I first met Gillian Shelly when she was helping DC film and stage director (and marvelous actor) Joel Santner and Yellow Bow Tie Productions produce his independent film Bare Knuckle (I helped Joel a bit with the script.)
Gillian had an extended stint with Joel in DC's neverending run of Sheer Madness at the Kennedy Center -- but it was when I saw her as the Gypsy in Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Review's wonderful cabaret musical The Brontes that I knew I wanted to work with her as a playwright. The Brontes was a big hit at Capital Fringe and Gillian rode along with the Dizzies to the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
I finally got my chance when we cast Gillian as Chrysis in Nero/Pseudo, where our production is getting all the benefit of Gillian's voice, smarts and wicked sense of fun.
Gillian's other regional credits include Private Lives (Sybil) at Olney Theatre; A Man of No Importance (Lily) at Bay Theatre Company; Rapunzel (The Witch) at Imagination Stage; Seussical (Gertrude), Grease (Rizzo), ...Charlie Brown (Lucy) and The Wizard of Oz (Wicked Witch) at Toby’s Dinner Theatre (Columbia), as well as the area premiere of The Rough Guide to the Underworld (Rita/Stacy/Medea) at Riverrun Theatre Co.
Her NY/DC Fringe appearances include: Landless Theatre’s Diamond Dead (Pussy), ClassiqueNouveau’s One Thousand and One Days (Scheherazade), and the award-winning premiere of Super Claudio Bros. She also played Helen in the original concept cast of Night of the Living Dead (The Musical).
Phew. And when Gillian's not doing all that, she is also the Managing Director for Factory 449. But busy as she is, Gillian could not escape the playwright's three questions about the Nero/Pseudo experience:
Who is your favorite person/god from antiquity?
I always thought my favorite was Tyche (also known as Fortuna), the goddess of fortune, chance, and fate. The concept that no matter how bad you have it there is always the chance that good things will come your way. For me she stood for hope. It wasn't until I started working on Nero/Pseudo that I realized that she is considered a counterpart of Nemesis -- a goddess who believed no one should ever have too much good fortune and if judged thus she would tilt the scales in the opposite direction to keep you honest. That is when I realized that all this time I have been focusing on the wrong goddess: Nemesis is MUCH more appealing to me. The fact that you will be rewarded for your labors but also the fact that you have to stay honest and grounded or she will straight up eyeball gouge you. Yeah. I go with Nemesis. She's badass and fair. I'll take it.
What's the strangest fact about the ancient world or glam rock that you've learned from this experience?
Well, it isn't strange, but it was something I never really thought about. Glam rockers -- the ones whom we consider the true pioneers of glam rock -- are all male. I suppose I should have known that considering that I have listened to their music my whole life, but it wasn't until I started researching, trying to find a few women to help me shape my role, that it really became apparent. (Yes, there were some women breaking in but it was definitely a David Bowie/Gary Glitter kinda world.) Something learned about the ancient world? That the Roman army drank something called Posca made of herbs, water, and sour wine because it wouldn't cause drunkenness or cholera. One of those is a good reason. One is just a waste of a good wine buzz.
If you were Empress for a day, what would be your first decree?
That we adopt the siesta and a big family/friends meal in the middle of the afternoon all across the country (so good for so many reasons), that we figure out a way to even out salary disparities and how we judge which jobs are the most important, that Alzheimer's and dementia are no more, that we spay and neuter our pets, and that I get my teleporter. (That counts as one decree because I used commas. That's the rule. I decree that too. Because I can.)
Nero/Pseudo previews open at The Shop at Fort Fringe on Friday May 2. Find out more about the play at WSC Avant Bard. Tickets are now on sale.