Our Newest Administrative Staff

We are so pleased to welcome Eliza Metts, Marketing Assistant, Mary Elizabeth Ray, Box Office Manager, and Monica Vanderbeck, Associate Director of Development, to our administrative team in residence at the Dock Street Theatre! Hear from them below:

Eliza Metts – Marketing Assistant

You are a recent graduate of Wofford College’s theatre program. What did you learn?

My theatre degree was heavy on the playwriting and dramatic theory disciplines. I read and wrote about a plethora of Shakespeare, ancient Greek plays, and contemporary works alike, and I’m so grateful for the wide variety of styles my professors introduced me to. Seeing how theatre has evolved throughout cultures and eras was transformative for me as a writer and artist. The faculty didn’t go easy on us! Most importantly, I learned how to write and communicate well, something I’ll utilize for the rest of my life regardless of how frequently I have the privilege to be onstage.

As a Charleston native, what are your favorite things to do around the city?

My fiancée and I love taking long walks around South of Broad–we always make sure to wind through the little alleys off of East Bay and lower Church Street. I love nature, so I’m always on the lookout for the best window boxes and gardens. Make sure you notice the Resurrection Fern growing on the limbs of live oaks and in the mossy cracks of old brick walls. When it hasn’t rained in a while it looks like it’s dead, but come next rainfall it “resurrects” back to green life! Fun fact: it can live for 99 years without water! 

What is your favorite show of all time?

My mom first took me to see Oklahoma! produced by the College of Charleston when I was 4 years old. I was hooked–it was my first experience with live theatre! It’s an evergreen classic that I learn new things about every time I see it, and I believe the characters–particularly Laurey–are more dynamic and nuanced than we normally remember. It changed Broadway history when it opened in 1943.

Mary Elizabeth Ray – Box Office Manager

You worked with us part-time in the box office before joining full-time. What do you enjoy about working for Charleston Stage?

I’ve loved the opportunity to learn so much so quickly. I had never done theatre work before joining Charleston Stage, so when I discovered this as an interest of mine in college I wanted to soak up as much of it as I could. Working at the Box Office has given me that first peek behind the curtain into the dazzling theatre world, which is priceless!

What do you love most about the experience of live theatre?

I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in art as an audience member. I think there’s a lot of active thinking and suspension of disbelief in live theatre that requires not only a creative production team, but an imaginative viewer. I love to fill in the gaps that aren’t included on stage with my own mind–it makes me feel like I have a part in creating that artistic experience for myself as well, and it’s so cool that it may look different for every audience member in a seat. It’s all art happening on stage and in each individual’s head all at once and it’s a wonderful thing to share.

What is your favorite show of all time?

Mamma Mia!!! It was my favorite movie growing up and it was the very first show I saw at the Dock Street. It was also the first time I’d seen the show live. I went to the Pay-As-You-Please night and the audience could not have been more excited! There were people in Dynamo-esque outfits, overalls, and bell bottoms all over. I think that was the first time I thought I wanted to be a part of making live theatre happen. 

Monica Vanderbeck – Associate Director of Development

You spent some time working in the event planning industry before joining us. What prompted you to switch gears?

I graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I have been told I am bossy (I prefer the term type-A) and detail-oriented, so the event world did not seem too far out of my scope. I decided to pursue an internship in the wedding industry at Intrigue Design and Events, given that weddings are such a dominant industry in Charleston. I was hired full-time as an event manager one week after graduation, and from there my title changed many times over the years. I fell in love with the industry because of the sentiment behind the meaning of marriage. I cherish the sanctity and union of the relationship and couples’ expressions of love. Still, the gear switch was prompted by a series of life changes, personal growth, and the need for professional growth in a new industry. It was my time to move towards a career that would fulfill my purpose and couple my passion with my vocation. 

Nonprofit development is a special vocation of work. What does serving the arts community in Charleston mean to you?

