Camelot Theatre’s Artistic Director, Livia Genise, is directing “All The King’s Men”, which opens Friday, February 3rd, at Camelot’s newly constructed theater in Talent. After building the new Camelot Theatre facility, in addition to her daily routine of acting, directing, and producing, Genise seemed remarkably rested and resilient. We chatted over coffee at Starbucks near Southern Oregon University one sunny afternoon.
LG: I’m doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life; and when you do that, you’re happy.
EH: Did you always know that you wanted to be an actress?
LG: I always knew what I wanted. But my focus shifted from wanting to be a star (which I think was more about low self-esteem) to wanting to make a difference. When I was given a George Bernard Shaw quote that said: “This is the true joy in life –being used for a purpose, recognized by yourself as a mighty one,” it changed my life. My life then became more about service.
EH: What is the relationship between family and theater?
LG: I have seen so many kids gain self-esteem, self-respect and a sense of community and purpose through theater classes or through being part of a show. I think their parents see that too. When you bring your kid to see a show, even if they have had no theater training at all, the kids are wowed, and they want to get up there. And it’s not because they want to be stars. I really don’t favor “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” because you’re taking someone who is expressing their inner self, and you’re saying to them, “You’re not good enough.” But you take a kid to a show, and across the footlights there is something that is a heart-to-heart connection. And that’s what theater brings to families and to kids.
EH: Why are people so drawn to theater?
LG: We are that way as kids. Then we are told that, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and “I’ll tell you when you know what you’re doing,” and all of those “don’ts” and the stifling of everything that is creative, and the expression of: who we are.
I think that the magic is getting back to expressing who we are inside and feeling safe with those more vulnerable emotions. I really think people go to monster truck rallies for one reason, and they come to theater to experience those softer emotions. I think we’ve got a perfect show if someone has laughed and cried in the same evening.
Certain shows can change people’s lives. I’ve said to my actors all along, “We are, as performers, doing brain surgery.” And that is why it’s so important that I do a curtain speech at the beginning of a performance to welcome people into my house, and the actors go into the lobby afterwards to thank and be thanked. Most actors get the applause, but they don’t get the one-on-one experience.
The more theater there is the better. Let’s give our actors more than one or two shows a year. Let’s let them be really busy; what a gift.
“Be in the world what you want to see in the world,” I think that’s what actors do. We make a difference in people’s lives. Yes, there are divas; there are people who are difficult to work with. But on the whole, don’t you find that people who are performing have this urge to give? To me that’s what it’s about.
“All The King’s Men” runs February 3 – 26, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call: 541-535-5250.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.