Writer, storyteller, and actor, Vin Shambry talks about the movie based on his 1990s Portland life and the unbelievable thing a director asked him to do in college.
Shambry has performed on Broadway, toured internationally, won several awards for acting, is an acclaimed storyteller, is currently working on a short story collection and wrote a movie about his childhood that was filmed in Portland last year, called Outdoor School. He is also the owner and artistic director of the Portland arts venue and community hub Alberta House.
Vin Shambry 0:00
Hey Vin. You know, we decided that we're going to do this show showboat and you're the only person of color we're going to do blackface. Are you okay with that?
Eden Dawn 0:09
Welcome to We Can’t Print This
Fiona McCann 0:15
A podcast telling the story you don't know behind the story you do.
Eden Dawn 0:19
My name is Eden Dawn.
Fiona McCann 0:21
I'm Fiona McCann.
Eden Dawn 0:22
Every week we interview a writer of some kind about the stories behind their stories. And if you like our podcast, please do us a favor and share it with a friend. Or if you super love us, you can support us on Patreon for as little as $5 a month on patreon.com/wecantprintthis.
Fiona McCann 0:40
And this week we welcome writer, actor, storyteller, producer, filmmaker, and all round lovely person Vin Shambry. He has performed on Broadway, toured internationally, won a kabillion awards for acting, is an acclaimed storyteller, you may have heard him on the Moth, and is currently working on a short story collection, also wrote a movie about his childhood that was filmed in Portland last year called Outdoor School. And he is the owner and artistic director of one of our favorite arts venues and community hubs right here in Portland, Alberta House.
Eden Dawn 1:13
And then today talks about Outdoor School, which we should say came from a story he told at the Moth. So tying together storytelling, screenwriting, all of it,
Fiona McCann 1:26
all the writings, and it's a very much a story of his own personal experience, right? He writes about his his life, real things that happen to him, I hear that one of the pieces of advice is always write what you know, which I think is a fairly obvious statement in one way.
Eden Dawn 1:47
But it's not easy, because actually writing what you know, particularly in the way that Vin does, is incredibly vulnerable. And it is more difficult than you think when you are going to write a piece, a vulnerable piece about your life, and then use the thing about writing as you read it for yourself. And then you present it to the world. And then guess what the world has a lot of opinions on it. That's why I never read the comments, is the best advice I can give, never read the comments.
Fiona McCann 2:18
Very hard not to anyway. But yeah, you're right. It's putting something out in the world that's coming from a very vulnerable and very personal place. And I haven't done that that often in my life. But every now and again, in my career, at least there's been calls for a personal essay about something in particular, the only one time I can really think of as a significant example of this was when I wrote about, I had an eating disorder when I was 20, I think, and I wrote a very personal story about it for the Irish Times during like eating disorder week or something like that. And it was, in some ways, the hardest thing for me to write not just because I had to sort of excavate a lot of my, you know, personal pain around that and shame around it. To be honest, I'm even feeling slightly embarrassed telling you about it now. But the, I think one of the hardest things, and what I hadn't really thought through at the time was how, you know, it is my story, and I'm entitled to share it. But it was also a story that affected my family members. And I know, it was very difficult for my mother to hear that I was going to put that in the public domain and her concerns that she was going to be judged, too for not, you know, letting this happen somehow. And that was really complicated. I remember thinking, oh my god, like, you're right, I can't write about, I can't write about any of my life until everybody I know has died. And that was really I’d be waiting a very long time. Yeah.
