Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spotlight On...Verna Gillis

Name: Verna Gillis    

Hometown: My hometown meaning where I was born is NYC. My hometown meaning where I live now is Kerhonson, NY – in the middle of somewhere.

Education: Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology.

Favorite Credits: Won my first slam at age 68. The topic was Coming of Age. I changed it to Coming of Aging. A life shifting moment/orientation. I was the first US/NY presenter of African pop in 1983 which the New York Times called The Pop Event of the Decade.

Why theater?: I have always loved theater. I did summer stock when I was 15 and 16 years old. I used to second act plays on Broadway all the time during my teen years. As an actor I was always best as a character actor. Now I’m just a character - my own character.

Tell us about Tales From Geriassic Park  - On the Verge of Extinction?: It is what my one older woman show. I put on and take off my “retrospectacles” as I reflect, remember, synthesize, reshape the story of what it was and what it is becoming.

What inspired you to write Tales From Geriassic Park?: I’ve been writing for years. I have also been in a 12 Step Program recovering from everything and life on life’s terms. In those “rooms” writing has been an essential component as well as speaking one’s truth out loud. And people laugh!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The work of Will Eno, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, Sam Shepard, Sharr White – they all acknowledge and shed light on the dark side where I dwell. I have so many different sources of inspiration that I interact with on a daily basis. The physical  beauty of where I live – the person I live with  and our continuing collaborations and explorations of how to fucking live with another person! – music music music, anything well done, the courage of people to find out who they are and to live.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Marlon Brando.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Will Eno.  Elevator Repair Service.  The Other Place by Sharr White. America’s Next Top by Julie Novak.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be called TALES FROM GERIASSIC PARK – On the Verge of Extinction. I could play me – at least right now.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Paul Robeson in Othello.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I have no guilty pleasures. Pleasures are fewer and far between so I grab them gladly and relish them totally. At my age, or any age really, why waste time and energy feeling guilty?

What’s up next?: I don’t know. My daily goals are to remain vertical and continue to breath in and out.  I enjoy Stand-UP and Theatre and since my life is my main resource as long as that continues I have my material close at hand. The next thing will reveal itself as it always does. So much of my life has always been unexpected and a surprise. Part of the great mystery.

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