Presila Quinby has performed at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival,The Cabaret Theatre,and Oregon Stage Works. At the Camelot Theater, Presila played The Widow in “Zorba”, Mama in “I Remember Mama”, Peggy Lee in ”Spotlight on Peggy Lee” and numerous other roles. A veteran of Broadway musical theatre, the attractive diminutive Presila would be perfect to portray Anna in “The King and I”.
As we sat in the shade at Ashland’s Rogue Valley Roasting Company one summer afternoon, Presila, a former ballerina, told me about her current project: choreography for Ashland Community Theatre’s new musical, “Illyria” based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
PQ: It’s a real kick in the pants. The music has a different style of music for each song. There’s a country western song, very sad. There’s another song that’s like Sha Na Na, a fifties tune. There’s a song that’s a tango. They’re using the Shakespearean language, but they’re setting it in the late-fifties, early-sixties in New Orleans.
EH: How does the art of acting affect your personal experience?
PQ: From a workman’s point of view, I just really enjoy the way in which I feel it’s my job to look around at everything, and see it, and learn a little bit about it, and get a feeling for it: All kinds of jobs, all kinds of people, because it helps me in my work. You never know when you’re going to need to draw on something like that. You’re a student of everything around you. As a personality, I’m not that sort of person. I’m much more reserved, not really outgoing. I would sooner lose myself in a book and escape into other realities than go out and socialize. It’s a good thing for me to get in the habit of opening my eyes, and look around me at others, and listen in on conversations, or sit and people watch. It’s not at all something that I would just do for fun.
EH: This community is so wild for theater; what’s the draw? What brings us all together?
PQ: I think it’s in the same category as spiritual things. There’s an indescribable exchange that takes place, a form of communication between the performers and the audience, that both are affected by, that’s very hard to define and describe and quantify. The only category you can put that experience into is a mystical kind of connection, not just between the audience and performers, but with the characters that you are portraying and the message that the playwright has.
I think a lot of people have been trained by society to be quite separate from our feelings, and I think theater gives us permission to be in touch with them. And sometimes we realize we feel the same thing a certain character is expressing, and we might never have realized that, because we don’t take the time, and we’re not encouraged to examine what we feel. I don’t think it’s as much as an exchange, but it can be true with film and with television as well. If you see good portrayals being done and good writing being executed, being communicated, it can touch you, and move you, and change you in the same way that a religious experience can. Or, in the same category again, people who connect with nature: A lot of people are really moved emotionally and learn lessons from the other living things on the planet.
“Illyria” a musical of Twelfth night, directed by Jeannine Grizzard for Ashland Contemporary Theater plays August 6 through September 6, at Culture Works, 310 Oak St. in Ashland. For information and reservations, call: 541-646-2971. Pre-show dining (with reservations) is available at Culture Works.