Eden Dawn 3:43
Um, well, one, I think it's so important and wonderful that you wrote that piece. And I'm glad that you did. And I think that anytime people are willing to share, you know, then tells us a lot of stuff about growing up being homeless and some, you know, just absolute wildly BS racism he experienced in college, when we get to that part, and also like, he's such a joyful person and being able to navigate that being this joyful person, but telling us these stories that are so personal, but it's so important, because I don't know those things. Yeah, you know what I mean? Like, in the same way, like, we've had to experience a lot of sexism in the journalism world, particularly I feel like coming from the fashion world, there's so much of other journalists kind of being like, Oh, you write about fashion, like, aren't you sort of a sweet young thing? You know, that sort of vacuous airy journalist? Yeah, exactly. So that's something that we have had to deal with, that men might not understand though, of course, and like, I have never been a black man. I've never had to experience what Vin has experienced. And so for him being able to tell us that so completely and help us understand that and You being able to talk about what you went through, it helps other people understand, especially people who haven't experienced those things. And it's something I really love about writing, if people are able to do it. And I understand it takes a lot of strength and courage, and we're not always in the position to do it. But I am really grateful when people do
Fiona McCann 5:17
well. And that's the great thing about stories, right? They help you understand all different experiences, and build empathy and make the world a better place. And honestly, I will say, from my personal experience, after writing that, it did feel really empowering. So if you Hey, so I guess, and it won't be the same for everyone. But sometimes, if you have, you know, a story that's tough and really personal to you, and you put it out there, you'd be surprised at how amazing that can feel well, and
Eden Dawn 5:44
you're reclaiming the authority over it. And we talk about that a little bit within like, once you're in the position where you want to tell the story, it becomes your story, and you're able to kind of own it. And that's also a nice bit, right, like you take the power back in the situation, which was something that writing could do.
Fiona McCann 5:57
Yeah. And Vin’s a legend.
Eden Dawn 6:02
Fiona, we have a new sponsor on the show today.
Fiona McCann 6:05
Yes, and we're totally chuffed because it's Betsy and Iya, which anyone who knows me knows I spend 99% of my life in their earrings. And I have three of their signature bridge inspired cuffs. And it's all designed and made here in Portland,
Eden Dawn 6:19
I have been writing about and wearing and obsessed with Betsy and Iya’s ready to wear jewelry since they started in 2008. And now they also make gorgeous fine jewelry, including custom pieces. And Betsy actually designed the Leo constellation wedding rings that my husband and I wear.
Fiona McCann 6:34
So now you can support both our podcast and this rad family business by shopping with them through our special fancy link. It's betsyandiya.com/wecantprintthis.
Eden Dawn 6:46
use that special URL to automatically get 11% off your order of ready to wear but do not sleep on that fine jewelry either because it is good.
You forgot to say that Vin also has that absolute best voice in the city
Fiona McCann 7:04
you know that you do you do and we really have been working on our voices, but we can't get anywhere near
Eden Dawn 7:09
I feel like every time I see you afterwards, I like try to slow down my voice.
Vin Shambry 7:13
I remember when I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Lion King. Because I would be like who is Mufasa. And I would be like Simba. Everything the light touches is your kingdom. Never go there. And I would literally practice that.
Fiona McCann 7:31
I just got goosebumps.
Eden Dawn 7:37
Also, I'm very concerned right now for what's going to happen near that cliff.
Vin Shambry 7:42
I know I'm really upset.
Fiona McCann 7:44
Vin it is so great to have you in our podcast studio. Well, today we're going to talk about some of the maybe lesser known stories besides you have written in so many different forms
Eden Dawn 8:00
You’re a storytelling machine. You're a machine.
Fiona McCann 8:03
And a lot of what you have put into the public is sort of very private and personal, personal stories.
Vin Shambry 8:12
Yeah, I think when the luxury I think of being an actor, is there's times where you can choose to be yourself or not. I think there's luxury in that. But when you're just a storyteller telling your own shit, I think you have to bring your truth no matter what. And I think as an artist, I'm really intrigued with that. Of like, what part of myself am I going to bring today? And also, how is that going to land? Because I don't know. Because most of the time, I don't know how it's going to land on my insides. Right. So to me, it's really fun to like, investigate that. And see, even if I don't want to do it, I just do it.
Fiona McCann 8:56
Does it make you feel consistently vulnerable, though? Because you're like, how's it gonna land? This is so personal. How's it gonna land? You know, or are you just kind of used to that now?