My relationship with the arts started many moons ago (preschool through young adulthood). I was on track to become an opera singer, but different plans were intended for me. I have always spent my free time volunteering and being involved in different community outreach programs, and moving into the nonprofit world was a natural choice. My fulfillment stems from the direct correlation of my efforts, whether time, resources or intellectual property, implemented towards making a difference in the community. The tools and skills I learned in the wedding and events industry helped set a foundation for my current title of Associate Director of Development. Stepping into this role at Charleston Stage has allowed me to align my professional skills and goals with my personal passions.

What is your favorite show of all time?

This question always feels like a loaded question! My favorite opera is Toshio Hosokawa’s Matsukaze. My favorite Musical is technically a comic opera, The Enchantress by Victor Herbert. 

Mary Elizabeth Ray, Eliza Metts and Monica Vanderbeck

“An Avenue of Self-Expression” – The Meaning of Live Theatre, by Resident Actor Raymond Cronley

We sat down with Raymond Cronley, one of our season 45 Resident Actors appearing as Jonathan/Charles Haversham in our production of The Play That Goes Wrong, opening on August 31. Here, he shares his “why” for being involved in theatre and unpacks what the art form means for him.

Theatre is an internet-obsessed kid’s best friend. 

I always had a lot of energy when I was young–too much energy, some might say. It got me in a lot of trouble sometimes, especially when cracking jokes or doing impressions at inopportune times. It always frustrated me that it seemed like I wasn’t allowed to express myself in the way I wanted to. It got simultaneously better and worse for me when I found a couple of friends who matched my energy, because not only did they play along with my antics, they also added their own layers of energy and cookiness to the bits I loved to do.

I grew up in the early days of the internet and YouTube, so for us the pinnacle of comedy meant finding the most inane and nonsensical content possible, memorizing it, and spouting it out to each other on the bus, the playground, or in classrooms. We were all about those in-jokes that caused our teachers and fellow students alike to roll their eyes at us. We thrived on that attention, that honey-sweet mixture of bemusement and irritation. As the years went on we kept up our schtick of parroting bizarre comedy to each other and to our peers, bouncing our energy between ourselves. Eventually that energy would wing off and attract others of a similar ilk, the kids with too much energy and way too much free time on the internet who needed an outlet. Our friendship was strong, but there was only so much energy we could release at school, especially once high school rolled around.

What were a group of nerdy kids with an obsession with parroting media and seemingly boundless amounts of energy to do with themselves? It’s at the junction that I thank my lucky stars we found our school’s theatre club. At last, my friends and I had discovered a platform by which we could all learn funny in-jokes, goofy voices, and memorize ridiculous songs and movements which we could then showcase to the entire school. No longer were we the annoying kids singing YouTube songs on the playground–in our minds, now we could be so much more. 

Theatre is many different things: a profession, a craft, an avenue for exploring history, politics, art, and humanity as whole. For a fourteen year old Raymond, however, it was more than that. It was a chance to finally express myself in a way that made sense to me. To use tendencies that many found aggravating and transform them into a work that I could be proud of was life-changing for me. The kids of today are more terminally online than ever before, and as a theatre professional it’s my responsibility to show those energetic and niche-interested kids that there is an avenue here for them to express themselves. Theatre is that avenue, has been that avenue for me, and it always will be. 

Raymond is incredibly jazzed to be joining Charleston Stage as a Resident Actor for our 45th season! Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Raymond graduated in May of 2021 from Ohio Northern University with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Previous credits include Jack (Into the Woods), Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein), and George (Sunday in the Park with George). He would like to thank his family and friends for their wholehearted support and encouragement! Hear from him at  raymondcronley.squarespace.com / @raymonley

An Inside Look at TheatreWings, with Sayde Handegan

Meet Sayde Handegan: a budding actress, TheatreWings member, and student at Wando High School. We recently sat down with her to offer you a closer look into our TheatreWings program, a free, pre-professional apprentice program for high school students committed to learning the craft of backstage theatre design and management. We also had the joy of watching her perform as “Ladybug” in our summer teen production of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach! Here from Sayde herself:

You just finished performing in our production of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” as Ladybug. How did you prepare for the role? I had a blast playing Ladybug in “James!” The biggest challenge in playing this character was the accent. Naturally, I speak with a standard American accent. and when rehearsals started, I had never performed with a different accent before. My character specifically had a posh British accent, so when I had downtime at rehearsal, I listened to people speaking this specific accent to hear their particular inflections. Eventually, I landed on an interview with Emma Thompson and that was it–her accent was perfect for Ladybug. I watched a ridiculous amount of her interviews to prepare for the role! Physically, the preparation was straightforward, as I didn’t have a very dance heavy track. 

