The Strand Theater Company welcomes Baltimore playwright, performing artist, and educator Deletta Gillespie with her original show, What A Girl Wants. Start with seven women preparing for a charity clothing sale and fashion show. Add copious amounts of coffee, wine, arguments, gossip, a copy of Playstud magazine, and an eight-hour deadline, and you have the recipe for a comic romp through the minds and lives of women, who have lived enough to know exactly what they want out of life...or...not. The cast includes Peg Nichols, Erica Poe, Signe Renn, Cheri George, Renee Timms, Quiera Monet, and Lisa F. Scott, with Monica Clory understudying the role of Patience, played by Erica Poe.
The production is the third offering of The Strand 2012-13 Season, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Rain Pryor. “I have had the pleasure of working with Deletta over the past several years, and have experienced her creativity as an actor” says Pryor. “Deletta is a risk taker and not afraid to push the envelope socially or creatively. She is inspiring and Baltimore is lucky to have her, and so is the Strand.”
What A Girl Wants begins with a Preview on Thursday, December 6, officially opens the following night, and runs through December 22nd. All shows begin at 8 pm, except Wednesday, December 12 at 7pm. General Admission is $20. Seniors are $15, and students are $10 (with valid ID). Preview is $5, and the Opening Night is $25.
Written and directed by teaching and performing artist Deletta Gillespie, this play with music is like sitting courtside at a tennis match watching The Players trade volleys, except in this case The Players are your best girl friends and the volleys are words (sometimes barbs) on topics ranging from sex and shoes, to diets and death.
What a Girl Wants first premiered in Bermuda in 2006 and was co-produced by Gillespie with long-time friend and fellow thespian Denise Whitter. The play has been rewritten to accommodate two new characters and edited to feature some local references. Gillespie says that she is following in the footsteps of many playwrights who sometimes update, rewrite, or revise their plays to keep them relevant and fresh.
Mostly comedic, yet at times somber, Gillespie says that What A Girl Wants was never meant to become a play. “While living in Bermuda, I had begun to create a cabaret show around the theme of my realizing that I was now a middle-aged woman. I began writing some dialogue to string together the songs I wanted to perform. I made the serendipitous mistake of seeking the opinion of British director and choreographer Vanessa Gray, who, at that time was a guest director for a production mounted by The Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society.” Gray read the piece and told Gillespie not to waste the dialogue on a cabaret show. “She encouraged me to flesh out the characters more and give them names. I told her that I didn’t write plays. She replied, ‘Well, you just did.’” A year and a half later the play ran for two sold out nights while raising over fifteen-thousand dollars for The Women’s Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence.
Gillespie considers herself an artist who creates work around historically and socially relevant issues, and admits that age discrimination fueled her determination to write What a Girl Wants. She noticed that she had stopped getting juicy parts in shows and was constantly being cast in the chorus or in other supporting roles. When she inquired, she was told that it was because of her age. “At that moment I realized that I had to take my creative life into my own hands. If I was going to be onstage I would now have to create work for myself, and for other women who had also ‘aged out’ of leading lady or interesting character parts.”
Gillespie also wrote The Magic City Massacre, which is a docudrama on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. The play has enjoyed runs at Towson University as well as Morgan State University. ‘I truly believe in performance art as a tool for transformation and healing, and I hope that women can see themselves in the women onstage in this piece.
Gillespie thanks Strand Artistic Director Rain Pryor for the opportunity to mount What a Girl Wants at the Strand. Pryor played the lead role of Justice in Gillespie’s The Magic City Massacre at Towson, and the two have worked together several times since then.
Gillespie is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a graduate of the Towson University MFA Theatre program. Currently she is a Lecturer in the Theatre Arts Department at Morgan State University, and has just recorded her first CD entitled Triumph – which features music with inspirational messages from many genres of music – all flavored with a sprinkling of jazz.