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ASU Law JD grad gets international arbitration experience in legal career

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November 29, 2021

With just one week left until the performance of this golden age musician on the ASU Gammage stage, lead actress Shereen Ahmed shares her experiences and path to star as Eliza Doolittle in the national production of the My Fair Lady tour.

Made famous by Hollywood legends Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn, “My Beautiful Lady” takes place in 1910s England and follows the journey of Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who becomes a member of high London society.

Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, which appears on ASU Gammage from December 712.
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Every day I find more and more ways to connect with Eliza. I think first of all her ambition and desire are something I relate to, Ahmed said.

Ahmed’s journey on stage is not like most. The actress graduated from Towson University in Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Anthropology with a focus on criminal justice. With one wish, without an agent or any credit for her name, Ahmed went on an open call for the musical.

It’s a scene where Eliza enters Higgins study, this is a place to which she is not normally invited and that was a lot of space into which I entered. I did not expect anything to come from the audition and then I booked it, Ahmed said. I felt like that person who had something to try because I had nothing to support me.

So with the same fearlessness and determination as her character, Ahmed was chosen as Eliza Doolittle. And as an Egyptian-American, Ahmed became the first woman of color to play Eliza in the history of Broadway and the West End of London.

I did not know that I would become the first woman of color in a major American production to play Eliza, Ahmed said. As an Arab woman who grew up after 9/11, I was told to hide my identity for so long, and so when I was forced to get in the spotlight that way, she was asking me a lot.

But Ahmed soon realized that this experience was not about him, but about opening the door for more women of color to be represented in American classical music.

“My Pretty Lady” has been part of the history of American musical theater for so long and for so many years, and you can’t see people of color in those kinds of shows. Finally, being able to represent the audience that will come to see us is a gift, Ahmed said.

And as the world of theater reopens for the first time since the pandemic began, Ahmed feels nothing but emotion.

It feels very special, Ahmed said. We’ve been touring for about two months now, but for some people we’re their first show since March 2020, this is a really special moment to share with them. The reactions we receive are much deeper than we have experienced before.

Ahmed is looking forward to sharing Eliza Doolittle’s story with the audience at ASU Gammage, and there are many moments in the show that she is eager for people to see.

“I think the last scene in the show, which I will not spoil, will definitely lead us to this new era of what the golden age musical theater is and what it is trying to say,” Ahmed said.

My Fair Lady will be at ASU Gammage from December 712. For tickets and more information, visit asugammage.com/myfairlady.

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