by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Call it role research: As a girl attending Richmond Catholic schools, Shalimar Hickman-Fields kept the nuns busy with her talkative nature. After graduating from St. Gertrude High School, Shalimar earned her degree in Vocal Performance and theater.
So she’s a natural as Sister Mary Hubert in Barksdale Theatre’s “Nunsense” playing now through Feb. 6. Winner of Best Off-Broadway Musical in its original New York production and one of Barksdale’s biggest hits, “Nunsense” is a zany musical tale starring Jan Guarino, Catherine Shaffner, Debra Wagoner and Brittany Simmons. It’s part of Acts of Faith Theatre Festival, a collaboration between Richmond’s faith community and professional theatre companies that kicks off this week. Shalimar has worked for Coca Cola for 18 years and is music director for Moore Street Missionary Baptist Church. She is married to Santania and lives in Richmond. Shalimar talked to Urban Views Weekly after a full day of work and rehearsals. Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Rd. Tickets 282-2620
Rollicking yet reverent: The comedy of this show is just so relaxing and people enjoy it. But they still realize this actually does have attachment to the religious. You have five different characters, five different stories of each nun and the story is told through music and dance.
Exposure to the habit: One of the things I remember as a parochial school student is the nuns had this thing called a clicker and when you got in trouble, you got the clicker. You know what? I got the ruler. I never got the clicker, I got the ruler. My understanding goes back to kindergarten because I started at the Holy Angels, and then Our Lady of Lourdes through 8th grade, and then I went to St. Gertrude’s. So I absolutely have an understanding of how nuns treat people [laughs].
Playing Sister Mary Hubert: It’s not locked to be an African American character, although it’s kind of difficult performing the gospel piece unless you’re really good as a Caucasian because the feel is just not there.
Juggling it all: It’s kind of difficult because it’s family, a full-time job, and then the theater. But it’s the only way that I’ve been able to accomplish my love for theater and music. When I was younger, I was able to tour because I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a mortgage. But to be honest, it’s worth every bit of the effort because of what I get out of working with the people and with the theater. There’s nothing that I would rather do than perform. But we all know in reality we have to do other things to maintain.
Triple threat: I claim my gift to be singing. Acting would be second and dancing third.
Getting roles in Richmond: I chose to stay in Richmond, Virginia. We’re limited on theater, period. [I’m] also limited because I’m an African American female, so it’s difficult to find work. But when we do find work, it’s a great experience. The opportunity is there, you just have to keep your eyes open and run for it when it’s there.
Her strong home base: My family is very supportive. My husband has been more supportive than I could possibly imagine. On Sunday matinees, when we leave church really late, he drives me to the theater. I couldn’t ask for better support from my family at all. My step-daughter has become a little star. She knows my lines better than I do.