Vin Shambry 9:04
I think when I wrote Outdoor School, I remember thinking, I was like, no one cares. I said that over and over. I was like, I'm sure that well maybe a few people will care that this little kid was homeless and lived under a tree. But I'm really just writing this for myself. And then when I did this story, I got 1000s of letters from little kids who were homeless right now, whose mother's not around, who they were just sending me things like “Is your mom okay, where are you?” And I think it just hit me. I was like, wait, I guess like I guess my stories do matter. And I think stepping into that vulnerability first I think opened an avenue for everyone else to be like I've been there.
Fiona McCann 9:54
You know you've referenced 12 year old you who I know is that the sort of roote of outdoor school, can you tell us a little bit the story behind that movie,
Eden Dawn 10:03
maybe the one liner
Vin Shambry 10:05
Youu know, the log line of Outdoor School is, it's really about this boy, in 1994 Portland, who lives in these two worlds. He yearns to be a little kid. But he lives in adult situations by night. But what he realizes is that when he goes to Outdoor School, he's allowed to just be a kid. So I think it's really the evolution of realizing that when you're 12, you can just be 12. And I think that that's what I've realized, being part of it, but also being one of the writers and the producer. And the person who it's about is that this is really about a journey of this little boy, realizing that he's always been enough in crazy situations. But now seeing him now that it was all worth it. Yeah, it's about 90s Portland.
Fiona McCann 11:14
Oh my God. This is Eden’s sweet spot, 90s Portland. This is her mastermind subject.
Eden Dawn 11:21
I had a bucket of green slime on top and people don't understand. I feel like the perception of Portland people don't understand.
Fiona McCann 11:31
So I definitely don't understand.
Eden Dawn 11:33
You know, because we're very close in age and 90s Portland looks a lot different than the Portland people know us now for
Vin Shambry 11:43
oh, yeah, I mean, I you know, the beauty of doing this film, and having a budget where I was like, wait, okay, we have money to do this film. We're gonna do it. Like we're gonna do it do it to the point where I need Z 100 stickers. I need like actual like old school you know Busta Bucket Portland Trailblazers stuff from like, from Cool Nutz the rapper we have in it ,like we have in it we have we have we have literally lines that are about Summer Jam. Like we have things that are so Portland on purpose to really like, if you know you know.
Eden Dawn 12:27
Bust a bucket, who'd a dunk it, Blazer duty, super sunk it, slammin' geez
Fiona McCann 12:34
it you know, you know and if you don't know, which would be me
Eden Dawn 12:39
I did. That was my street cred level achieved
Vin Shambry 12:42
Let’s go. I mean, it was like, it's an essence, like the 90s was a strong essence here. Where, you know, like the slogan is, you know, keep Portland weird now, man, we've been weird for years. You don't need a damn. Like, you know, and we didn't have like, you know, it's so funny talking about this. I'm like, oh my god, do I feel old. But like, we didn't have bike lanes. It was just people just ride the bike, in the middle of the street just coz, you know, like, so it's really interesting. Now, like, we're like, we're going to reenact what the 90s were.
Fiona McCann 13:16
Okay, first of all, I'm really excited. But I absolutely won't get any of the references. I can tell you right now, what but what the story is about you essentially, right? You back in the 90s?
Vin Shambry 13:26
Yes, about my mother, myself, and my little sister. And I have two other sisters. And they're like, refer to a little bit in the movie. But it's it's kind of like the plight of my mother. We're homeless at that moment, no housing, fleeing from my father, and I'm going to Outdoor School. So it's showing basically us leaving the park and we lived under this tree in Irving Park. And my mom, we would do the whole routine, like, you know, go get breakfast, brush our teeth in the bathroom, everything. But then my friends didn't know that. So then I would go to school, little Maya, she would like walk with my mom. And she would my mom would try to find jobs and like, so it's like the day to day life of showing that. But also showing little Vin, you know, going into nature in Oregon and kind of witnessing it but really realizing that he's already witnessed nature and he's already kind of been at Outdoor School. You know, so it's kind of, in a sense, a double entendre when you watch it, because you'll see a kid witnessing outdoors, but he's already, he is the outdoors. You know, that's where he lives. Yeah. So it's a cool, you know,
Eden Dawn 14:45
how, at that time, do you remember how much did you feel? It's an interesting thing. Like I feel like kids we can go through so much and it just feels normal because we don't have any other experience. And did you feel kind of like I'm just a kid? Or you were aware of everything?
