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For the BENEFIT of Miss JENNIE GOURLAY

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Billy Hipkins
September 20, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Playwright & Performer.

Do you consider yourself a writer who also performs, an actor who also writes, or something else?
I consider myself a Theatre Professional (That's what it says on my tax returns). I pursued an acting career for years (1 Broadway credit: 'Anna Karenina-the Musical' - I talk about it in this show.), segued into a Broadway wardrobe career that has paid for my budding writing career and led right back to acting. Ah showbiz.

Why is this piece a solo play (rather than a multi-actor play)?
Because I WILL NOT be upstaged! Actually... This is a very personal journey I've been on to find Jennie Gourlay, an actress at Ford's Theatre whose shot at stardom was cancelled when Booth shot Lincoln. I identify with the fact that her dream got shifted, much like many of mine have. We are Alsorans, Jennie and I and Alsoranism is a solo adventure all said and done. We have now spent a long long time together Jennie and I and it's time to share our story. So, in many ways this isn't a solo play at all, it is our duet.

In your own words, what do you think this show is about? What will audiences take away with them after seeing it?
This show is about how we all do our best – showbiz folks and people in general – to soldier on when guns of all kinds go off in our lives and our dreams get shifted. We all have this dream of what our lives should look like, and this pinnacle experience that will take us there. I certainly did, and I believe that Miss Jennie Gourlay did too and would today be a know actress from her time instead of a footnote in theatre history had she performed her benefit the night after President Lincoln was assassinated; I believe that that was her dream. But not very many people actually get that moment. Dreams get shifted. And we soldier on, that is a universal truth.

For Election season: which American political figure do you think would like your show best, and why: Barack Obama, Ann Romney, Paul Ryan, or Hilary Clinton?
Well, this show takes a different look at a Presidential assassination so I’m not sure how any of them would feel about it. Then again, I talk about Alsorans, and some of these politicians will be just that very soon…

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
First, there would be flying in my show. Lots of flying. Honestly... The first thing I would do would be to make sure that more people learn who Miss Jennie Gourlay was by any means possible. Then I would continue to write and perform. I would love to own an Off-Broadway Theatre and present any work I choose - things I've written, things that friends are writing, invite performers from around the world to work with us there. We could teach all area of theatre to children maybe on weekends, form a real artist community, a family. A nice dream I've had for a long time.