What is your favorite Charleston Stage memory? I have so many wonderful memories with Charleston Stage! I’ve always had a great time working with the company. Four of my favorite memories are being a dresser for the production of Bright Star in season 44, learning stage combat for The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, singing Wicked with Cedar (2nd year Resident Actor) at WingsWeek, and the whole “James” experience.

How are you looking forward to growing as an artist in TheatreWings this year? This year I am a part of the costume design concentration. During the past year I’ve been trying to teach myself to sew and make clothing, so I figured this would be a great way to learn! At the high school I attend, I am the production manager of the school’s theatre program this academic year. My responsibilities include head of stage management, costumes, and props, so to help me succeed more in my job, I decided it would be good to learn the art of designing, making, and maintaining costumes. 

What did you learn in TheatreWings last year that was new to you? Last year I was a part of the stage management concentration, but got assigned to be a dresser for Bright Star. Being in stage management, I had no clue what a dresser did for a show. I learned all about this role’s responsibilities during tech week and ended up being in charge of all the mens costume changes for the show! It’s one of my favorite theatre experiences ever!

What is your favorite show of all time? Another hard question! My favorite show that Charleston Stage has produced is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” My favorite Broadway show is “Finding Neverland”.

Sayde has been working with Charleston Stage since 3rd grade with their classes, Performance Troupe, and High School TheatreWings Program. She is a Junior at Wando High School and production manager of Wando Theatre. Some of her favorite roles include Katie Travis (School of Rock), Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz), Ryan Evans (High School Musical, On Stage!), and a supporting role in PYPO’s Spelling Bee. She’s very excited to play Eurydice in Wando Theatre’s production of Eurydice this Fall. You can find her at saydehandegan.square.site and on Instagram at @saydejhandegan

Get to Know Cody Tellis Rutledge, Set Designer for “The Play That Goes Wrong”

We recently sat down with Cody Tellis Rutledge, Charleston Stage’s Resident Scenic Designer and Scenic Charge, to hear about his history with scenic design and the process of conceptualizing, designing, and building the set for The Play That Goes Wrong. It isn’t easy to build a set that’s designed to fall apart and get put back up night after night, and we are indebted to him for his ingenious work for this show! Read through the end to get a sneak peak at the sets for our season opening show.

Share with us your story of getting into set design.

“The painting and design elements have always been in my blood. My mom was an artist and a flower arrangement designer, so when I was little I helped her design and arrange some of her pieces. When I transitioned into theatre, it all came naturally for me. Unfortunately I grew up in a small town, so I had to travel to another county to participate in theatre. 

In Woodbury, TN I found my people and a mentor, Darryl Deason, co-founder of the Arts Center of Cannon County. He cast me in Hairspray and to help paint the set, and when I asked to have a design role he gave me a shot. I’ve come a long way since my pepto bismol pink set design of Legally Blonde! From there I did an internship at Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, TN, where I worked as a scenic painter and an actor. Then I went back to school to pursue my degree in theatre design and hone my skills.”

What do you love about what you do?

“I love creating something from nothing. I say this literally: set ideas start as scratch marks on a paper before they transform into the real thing. To see that come alive as something unique is really special, especially if the audience audibly gasps when they see it. It’s also amazing to me how there are so many ways to do the same show from different perspectives; there is always room to grow and improve.”

What has been exciting about designing The Play That Goes Wrong? What has been a challenge?