Vin Shambry 15:00
I mean, I knew exactly. You know, I like to, I like to, I thought that I was a salesman, like I knew exactly what clothes I needed to bring in a backpack, because I needed to go to my friend's house to do laundry. So I needed to know the exact time we were going to eat food, so that I could sneak down and put my clothes in their laundry, because I don't know if they'll let me. So everything in my mind was really strategic, and trying to show these two different worlds, you know, but as an adult, I've had adults in Portland, who said I knew, but I didn't say anything. I didn't go to your mom, because I knew what child protective services would do. I knew if I did say something to a cop, what would have happened.
You’d be split up,
I guess I thought for so long. I kept it secret. But I think there were parents who were concerned, but they just didn't want to get in the way. Because they knew what what my mom was dealing with. And they knew that like, I mean, I wasn't in the streets. I wasn't doing bad things. But like we that was our, that was our situation.
Eden Dawn 16:13
When did you decide to make this movie and tell us how that process was? Because it's like, especially this thing that you were so strategic of not knowing and not wanting people to know your life. At some point, it had to be a weird reversal to be like, now I'll tell everyone now we're going oh, like it's such a swing.
Vin Shambry 16:31
It is. I think, when I performed it for the Moth. I just didn't think it was gonna be big. I guess I just thought, you know, it's just a story about a Black kid dealing with poverty. And then it just blew up. Like, where I got a lot of messages from people. Are you shooting a film? Are you doing a book? What are you doing? And I was like, I don't know. Should I shoot a film? Should I write a film about it? And originally, I was like, oh, I'll just shoot a film and I'll play my dad. I was like, that'd be kind of fun, because I am an actor. And then I was like, No, I don't want to play my dad. Then I was like, Wait, what is this? I was like, should I talk to someone who is a filmmaker? So then I was like, let me talk to my friend Ime Etuk. I've worked with him in commercials and stuff, where he's been a director, and Ime took me out to lunch. It was like five years ago. And he goes, Hey, I have this thing I'm writing. Do you have anything by the way? And I was like, well, there's this story called Outdoor School. And then he watched it, and he's like, we're gonna shoot that. So within like, two weeks, we're like, Okay, we have cameras, let's shoot it.
Eden Dawn 17:47
You always move fast.
Vin Shambry 17:51
And we say, not only we're gonna shoot the film, what if we do a workforce development, where we train people of color behind the camera, so then they're about to be in this feature film, so they get a SAG budget film on their resume. And then all of a sudden, Outdoor School for All sent me a message. And they are this organization that basically fundraises to, to have Outdoor School for all of Americans for all kids. And so to them, they were like, what better way for us to raise money for you, where we want your film to go national, so that we, our organization can back it and they know that we are trying to get money for for the whole entire United States. So we're going to fundraise $500,000 for you guys and I was like, Okay,
Eden Dawn 18:45
I'm so excited. You did that though. And kids had it because it is a formative time for not only being outside but like kids to be away from their parents where we learned how to play suck and blow.
Fiona McCann 18:57
I don't know what that is. Is that, what is even happening?
Eden Dawn 19:00
Oh okay, hold on, take a card where you take a card and one person puts the just like a deck of cards and you put it to your mouth and you suck it in to make it and then you sick and they go mouth to mouth with the person next to and then you blow it while they suck it to make it stick and then if you don't do it, right. Oh, no,
Eden Dawn 19:24
Oh no, you're kissing?
Fiona McCann 19:27
Yeah. Why did they never tell me about this when I was a kid?
Fiona McCann 19:34
OK for the Irish audience kiss and blow. What's it suck and blow
Eden Dawn 19:39
Sck and blow, which really is a far more scandalous name than what happens because I feel like 99% of the time the card does not fall. It's just that like temptation. It's tantalizing that it might fall
Fiona McCann 19:50
You have to kind of angle yourself beside the right person …
Eden Dawn 19:53
Yeah we’re sitting in a circle. It's kind of like, but like spin the bottle was like too forward or we're like obviously you're gonna kiss but this is more like, you might, and it wouldn't be your fault. But you definitely tried to like get next to sit next to somebody, hot. Yeah.
