Aïssa Guindo ’21, an actor and singer at Yale, got her first theater role in fourth grade, in a production of “Aladdin.” Guindo played the role of Aladdin’s mother — a character the production’s director invented, inserting her into a flashback sequence in order to create enough roles to accommodate all the actors.
Guindo’s task was simple: bring a bowl of fruit onto the stage, give it to Aladdin and exit. But when her cue arrived, she forgot the bowl. She recovered onstage by inventing a speech about a magical and invisible bowl of fruit that angered her director but received applause from the audience.
“That was the first moment where I realized that this is something I enjoy doing — something that’s exciting and invigorating,” Guindo said. “If everything is going on in my life, completely inhabiting someone else is a nice way to relax.”
Since her debut, Guindo has performed in numerous productions. During her first semester at Yale, she starred in a production of “Dreamgirls” presented at the University Theatre.
Guindo said acting and singing in “Dreamgirls” was an “amazing experience” that also challenged her as a first-year student in her first semester at Yale.
Despite obstacles such as contracting laryngitis a week before the show, Guindo gave stellar performances that led the professional director of “Dreamgirls,” Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, to describe her as “one of the most gifted young artists that [he has] worked with in years.”
Guindo, who is a black woman, said “Dreamgirls” was an especially important show because it was Yale’s first mainstage production to focus on actors of color.
“I went to a lot of schools that had ‘race-blind’ casting, but not really race-blind casting,” Guindo said. “A lot of shows don’t need to be one specific race — they are written in an ambiguous way, but in the past they’ve been played by white actors and white actresses.”
Guindo said she was excited that her introduction to drama at Yale involved “a celebration of blackness, a celebration of women, with a good discussion on colorism and the power of art and music.”
Joseph Bosco ’20, who has worked with Guindo in two productions at Yale, said there are “few artists on campus as talented as Aïssa who are also so down-to-earth — her talent is only matched by her humility, her commitment and her drive.”
In addition to participating in musical theater at Yale, Guindo is a member of the a cappella group Mixed Company.
Guindo emphasized the diversity and sense of community within the singing ensemble.
“We all have different majors, ethnicities, sexualities and gender identities, and we come from all different parts of world, and without the link of music I don’t know if I would have met these people,” Guindo said. “We don’t always agree on everything, but when we’re in rehearsal and we start singing, we have this moment of connection and that is something I love about a cappella — all through the voice, you’re making something so beautiful and so magical just through everyone’s voices connecting.”
Guindo also takes lessons through the Yale School of Music with Rachel Weishoff MUS ’19, an opera student. Guindo said that although she has no opera experience, Weishoff’s technical advice has helped improve her work in musical theater and a cappella.
At Yale, Guindo is majoring in cognitive science.
Julia Carabatsos | firstname.lastname@example.org