“It’s exciting to me that most theatres haven’t done this show yet, so I’ve had to really dive into research to figure out the tricks in the set. In general it’s a challenging show because everything has to go “right” in order to go “wrong,” and one little error can cause so many problems. The challenge is safety-proofing every single thing on the set to protect the actors. Whether that is making sure something doesn’t break, or having multiple versions of something ready to go in case something does actually break when it is not supposed to, we have to be really thorough.”

What do you enjoy about working with Charleston Stage?

“I love the relationships I’ve made in Charleston Stage’s theatre community. I’m able to freely bounce ideas off of my cohorts in the shops, which makes for a really collaborative and enjoyable process. And the relationships aren’t just in our scene shops but also at the Dock Street itself: with our education staff, administrative staff, ushers, volunteers, and other theatre companies in the Charleston community. Everyone wants you to succeed, and I believe that is important in maintaining a healthy and successful design process.”

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

The Play That Goes Wrong is probably the most technically challenging show we have put on Dock Street’s stage! It is by no means easy to design and build. This show would not work without the people behind the scenes putting in 100% to make sure that it runs smoothly and safely. You will see tech crew in the show actively trying to keep everything together! The real heroes are Josh and Adam, my fellow staff members in the scene shop, who have worked beyond my imagination to do things I wasn’t even sure were possible. For that, I’m super grateful.”

Rendering for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Rendering for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Set model for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.
Set construction and painting at Charleston Stage’s West Ashley scene shop for The Play That Goes Wrong at the Dock Street Theatre.

Cody Tellis Rutledge (he/him/his) is originally from McMinnville, TN and holds a B.F.A. in Theatre with a double emphasis in Musical Theatre and Technical Production from the University of Memphis. This is his 6th season continuing on with Charleston Stage after being a Resident Professional Actor for the 40th Season and is in his 5th year in the Acting Ensemble Company. Some past favorite designs here at Charleston Stage include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Of Mice and Men, and Number the Stars. You can see more of his design work on his Instagram at @rutledgescenicdesign, where he has designed for professional theatre companies across the U.S.

The Meaning of Live Theatre – Eliza Metts, Marketing Assistant

We recently sat down with Eliza Metts, our new Marketing Assistant, to hear her perspective on the meaning of live theatre in her artistic journey. We are thrilled to share other members’ of the Charleston Stage Company perspective on this topic throughout this season on our blog! Enjoy this first discussion with Eliza.

“Robots will never, ever be able to create art.

This is something I take great comfort in, actually. As jobs held by human beings are replaced with machines and children learn to treat Alexa and Siri like a friend rather than an object, I am easily overwhelmed by the slow takeover of the unnatural over the natural, the screen over the face, the digital over the real.

But then I remember, robots will never, ever be able to create art. They will never be able to have opinions about food, or laugh just because they want to, or have a soul, or enjoy selfless friendship. Robots may be able to make computer-generated digital paintings or recite lines of Shakespeare, but they will never, ever be able to create art, because art can only be created from a human soul, the one special thing that sets us apart from the rest of creation.

No, art belongs to humanity alone. And we, the humans, belong to one another.

Live theatre is a remarkable expression of this truth. The actors belong to one another in telling the human story within each scene, the stage crew and production designers belong to one another in the creation of visual art, the actors and audience members belong to one another in the experience of letting the human story unfold in real time and real space. It isn’t just that there is an excitement and thrill to live theatre that tvs and movie screens will never be able to replicate–it’s that a face is inherently more valuable than a set of pixels and a live voice soaring over a live orchestra is inherently more valuable than even the most updated audio engineering.

I don’t intend to disrespect the art of filmmaking–we as theatre artists are indebted to what film artists can teach us about creatively telling the story of the human experience in new, exciting ways. But even in the past hundred years of film photography soaring to new heights, live theatre has also only soared as well. Even as technology envelopes more of our everyday, we yearn for the face-to-face, for the tangible, for the real.

It takes a human to make art, because art can only be created by a living soul. And so, I look towards our overwhelmingly digitized future with confidence, because I believe in the need for human souls to tell stories to others and trust that we will always find a way to do so, creating art that moves us, makes us think, and leaves us not as we came.”

