondering whether he’s gonna get a job.
Ideally, a professor or working on some fabulous sitcom or something like that.
Every actor feels different on stage. Can you describe how you feel before going up there?
I don’t get frightened unless I haven’t prepared properly. Especially not in plays because they are rehearsed so well. I get butterflies, but they don’t paralyze me. If there is a solo in Dins I’m much more nervous. In a production, it’s more structured. Everything has to go well and it goes well. On stage, one half of my brain is acting and doing what I have to do and he other piece is thinking whether what I’m doing is right or wrong.
Do you become good friends with your co-actors in a production?
The smaller the group, the closer you get. You get a chance to blend in and get to know different people. Your interactions become more individual.
Song: “Let’s Get Lost” by Chet Baker
Book: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
TV show: Arrested Development
Note: Shortly after this interview was conducted, Aseem Shukla was offered a place this year’s Hasty Pudding Show. Congratulations!
Pelin Kivrak ’11 (pkivrak@fas) has come one step closer to divinity.