Vin Shambry 20:08
I mean, you know, none of the people knew because we're like, we're gonna go play War.
Eden Dawn 20:13
Fiona McCann 20:15
that's what you called it.
Eden Dawn 20:16
Oh yeah, different kinds of battle. Now we've anyways, all I'm saying is Outdoor School is important for kids on a lot of different levels is
Fiona McCann 20:23
okay. And for the card playing skills.
Vin Shambry 20:25
I mean in even in the movie I mean I even write about this where I just remember all of the like conversations on the bus, you know, because you have a lot of kids like I go camping every day. I know exactly what to do i go crap. I didn't know what was going on. I just had my Jansport backpack. You know, I'm just chilling
Eden Dawn 20:45
Is there any other kind? Right?
Fiona McCann 20:47
You could have really dropped some knowledge there, though. You could be like, Excuse me, you go camping everyday.
Vin Shambry 20:53
Exactly. And I just remember thinking to these moments of like, now, I was equipped, I did have all the tools, you know, I just couldn't say it. Tell them that actually, I am an outdoors person. You know, I'm just in a whole different way.
Eden Dawn 21:12
And did you play your dad in the end?
Vin Shambry 21:14
No, I didn't. So the process of basically, you know, we before we cast it, so Simon Max Hill, cast it and he cast Shrill, Portlandia. It was super weird. Love him. So originally they were like, What do you want to do Vin and I was like, Well, I don't want to play my dad. Because I actually think my dad should be like, not a famous person. But someone who is, you know, this good looking black guy who's charismatic, but violent. And like, and I was like, I don't know if I want to live in that world. Yeah, what I can do is I can play like present Vin, where, if you think of like The Wonder Years, where the voice
Fiona McCann 22:04
I got that reference!
Eden Dawn 22:06
she got a pop culture reference! Yay!,
Vin Shambry 22:10
We got you Ireland. But it's that it's like, I, I realized that in a sense, I am the conscience of the film, you know, like, but the star is a little Black boy. 11 years old, that we found here in Portland, Oregon, goes to Martin Luther King Elementary School. And he's not an actor. And so we we did this whole huge national search and went to LA, went to New York. And so with Simon Max Hill, we opened up churches, we had these huge, like cattle calls. As an actor. I know that life but the movie’s about my fucking life. And I had these moments of being like, whoa, weird. Like these people want to be in this movie, which is my movie to play you and to play little Vin. And I it was a trip like being in the process. And when I walked in, and his name is Carter Holliday. When we walked into this lunch room, that name, he, it is kind of perfect. So we walked in. And we were we were sent there to go look for these two little Black girls who could play my little sister. And we saw them they were like eating food. And then all of a sudden, Carter walks up. He has his like chicken dinner. And he goes Yo, what's that? What's your name? I was like, my name is Vin. What's yours? He's like, my name is Carter. Come sit down. Okay, so I sit down. He goes, he goes, you like chicken? And I was like, Nah, man. I'm vegetarian. He was. I don't know what that is. But I was like, Yo, I talked to the kitchen lady. She puts extra spices in this chicken. And I was like, Oh, you'd like that. She's like, Yeah, because then you know what? I'm a hustler. And so we ended up casting him. And we cast his little friend who goes to a Martin Luther King Elementary too. So the two stars are from Portland. And then Cecily, who is playing my mom is an actress here in Portland. So we got the three main principles born and raised here. And then my father is an Atlanta actor. And then we got a bunch of LA actors for like small roles throughout the film. Every day was like a religious experience. For me. It was like, the awareness of the whole crew knew that the movie was about me. And then witnessing, reenacting poverty, and then all of them crying, seeing it but then crying when they see me, because I'm watching it. It was a game with Carter because every moment he was becoming an actor, but with myself, there was moments where I'd be like, yes, my dad hit my mom right there. And then you grab the bag. And he goes, Wait, he really hit her? Yes. And he go were like, well, he hit her like this. And so he would watch the rehearsal of the actual adult actors do it. And then we would shoot his scenes. And so there would be moments when I would witness it, watch him. And then I would have to take a break and go on my trailer and cry and be fine. And then I come back out work with him. And working with Ime was incredible, because Ime is one of those directors where he he knows the backbone of the whole film. But he also knows how heavy this is and how important it is for me,
Eden Dawn 25:47
what level of this felt like you were just really traumatizing yourself versus what level maybe felt cathartic to see these things again, but to have some power and some like ownership in it.