Eliza Metts is the Marketing Assistant for Charleston Stage. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Theatre and English from Wofford College and is the voice behind the Instagram blog @elizawritesthings. 

Adam Jehle, Set Designer for “Kinky Boots”

Q: Where did you grow up?  Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Growing up, I was very lucky to have a mother that wanted her children to be exposed to the arts. My mother would always take us to art museums, concerts, and I grew up in the small town of Nixa in Missouri. I was introduced to theatre in junior high. It was an elective class we could take and I fell in love with it. I was blown away that you could tell stories for a living and I figured I’d try.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q: Where did you receive training?  How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

I graduated with a B.F.A. in Design, Technology and Stage Management from Missouri State University. Luckily it was a small school with more personalized training so I got a ton of shop experience and a chance to design Mainstage once a semester. So by the time I was done with undergrad, I had a lot of shows under my belt.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q: What productions have you previously designed for Charleston Stage this season?

I have done the Projection Design for Murder on the Orient Express and I just closed my Scenic Design for Black Pearl Sings!

Q:  Please discuss your process as the Set Designer for Kinky Boots.

Well luckily I had a clear vision and concept from the Director, Marybeth Clark. We had conversions about how we wanted the show to feel different. We were drawn to the idea of everything being able to change, adapt and allow ease of movement just as the characters do in the show. So once we knew what direction we wanted to go, I researched the time period, the setting and visual world of the show.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Kinky Boots?

I want people to leave with a little bit of light being shed on a very fun and touching story.

Featured: Set Design for Kinky Boots by Adam Jehle.

Performances of Kinky Boots continue running April 14th – May 1st at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Hayley O’Brien, Costume Designer for “Kinky Boots”

Q: Where did you grow up?  Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

I grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Growing up, I was very lucky to have a mother that wanted her children to be exposed to the arts. My mother would always take us to art museums, concerts, and every year she would treat us with tickets to at least one or two touring shows at The Broward Center of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. My mother also encouraged me to join Drama Club in middle school as well as Drama class in high school. My sister, Molly, and I would often draw together and talk about fashion which would lead me to costume design.

Q: Where did you receive training?  How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

I received a Bachelor of Arts In Theatre and a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design at Florida State University. During my undergraduate years, I originally focused on performance but was introduced to costume design and technology that led me to then attend graduate school. Graduate school gave me the opportunity to learn the design and construction process of a production in terms of collaborating with a director and production team, communicating and working with all members of a costume shop, and improving my research and rendering skills. Graduate school also helped further my skills as a well-rounded costume technician.

Q: What productions have you previously costume designed for Charleston Stage this season?

This season, I was the costume designer for Blithe Spirit and Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook.

Q:  Please discuss your process as the Costume Designer for Kinky Boots.

As the costume designer for Kinky Boots, I collaborated and communicated a lot with the director, Marybeth Clark. After hearing Marybeth’s concept for the production, we agreed to approach Kinky Boots with new and creative ideas. During my research process, I wanted there to be moments within the show that reference the iconic designs by Gregg Barnes while also introducing something new. And of course, I had to think about the most important thing…boots! 

When designing a costume-heavy show like Kinky Boots, you have to organize and prepare as much as possible. Therefore, I knew I had to start the rendering process and swatch for fabric as soon as I could. In fact, the costumes we are building for the show were primarily influenced by the fabric I wanted to incorporate into the show. With the fast-paced nature and the cast size of Kinky Boots, I also had to consider quick changes and how the costumes flow throughout the show. 

Featured: Renderings of The Angels in Kinky Boots by Hayley O’Brien.

Once the designs were finalized, we really hit the ground running. At first, I primarily focused on the characters that were going to be more involved such as Lola and the Angels. I am a huge fan of drag culture so I knew I had to consider all the elements such as padding, tights, heels, wigs, etc. After all, it can be a lot of work dressing six drag queens! Once we got the ball rolling, I was able to shift my focus to the characters that work in the factory. Just like Lola and the Angels, the factory workers have their own individual personalities and styles. I wanted to reflect that with color palettes and silhouettes, keeping in mind what each character does while working at the factory. Overall, it is a balancing act between Lola’s world and Charlie’s world. 

