Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

Patron Spotlight: Mark and Jill Freer

Development Manager Tonya Wilson-Brown, recently got the chance to catch up with two loyal Stage West Patrons, Mark and Jill Freer.

Where are you two from originally?

Jill: We are from Michigan. I am from a suburb of Detroit and Mark is from Detroit. Work brought us to Texas, and we are here to stay.

How did you become interested in theatre in general?

Mark: My wife. Jill: No, it’s true! (laughs) I was a thespian in high school and have a life-long love of theatre. When we moved back to Texas again in 2014, we dived in. We live in Fort Worth, and Stage West specifically was close to downtown and convenient to get to.

Why do you support SWT?

Mark: We both love theatre. It is important to keep it going strong. We support many local theaters and have season subscriptions to many: Stage West, Amphibian, Jubilee, etc. Overall, we just really like what Stage West is doing.

What’s your favorite show in recent memory at SWT?

Jill: We became season ticket holders in 2017/2018. The show that stands out to us the most is Life Sucks because of the message: life doesn’t suck. It made you think. It resonated. I vividly remember the set. It was two levels and really was amazing to see.

If you could change one thing about SWT, what would it be?

Mark: More cookies! Joking. Stage West is moving in a great direction. We love First Tuesdays. Especially recently, there seems to be more reaching out to members/patrons. Whatever you are doing - keep it up.

What three words would you use to sell SWT to a friend?

Jill: Great. Local. Theatre.

Gloria Benavides on Playing It Up

Q: In this show, you play a character named Vesta Verile who is inspired by real-life male impersonator Vesta Tilley. And Vesta (in the play within the play) portrays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, one of the most iconic characters in the Western canon. Can you talk about the cross-roads of playing both a character inspired by a pioneer of gender performance and also one of the most famous characters in world literature?

A: I am a queer performer. I love breaking the rules, pushing boundaries, and poking fun at the normies. I’ve been playing men since I was 16. Even as a kid, I loved it—it’s always a challenge, and you have access to fun, meaty roles. Although we’re seeing some gradual (see: slow) progress in terms of representation in playwriting and on stage, women often still have to fight for just a few roles in every play, and many of those characters are underdeveloped. Yes, even in 2021. So, we can imagine the circumstances Vesta Tilley came into as a young performer in the 19th century, an era when women were relegated to playing princesses and maids. The fact that she was able to circumnavigate the limitations of the time and make a career on her own terms is some BOSS BITCH SHIT and I am honored to tap into some of that power on stage as Vesta Virile. Because of pioneers like Vesta Tilley and Gladys Bentley (look them up!), I’m suiting up every night to play Ebenezer Scrooge— I am wearing a mustache, creeping around with a candlestick, and having a hell of a time playing the one of the meanest, crustiest, most iconic misers in literature. Oh! And I’m doing it all in this Latina’s body. I’d like to think that would have really pissed off a guy like Scrooge. I’m here for it. I hope you are, too.

Director Danielle Georgiou on Revisiting a Classic

Q: A Christmas Carol is a staple in the western zeitgeist - a story that stands the test of time, and is examined and reinvented in new and varied ways by each generation. This version of the story takes itself far less seriously than what we generally expect when we encounter the traditional telling of the tale. Why do you think we continue to explore this story and what does this zany, silly, and a little bit naughty version add to the conversation?

A: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the author’s best work, and is a classic piece of literature that will be read and studied for many more generations to come. It addresses societal conditions that are universal in concept and theme, and it is an excellent examination of the human condition. Even though it was written 177 years ago, it still endures in a world that is almost unrecognizable from Dickens’. I think that we continue to see parodies of this classic tale, like our production of Scrooge in Rouge, because of these qualities. Dickens, in his nuanced storytelling, has given us a lead character that is layered, complicated, tragic, redeemable, human – not someone to hate, but rather someone from whom you can see a mirror into yourself. And to have the opportunity to explore these very real characteristics through comedy is so special and necessary. If we can’t laugh at the Scrooge inside of us, how can we grow? As Dickens ended his story: “Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh... for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset... His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

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