Vin Shambry 26:02
Yeah, you know. Um, there was, there's this one scene, Outdoor School, basically, I talk about, like, on the school bus, everyone's like, everyone cries at the very end, because you're just so sad. It's over and just you just cry. Yes, you know, and plus, nobody's had any sleep. Exactly. You know, you'd have you just have a blast, like, and I, I remember when we wrote that scene, and that was the moment in real life when we did the, like, the Friendship Circle, when like, they were all like, Vin, you're a good guy, like you care about us. Like, you, you know, you're a jokester. You're this and then that's when I lost it or like little Vin, but in the actual shoot, we were at Outdoor School, it was the second day, it was like 10.30 at night. Carter was done. He was like hungry. He started at six in the morning. Yeah, like, but Ime I talked about this there was like, that's the time when he's magic. When he's done, when he doesn't want to do shit.
Eden Dawn 27:11
Guard is down. Yes.
Vin Shambry 27:15
And it was this, it started to rain. It was like perfect. And I had this moment where I was like, Oh, my God, seeing this little Black boy, bawl in the counselor’s arms is exactly what I did. But it was a moment, every moment in that movie felt so freeing, and I was in charge of it. And I was never in charge of it as a kid. In therapy, I was never in charge of it. And now, it's been such a journey, because I am in charge of it. And now it's out of my hands. But it's in other people’s. But it's just been something where now it's kind of a fun ride. Where every single time I feel great after.
Eden Dawn 28:03
When is the premiere? And what are we wearing?,
Vin Shambry 28:07
the premiere is definitely 2024. We've been pretty short. March 2024. We have some Sundance whispers which is very exciting. Oh, yeah. Yes, Sundance.
Fiona McCann 28:25
It will be a whole other trip to have it be experienced by the world at large, won't it
Eden Dawn 28:30
and then have to do the press circuit and all of that stuff. What a weird thing. Yeah.
Vin Shambry 28:37
So we saw the director's cut already. And to see it with music was an experience, to say the least. And a I think we have a movie. So that's exciting. Yeah. And it's a movie about 90s Portland. I can't wait. So it shows 90s Portland by nature and black nature and Black joy, and just a lot of things that Portlandia didn't, ya know, that I'm excited?
Eden Dawn 29:08
I love that. Yeah. I mean, it's gonna be so great. And you are truly one of the most brilliant storytellers I've ever met in my life. So I know it's going to be so good. And you got cool.
Vin Shambry 29:19
Stop. So dope. I do have a secret story that I can tell you a little bit.
Fiona McCann 29:26
Vin Shambry 29:29
You know, I think what I learned about Outdoor School is kind of launched this idea of like, I should write a book. And that should be kind of like archival of my life of it could be high school and all this other stuff. So basically, I graduated and went to Wyoming for school. And the only reason why I went to Wyoming is because I said I literally wrote this on the application. I say here's why you need me to go to your school. I was like I can be the black guy in the brochure. And that's the first thing I wrote. I said, If you give me a full ride, I will be the black guy on the brochure. And I got it.
Eden Dawn 30:13
And are you still on the brochure?