Since the plot of Kinky Boots obviously focuses on high heeled boots, I knew I had to have a plan. First and foremost, I prioritized the safety of the actors in terms of picking what heels or boots to put them in. In terms of the boots themselves, it was important to me that each of the “finale” boots have a specific design to them that correlates to the Angel wearing them. Since we do not have the luxury of making the boots ourselves, there are a few tricks we have to transform them into Lola’s “Kinky Boots”. 

Featured: (left to right) Charleston Stage Resident Actors K’nique Eichelberger as Lola and Drew H. Wells as Charlie in Kinky Boots.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will experience with your designs for Kinky Boots?

I am most excited for the audience to see some of the new designs for Lola and the Angels. I wanted the Angels to be individualistic and represent different styles/personas of drag culture so I think the audience will have fun seeing the variety among them. There are also some exciting surprises within the costumes that I hope the audience will enjoy!

Featured: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Jerquintez A. Gipson as Lola in Kinky Boots.

Performances of Kinky Boots run April 6th – May 1st at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.

Henry Clay Middleton, Director of “Black Pearl Sings!”

Q: What lead you to your passion in the arts?

I fell in love with the stage when I saw Annie Get Your Gun as a young third grader. I was swept away by the lead actress’s expressive face which I can still see to this day. My parents also introduced me to music and I played the trumpet for many years. During Easter celebrations at church, I always had the longest Easter speech and would also entertain my grandparents with impressions of our pastor’s sermons at dinner after church. I fondly remember the laughter of my family and their guests.

Q: You are directing Black Pearl Sings!. How has this experience been for you?

It’s great working with Charleston Stage. I had a clear vision for this show from the first moment I read it. It’s been exciting to see the actresses bring that vision to life.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take with them after seeing this production?

I want the audience to leave the theater swept up in the twists and turns in this slice of life experience. Who hasn’t striven to get what they wanted but ended up at an unexpected destination.

Q: You are a member of Charleston Stage’s Board of Trustees. How has this involvement fueled your passion for theatre in Charleston?

Charleston Stage has made a commitment to be more inclusive. Theatre should be a reflection of the community it serves. People will relate and support productions when they see people that look like them on stage. Because of this, I was excited to join the Board of Trustees this season.

Q: You are also an actor with Charleston Stage. What has been your most favorite role on the Dock Street Theatre stage?

My favorite role was portraying the icon Thurgood Marshall in The Seat of Justice, when Charleston Stage produced the play in 2016.

Performances of Black Pearl Sings! run March 11th – 27th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

Katelyn Crall, Starring as Susannah in “Black Pearl Sings!”

Q: Where are you from and where did you receive your training in theatre?

I am from a small town a little south of Saratoga, New York. I was very lucky to begin an informal training in theatre in my childhood home watching TCM with my grandmother and going to Shakespeare plays with my father every summer. I received my B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia in 2019.

Q: Katelyn, you’re a returning Resident Actor this season!  What have you been most excited about with joining Charleston Stage for a second year? 

Coming back to Charleston Stage, especially after the shutdown, feels like coming home. This theatre company and community is so special and being able to come back as a second year Resident Actor is an absolute privilege. Being a part of shows like Black Pearl Sings! and Bright Star, where I was pushed artistically is something I was (and still am) excited for. One of the most rewarding parts of coming back has been working with our new CityStage program. Myself and the other Resident Actors have been teaching theatre in schools we may have otherwise never been able to go to. We’ve been able to tour Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook (which was also my directorial debut) and seeing the response from the kids has been the greatest reward. 

Q: You are playing the role of Susannah in Black Pearl Sings!  How has this experience been for you with preparing for this role?

