Interview by Brooke Fitzgerald
Before we lose her to the golden coast of California I wanted to shoot a few questions at Emily Gibson, one of our lovely lady Bright Inventors. Here it is:
Recently you were in Italy doing a production of Macbeth, tell us all about it!
I am actually on the plane flying to JFK right now! I was working with an amazing company called Teatro delle Due (which literally translates to Theater of the Two) It was founded by two amazing Italian women (the “Due”) seven years ago. Their company brings American actors to Italy to perform Shakespeare’s works in the original English because not many productions in Italy are done that way. The Shakespeare that is done is either translated into Italian or performed by someone’s whose first language is not English so much of the poetry is lost. Their goal was to bring the magic of Shakespeare’s words to Italian students. We were there for seven weeks. The first three we rehearsed the play and did workshops for all of the schools that eventually came to see the show. In the workshops we went over the plot (in case their English isn’t that great and they have a hard time following it) and many of the devices that Shakespeare uses in the play. The next four weeks we performed six days a week, often two shows a day. We toured the show to three different cities and performed a total of 37 times (talk about needing stamina as a performer!). I worked for this company before two years ago and was delighted when they asked me back; especially to play the killer part of Lady Macbeth! It was an incredible experience to be immersed in a different culture (Caffe! Gelato! Having a hard time understanding everyone!) and Shakespeare’s language for seven weeks, although I’m ready to get home to my husband and cat.
What has Bright Invention taught you as a performer?
Bright Invention is such an incredible and terrifying experience. To step out on to the stage without any real inkling of what could happen is such a different experience than performing in scripted work. One thing I quickly learned in Bright Invention rehearsals is that in improvised scenes I am much more connected to my emotional life. One thing I have struggled with in the past is emotions called for in scripted work. I think so much about it and it, sort of, looms over my head as something that must happen. I have such a “don’t tell me what to do” streak that even if it’s me telling me what to do I fight against it. Bright invention has taught me that I have an emotional well to pull from I just need to find ways to be more spontaneous about accessing it. That has been an incredibly liberating experience for me because I felt like that issue was holding me back.
There is also something truly amazing about having to rely on your partners so much in improv. It can be easy in scripted work to get caught up in your own lines and story, but in improv you have to listen or you won’t know what’s going on. That’s one of things that I know in my head, but it’s easy to forget. Being forced to do it really helps you remember that feeling and carry it in to all of your work.
And lastly I would say that it’s taught me to loosen up. I can get petty self critical in my work and there’s just no time or space for that in improv. I have to let go and relax or the ideas won’t come.
Since you’re moving out to California in a few months what are your going to miss the most out of working with this ensemble?
It has been such an incredible experience being part of a growing ensemble; to see these amazing artists come together and work to create something. Even after just a few short months there is already such a sense of community, support, and trust. I am truly saddened to leave this budding community. Sometimes an actor can feel like they’re struggling alone in the world trying to find work and stay fulfilled. Having a community around you to turn to with questions or for support is such a gift. I think what Ben and Jen have created here will actually change the face of the Philadelphia theater community. I hope to stay connected to Bright Invention even from the west coast (a west coast branch perhaps?)
What is your absolute favorite childhood memory?
This is a tough one because there are so many good ones! Every Saturday morning my family would make pancakes for breakfast. My dad would make the batter (he always give us each a pinch of sugar when it was time to mix that in) and my mom would cook them on the griddle. Some of my aunts and uncles who lived in town over the years would come over and join us. I loved waking up to the smell of coffee and pancakes. We would sit around the table enjoying the pancakes and each other’s company for hours. Often we would still be there when the mailman, Otis, came by. We always invited him in. He always declined but with a big smile on his face. Even though he never joined us it made my week to see his smile.