Faizan Basheer makes his Jobsite debut as Suresh in Rajiv Joseph’s Animals Out of Paper, on stage through Aug. 7 in the Straz Center’s Shimberg Playhouse. We asked him a few questions to let folks get to know him better!

What got you into acting? Was there a particular moment when “the bug bit?”

F: I will never forget the day I got into acting. I was out of town for work one day in Phoenix and I used to go to the gym all the time after work using an Uber. One day my Uber was taking a very long time and I was just about to cancel it, but something told me I should just wait. As I got into the car I subsided my frustration and just started talking to the Uber driver and she happened to be an acting coach and gave me her business card. I thought it was a scam at first but she seemed genuine and then one day I was so bored in my hotel room that I just decided to give her a call and sign up for a class. And the rest is history.

Talk to us about how you feel being so close to opening your first professional theater production! There must be a lot going on!

F: There are so many emotions about this being my first professional play I can’t put into words! I feel like I am learning so much about being an actor. Making big decisions and sticking with them! Every performance is different and working with those changes in the middle of scenes or using that to my advantage has been so crucial in my development as an actor! Also having a solid routine helps tremendously.

Your bio mentions that you’re studying with local darling Eugenie Bondurant. Is there any particular lesson you’ve learned from her that has helped you with Animals Out of Paper?

F: Ever since moving to Tampa I’ve finally found a local place that gives consistent classes from working professionals at Greenlight Cinema. Taking Eugenie’s classes there has taught me a lot about the industry and helped me build some solid connections. Some techniques I’ve been able to use in this play is this “Hot Person technique” where I can substitute a person whom I have strong feelings towards in my real life and use that thought to drive my scenes in Animals out of Paper and it works quite well.

We talk a lot about the importance of representation in the American theater these days. Do you have any particular thoughts about playing an Indian-American character, written by an Indian-American playwright?

F: I think representation is a huge deal especially since the world is so diverse! I was pleasantly surprised when I heard about the casting because there are not a lot of Indian-American or South Asian playwrights in this industry but that is changing now! And the character Suresh is quite spot on for the time it was written in because I can relate to the character myself.

You’re working with two Jobsite stalwarts in Coky and Nicole. What’s it like working with them? Is there anything you particularly enjoy about being with them on stage?

F: Coky and Nicole have been extremely helpful in introducing me to the lingo and tricks of the theatre world and all the other stuff that goes with it. It’s quite hard to explain but I have learned so much from watching them perform and performing with them on stage, I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.

Why do you think Tampa audiences need to see this play?

F: Audiences need to see this play because it is a mix of light-hearted fun and also has moments that are drama-filled. The journey that these characters go through are quite similar to what we go through in life and it is very relatable. Also my favorite part of the show is that there are some moments of the play where it feels like a concert! So you gotta see it!

We hope that you get a chance to catch Faizan and the rest of the company while Animals Out of Paper is still on stage!

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