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.