Vin Shambry 30:16
I am absolutely still a brochure. And that was my first scholarship I got and I knew that I wanted to go there for theater and musical theater. So the first show that they were auditioning was, it was basically showboat in this old classical musical theater piece. And the role was Old Man River, Joe. And I have a low voice and I love to sing old classical musical theater. So I was like, I think I have a good chance of getting this role. So I sang the song, and it was just me and the director. And I was like, Where's everyone else? You know, they're probably in the, in the in the back. So then I go through the thing, and the cast list is already up. So I was like, oh, so I got the role and didn't know that. And then I look to the left, and all of the roles have been assigned, and in showboat, there is white people and Black people.
Eden Dawn 31:15
Why did they choose this musical?
Vin Shambry 31:19
I got my scholarship. I'm bout to take my pictures a week later for the brochure. So I'm there, you know. And then I'm like, Oh, great. I get to sing this musical. I do like this song. Where is everyone? Castlist. The woman who plays my wife. Her name is Mikala. I won't give her her last name. And I was like, Okay, where's this black girl? Let me see her. So I go in just a sea of white girls crying. And I was like, Did you see the list? And I was like, Yeah, I got the lead. And they're like, I'm your wife. I was like, what? But you can't, because I was like, There's Black people in this. You guys where are all the Black people. And I was like, What do you mean? Go talk to Jamie, our director. So I go into the room. And Jamie's like, hey, Vin, you know, we decided that we're going to do this show showboat and you're the only person of color, we're going to do blackface. Are you okay with that? No. So this is this is 19 year old van. And I didn't know what blackface I didn't know what it meant. At that time. I didn't know what blackface meant. And I said, Well, you mean and they're like, Well, we're just gonna, we're gonna paint ourselves, some of the people, and we're gonna find your complexion, and we'll be fine. And I was like, Okay, I didn't know what was going on. And I think I was just excited to be there. I had a full ride scholarship you got I got it.
Eden Dawn 32:48
You're the only Back person in the room and it's unfair to count you to be the one to educate everybody else on there.
Vin Shambry 32:59
So our first day a tech. I will never forget this. I walk in and Mikala is just crying like putting on foundation black charcoal foundation. I am not black charcoal. I am like mocha. The person who originated blackface was Al Jolson. And Al Jolson was this performer, minstrel performer and thereason why he did it is he actually went to basically a nightclub and saw black people doing stand up almost like almost improv comedy. And they sold out the joint. And they were hilarious and awesome. And he was in the back observing it. And he was like, This is it. I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna put black on my face. And I'm gonna, I'm gonna keep my lips the same. But I'm gonna do this. So then I walk in and I see them doing this. They were black, like black. I mean, literally Black and I'm, we're doing my song Old Man River. My wife is coming next to me. She's kissing me. It's all on my face. It's all in my clothes. Oh, my God, my my homies from Portland, drove from Portland to Wyoming to see me opening night. And I did not tell them because I didn't know what to say. And I just remember seeing them center being like, Yo, bro, are you good? Like, they were like, looking at me. Like, do you need to?
Fiona McCann 34:40
Do we need to intervene?
Vin Shambry 34:41
like, do we need to take you out? And it was this experience where like, it traumatized me in college, and I never said anything, because I didn't know that it was illegal. I didn't know that like it was banned basically in the 40s.
Fiona McCann 34:56
This power dynamic where you like the director of your first show was like You’re cool with that, aren't you?
Eden Dawn 35:01
I mean, that's why so much fucked up stuff has happened at schools over the years is because of the dynamic between the authority figure, we're always the power. Yeah, yeah. You're cool. And he's probably a teacher and the director. Yeah. And so you're like, Oh, I supposed to listen to them. And they say, Hey, we're gonna do this. You're cool, right? Like even not asking her Are you not cool? No. Was she crying? Because she felt bad about doing such a stupid thing?
Vin Shambry 35:32
I think, and, you know, the pictures are still on Facebook. They would cry, because they were. I think they were more embarrassed about putting on their face opposed to being embarrassed for me, right? Oh,
Eden Dawn 35:49
they were embarrassed about how they felt like they looked. They weren't embarrassed that they were doing something that is not a good thing to do. Yeah. Wow. I am.
Fiona McCann 35:59
This is like, what era? Late 90s.
