September Artist Spotlight: Zaraawar Mistry of Dreamland Arts

Q. What’s your art form?

Theater and Storytelling. I am an actor, writer and director. My wife, Leslye Orr, and I run a 40-seat theater in St. Paul called Dreamland Arts. It's attached to our house through an underground passage. 

Q. Which role do you find the most challenging: actor, writer or director?

For me, the roles of actor, writer and director are all equally challenging, for very different reasons. None of these roles come easily to me - they all require a lot of preparation beforehand and intense concentration in the execution of the task. But they are also equally rewarding, and I love wearing the different hats, sometimes even all at once (when I do my one-man shows).

Q. Will you share a piece of advice for aspiring playwrights or storytellers in general?

The advice and opinion of others can be helpful, but try not to rely on it. Learning to trust your own ideas and point of view is most important. See, I just gave you advice about not listening too carefully to advice!

Q. How does teaching your craft to youth affect your own art?

My students are some of my best teachers. I learn something new from them every time. My students have taught me practical things, like introducing me to a new culture, a form of dance or a type of music, but more importantly they have taught me about myself - about how to work with others, how not to take things for granted, and how to deal with the  next surprise around the corner!

Q. By the end of a week with you, what are three things you hope most students have learned?

Learning happens in many different ways and is unique to each individual so I like to focus on creating an environment in which learning can happen. I hope students will have learned about...

1. Collaboration: working constructively with people they've not known before.

2. Creation: Putting together something from nothing (i.e. they have to come up with the script and staging).

3. Guts: The willingness to maybe be wrong or look foolish in front of your peers (the best work comes from daring).

Q. What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

Being an artist involved with COMPAS lets me know that I am part of a group that is deeply committed to the development and well-being of our youth; our most important asset.