Black Pearl Sings! is unlike any other show I have ever worked on. It has been such an intimate and invigorating process. In most rehearsals there have been less than 5 people in the room, where the last show I was in there were 50. Being in a full-length show with just one other actor is an intimidating prospect- it’s a lot of lines to memorize! But I have been so lucky to work with wonderful and encouraging artists in every aspect on stage and off. (and I got to learn how to play the autoharp which was really fun!!!)

Q: What qualities of Susannah do you most connect with?

I think Susannah is a very complicated person. She is guarded, driven, passionate and quick to anger. But in playing her I’ve found she is also self-conscious, has a very tender soul and is guarding more than her own fair share of secrets. I connect with her love of music and probably every other aspect of her in different ways on different days. She has blind spots, especially with Pearl and on things she’s not an “expert” in, and I know I do and probably always will too. But at her heart I think she is a very hurt woman trying to find her way in a world and time that was not made for her. 

Q: Why do you think Black Pearl Sings! is relevant for audiences today?

How often do you get to see a play or really any form of entertainment focusing exclusively on two strong women? And they’re not fighting over a man! There are an infinite amount of lessons to be taken from Black Pearl Sings! and even though it takes place about 90 years ago, we can still see these characters today. These fights over heritage and ownership are still happening and are incredibly valid. In every show I am a part of I hope the audiences will implement that very old Shakespearean quote and hold the mirror up as twere nature. In layman’s terms: I hope they see themselves on stage. Maybe in Pearl or Susannah or just in the struggle of fighting for your family or their independence. I hope they leave the theatre full of music and maybe singing a song or two. 

Performances of Black Pearl Sings! run March 9th – 27th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

Crystin Gilmore, Starring as Pearl in “Black Pearl Sings!”

Q: Where are you from and where did you receive your training in theatre?

I’m a small town girl from the outskirts of Memphis, TN. I have a B.F.A. from the University of Memphis.

Q: You currently reside in New York City and are an Equity actor. Can you briefly explain what it means to be an Equity actor?

An equity actor or Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), is an American labor union representing those who work in live theatrical performance. AEA works to negotiate and provide performers and stage managers quality living conditions, livable wages, and benefits. Being in the union doesn’t mean an actor is more talented than a non union actor, it just means an actor has enough professional credits and/or finds it beneficial to join the union. My greatest appreciation for the union is health insurance and having an advocate to fight for me in unjust situations. 

Q: Crystin, you’re a returning Guest Actor with Charleston Stage! What inspires you to continue to work with Charleston Stage and share your talents with our audiences?

Charleston Stage is family to me. I was a Resident Actor with this company right out of college and that was over a decade and a half ago. They are a company who care for people and the imprint they leave on the world. I will forever return as long as they will have me. 

Q: You are starring as Pearl in Black Pearl Sings!. How has this experience been for you with preparing for this role? This isn’t the first time you’ve played Pearl in a production of Black Pearl Sings!. Please share.

This role is a roller coaster ride of emotions so it mirrors life well. The more living I do, the better I can relate to Pearl’s choices both beneficial and destructive.  

And yes, this will be my second opportunity to bring life to Pearl. This is a sweet treat because it’s not often that an actor gets to revisit a script later in life. I’ve had twelve years of living to add to this character and it shows. I’m beyond grateful to give Pearl her due justice.

Q: What qualities of Pearl do you most connect with?

Pearl is a fighter. She’s also family oriented, loving, a truth speaker, raw and malleable. Most of all she’s flawed, just like me. 

Q: Why do you think Black Pearl Sings! is relevant for audiences today?

Black Pearl Sings! is relevant today because at its core, it shows the struggle between flesh and outside forces. It reminds us to extend grace and look at life from another person’s perspective. This is a story about struggle, race, relationship, identity, truth and acceptance. These are topics we will deal with and conquer until we don’t have to anymore. 

I hope audiences leave with a heart for people, a self evaluation, more grace for themselves and others and an increased capacity of love for humanity. 

Performances of Black Pearl Sings! run March 9th – 27th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, CLICK HERE.