Vin Shambry 36:01
This was basically four years after Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. This black kid coming from Oregon. And I was like, from my poverty that I told no one. So I was this kid. Really excited to leave? Yeah, no, because I was like, Oh, my God, I got scholarships,I want it to be the Black kid on the brochure. And then I became literally working with blackface and like, and it's funny, it's the next movie that I'm brewing. You know, because I have pictures of all of us. I have the cast pictures of them. I have all the makeup all over my face. Like, and I did it.
Eden Dawn 36:49
you did the whole run?
Vin Shambry 36:51
we did the show, like 20 times. No one complained? It was the 90s So this wasn't like 60s.
Eden Dawn 37:09
Yeah, this must have been like 99 or something. Right?
Vin Shambry 37:13
I mean, think about it. Like, it could have been on CNN. I could have Karened them. I could
Eden Dawn 37:22
Oh, you could have sued. Like now. Yeah, but the power
Fiona McCann 37:23
in that moment. And I think that that's the it's those exact conversations that are so problematic, where it's like, you know, you're cool, right? You're cool.
Vin Shambry 37:32
Because what do you do in that situation? Like, I was asked on behalf of all Black people. Was that, okay? And I am 19 years old.
Eden Dawn 37:46
It's your first show move into Wyoming. Not in a place of power. No, anyway, not even in a place of knowing anybody.
Vin Shambry 37:51
I never spoke about it until my friends came. Because they, it was during Christmas break. It was our last week, we drove back to Portland, and they were like, Get in the car. We’re going back to Portland. And it's been, it's funny. It's been one of those stories where I've always wanted to tell. And I just like, I think it needs to be shown. You know, I need to show the experience. Because I have the pictures of it all. This is why I think the brilliance of storytelling is it's never left, like inside my body. So now, what fun way can I bring it out?
Fiona McCann 38:39
That’s a great movie.
Vin Shambry 38:41
I think that's the thing is like, I always ask the question, why is it still inside of me? Why do I still think about it? And I think about it because it needs to come out in some sort of artistic form. And I think now I'm starting to realize that that I have the platform to do that. And I think it's time.
Eden Dawn 39:01
It's time. We're gonna wrap up. But one thing I want to say before we go is that I also think you do such a wonderful job in the city for people to know of with your venue, Alberta House of helping other people tell their stories and making it this place that community is shared and stories are told and people get to work out our own levels of trauma in your hallowed walls. And I just love that about you. And for anybody who doesn't know about it, they should go look up the historic Alberta house and get to a show there.
Fiona McCann 39:33
Have a great time and have and also there's still ways to support Outdoor School, the movie.
Vin Shambry 39:38
Yes, outdoorschoolthemovie.com and there you can support it, please and albertahouse.org. Please support us we're nonprofits struggling but not internally struggling
Fiona McCann 39:52
not internally struggle ever. I know that you're given great stuff.
Eden Dawn 40:04
Thank you. I looked at my script and it says, Thank you, Vin. Thank you. So the website is vinshambry.com. You can look up all of his fanciness. Do you like people to go to your Instagram? Do you want us to say it?
Yeah, it’s @vintime.
That's it for we can't print this for today see more info about our episodes, including transcripts, links to things we talked about, you better believe I'm gonna put up some 90s on there. Go look at our Instagram stories @wecantprintthis and wecantprintthis.com on our website, or on Twitter @wecantprintthis.
Fiona McCann 40:42
And a reminder that also we aren't backed by anyone. We're just two independent journalists giving you an insider look at writing because we love it. And you could always support our work on the podcast by becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon. Thank you also to our producer Miranda Shaffer, and to Dave Depper for our intro music. This podcast was recorded at the Writer’s Block in Portland. And a very big special thanks to our third officemate, Rachel Ritchie, for bringing her Virgo energy into this Leo/Aries cacophony
Eden Dawn 41:14
Always have a Virgo in your life when you're a creative person. You really always have a Virgo in your life. I you're a writer with a great behind the story story write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will read it and then forget to respond for a little bit.
Fiona McCann 41:33
Try beat this story.
Fiona McCann 41:37
The bar is high Vin, the bar is high.