Zaraawar Mistry is in Dreamland

Zaraawar Mistry gets the job done. In India, he says, his last name translates to “worker” or “laborer.” “Sometimes it’s used for a carpenter,” he explains, “but if the electrician comes, you might refer to the electrician as a ‘mistry.’ Or the bricklayer.”

At Springboard, Mistry helps run the Artist Career Consultant program; coordinates schedules; processes payments; and more. In his personal creative work, he stages theater at Dreamland Arts, a 40-seat space in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. While his Springboard job runs on connections and collaboration, as an artist, he is fiercely DIY.

Hi, Zaraawar! Please share a little about your creative practice.
I was born in India, then came to the U.S. in the ’80s to go to college and study theater. I came to the Twin Cities in the early ’90s and started work at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. And I worked at different theaters around town: the Guthrie, Mixed Blood, and then Theater Mu.

At some point, I decided I wanted to do my own thing. I started writing, directing, and producing independently. So much so that 15 years ago, my wife and I decided to make our own theater! We took that independent spirit to the extreme and even decided to convert an old building into a functional theater [Dreamland Arts]. We just run it as a mom-and-pop business and work with the people that we want to work with. It’s actually quite gorgeous on the inside, you know. It’s very simple, very basic.

When it comes to making theater, I have very particular notions and ideas. I make my own shows, almost like a painter. And because I have a small space, I can market it and promote it and produce it, and I can sell the tickets. I’ve just taken it to kind of an absurd extreme, where, you know, those old musicians would have the one bell on top and the bass drum here; the washboard over here — I’m one of those guys, you know, walking around the street doing bam, bam, bam, bam, boom, boom, boom. [laughs] And if somebody is entertained, and they like it, great. If not, you know, they can go do something else.

Zaraawar Mistry Interviews Dr. Deep from Dreamland Arts on Vimeo.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
My first work with Springboard was as an Artist Career Consultant, even before I was on staff. Years ago, Springboard had tried this idea of having a roster of consultants. They were from all over Minnesota, and I think there were about 10 of us. This must have been, like, 13 or 14 years ago. And then somewhere along the way, something else opened up at Springboard. So I started doing a little bit of contract work that led to a part-time position, and then eventually a full-time position. And now I’ve been with Springboard for over a decade.

In fact, [running the ACC program] is one of my principal tasks. The vast majority of the requests come in through the website. Sometimes [applicants will] request a specific consultant, or sometimes they’ll just say, please match me with a consultant. All those inquiries come to me. And I know the consultants and what their skill set is, so my job is to manage that flow.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
You know, I started working as a solo artist about 20 years ago. And in that time, I’ve created, like, half a dozen distinct solo pieces for myself. Most of them have a thematic unity, even though they’re completely different stories. Now I’m working on the fourth show in [a certain] family of stories that explore cultural background; immigration; and now being an American. They’ll usually be set against the backdrop of some historical event or war, or 9/11.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
This is not so much about me as an artist, because I think [for] me as an artist, the answer would be very different. But me as a Springboard person, I’m most happy when I’m just helping others do their job better. In theater, I want to be the principal designer, creator and expressionist of the work. But at Springboard, I try to maintain the total opposite. I just want to be there. I don’t want to get involved in [the artistic] part of the work. I just want to be there to support and make the work happen.

The Lion and the Rabbit from Dreamland Arts on Vimeo.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations:
Workshops & Events Calendar:
Work of Art and Handbook for Artists Working in Community books:

Editor’s note: As the national platform for Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange has long been a platform to highlight the artists, resources, and efforts in our national network. In this pandemic, as Springboard for the Arts’ work is increasingly online and accessible nationally, we’ll be turning the spotlight on Springboard staff and our Artist Career Consultants, to share more about who we are and the work we do. Enjoy!