Vin Shambry is Mind Blowing
I was reasonably nervous before my interview with Vin Shambry. A man who went straight from college to the limelight, scoring an immediate role on Broadway. After returning to Portland, he would be the first man to win 3 Drammies in one night, but all of this success did not go to his head.
Shambry was one of the nicest, warmest, most laid back people I’ve ever met. So, why would one give up a Broadway stage for a humble life in Portland? “When you work for an establishment with millions of dollars,” said Shambry, “it’s a whole different lifestyle. It was crazy. I was hanging out with Mary-Kate and Ashley!”
Getting some distance from the wild allure of the New York scene reminded him how much he missed his home. “When I came back to Portland, I realized I needed it,” Shambry said, reflectively. “I realized that my art, I can do it anywhere!”
He continued his acting career in the city where he was born and raised, in plays such as Superior Donuts, Seven Guitars, and several others, including his most recent role in the critically acclaimed Gun Show. “It’s five stories of (the playwright’s) life and how she’s been connected to guns. The fifth is the story of her husband committing suicide with a gun. She’s afraid to talk about it and she wants a man to be her words.” That’s where Shambry comes in, playing the voice and thoughts of the playwright, E.M. Lewis. “It’s a beautiful dichotomy,” he went on to say. “A white woman’s words spoken through a black man adds a whole new meaning.”
When I asked Shambry if this was the life he pictured for himself as a child, he couldn’t help but laugh. “No way! I grew up in poverty!” Having not always known success himself, Shambry started work six months ago at the Men of Color program at the South East PCC location. He learned about this opportunity through a newspaper ad and said to himself “this could be my chance to give back.”
Shambry described the program as a safe space where men of color can open up about their personal lives and receive assistance regarding whatever career they want to pursue. “There’s a systemic issue with white supremacy. I want to validate that it’s a powerful thing these men are doing–going to school.” Passionately, Shambry recited the sorts of things he says to the men in his program: “You can be a rapper, a mathematician, or a doctor, you just have to understand what it takes, and then you can succeed. First, let’s talk about how you’re feeling, who you’re dating, all that. And then we can talk about schoolwork.”
“When you work for an establishment with millions of dollars, it’s a whole different lifestyle.”
Shambry encourages all men of color who feel they could use guidance, understanding, or just a little company, to visit the Men Of Color Resources center, and chat with him.
With his Broadway career behind him, and a present position where he gets to inspire college students, Shambry’s career is still just taking off, with plenty of exciting endeavors on the horizon.
First off, Gun Show is going on tour to a prestigious acting festival in Scotland, where actors from around the world come to watch plays. Something else Shambry fans can look forward to is his new book, Shame, which he is currently in the process of writing. “It’s taken a long time to write this book,” Shambry said when I asked him about his upcoming biography. “Some of my residual pain has newly been addressed, and the only way to process it is to write it down. It’s manifested in sixty short stories of my life.”
Shame will touch on everything, from how Portland was when Shambry grew up, his childhood in poverty, and the people he grew up with who were unable to conquer the obstacles that come with being a black and impecunious.
Shambry called Shame, “a culmination of what I’ve seen and not shared, which led me to the name. Shame is what people don’t express. When you express it, you begin to grow and that’s what I’m trying to do.”