Zuhairah McGill

From a 2019 profile in the Philadelphia Tribune

A “born performer,” originally from New York, McGill was surrounded by music all her life, so she insists it was only natural she, herself, would enter the business. Studying her craft with people like Ozzie Davis and Uta Hagen, McGill went on to prove herself.

She is the founder and producing director of First World Theater Ensemble, under which she produced 24 plays. McGill is also the creative artistic director for the master griot project, and was the director in residence at the Prince Music Theatre.

Besides directing, McGill has appeared in numerous off-Broadway and national tours She has also appeared in several commercials and films. For all her work, she has received numerous awards, including three-time winner of the DC Excellence in Black Theatre award, the Barrymore nomination for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her one-woman performance in “Sojourner,” and the Black Arts for Social Change Award, among others.

“Honestly,” she claims, “it’s certainly nice to receive awards for your work, but it is the work itself that is most important to me. I was a nobody, and it was putting in the work that helped me get to where I am today. Of course, I love the acknowledgement, but even if I didn’t get any, it’s more important to me to walk off stage knowing I affected the audience the way I should have. To me, that’s the biggest reward I could ever receive.”

And she’s hoping this play and this role will do just that.

“Because of the times we’re living in, I hope the audience walks away looking at themselves and seeing redemption. I hope at the end of the play, they will walk away seeing redemption for themselves and find justice for others.”

McGill says Aunt Ester is the most difficult and challenging role she’s ever played, “mainly because of the way August Wilson wrote the piece. The role is set between the real world and the mystical, spiritual world so at times it’s difficult to connect the two. It requires a lot of focus and energy, but I feel I’m up to the challenge.”

For all her hard work, McGill says she wouldn’t change a thing. “I love meeting new actors, developing new and creative works, especially at the Arden where you are respected for the work you do.”

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
Actor Gutta Beautiful 2007-08 Season
Actor Most Dangerous Man in America 2014-15 Season