Ain’t Nothin’ but a ‘G’ Thing: UTM Member Gisla Stringer
The term “jack of all trades” implies mastery of none. Such is not the case with company member Gisla Stringer. When not coordinating Galas for UTM, Gisla can be seen on stage and film, acting her tail off, or, as of late, heard through the written word of her first play TEXT TALK. Gisla sat down with us and gave us a glimpse into her artistic process.
UTM: How long have you been acting?
GS: I’m an only child so I’ve always been very imaginative. I think I was born acting and creating stories. I had my first official role around 8 as Cinderella at the neighborhood community center. I cried during our first rehearsal because I didn’t want to dance with the Prince. Times have really changed. (Laughs)
UTM: When did you start writing?
GS: I started writing at 12 when I had my first boyfriend. It started with poetry then short stories and then I wrote a soap opera based on the people in my neighborhood.
UTM: What was the impetus for your play TEXT TALK?
GS: I had an argument with a very good friend of mine who is white about the Trayvon Martin trial. It seriously got so heated that I wasn’t sure if we’d still be friends afterwards. I remember thinking “What if we were a couple? How would this affect our relationship?” TEXT TALK was born from that argument.
UTM: Are you color-blind when you look at people?
GS: Is that a serious question? (Smiles) A line from my play says “to deny color when you see me is to deny me who I really am.” Of course I see color. I think anyone who says they don’t is just flat out lying. I don’t judge people based on color and that’s a big difference.
UTM: Do you believe we live in a post-racial America?
GS: No. Unfortunately, racism is more prevalent now than its been in a long time. I think the election of a black President has increased racial tension when it should have had the opposite effect. I doubt if we’ll ever see it in our lifetime — a time where racism does not exist — and that makes me really sad. I wish we could all operate from a place of love and respect. I wish people would learn to think for themselves and not rely so much on main stream media and the stereotypes it perpetuates. Many of the societal issues we face are actually more economical than racial but unfortunately race seems to always be at the forefront regardless of the situation.
UTM: What does post-racial mean to you?
GS: That racism ceases to exist. That Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has come to pass and people “…will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
UTM: Tell us about your involvement with UTM. What drew you to the company?
GS: I met the co-founder & president Paul Tully during a production we did together about two years ago. He invited me to a meeting and I was impressed with the passion the members had for the company. It reminded me of theatre back home in Chicago where everyone loves the art. I loved the fact that the group was so diverse and everyone was very welcoming. Passion for theatre in LA is hard to come by and honestly good people even harder. UTM had both.
UTM: You’ve acted in productions, participated in workshops, written a well-received play and you are also the events coordinator for this season. Of all the hats you’ve worn, which role or experience has been the most challenging?
GS: Coordinator has definitely been challenging because I have had to balance so many things at once; I’m getting my MFA in Screenwriting, performing, auditioning, filming etc. But, honestly the most challenging was performing in REPLICA. I was new to the company and had taken on a not so traditional role that required me to really step out of my comfort zone. Luckily, I worked with a great cast and director. It was definitely the most fun.
UTM: And the most rewarding?
GS: The writing workshop was the most rewarding. I’ll always appreciate Seth (Rosenfeld) for it. I feel like I’ve really grown as a writer and I’m no longer afraid to push the envelope. I’ll never forget the reaction to TEXT TALK. It was surreal and served as confirmation that I’m on the right track.
UTM: Finish this phrase: Stage fright? Me? ____
GS: I’ve never performed without it. I embrace it and it fuels me to do my best.
UTM: What’s the best advice you ever got on the creative process?
GS: To not sensor myself and trust my voice.
Gisla will host the season opening gala on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at DeSano’s Restaurant. There will be a live performance by Amy LaCour and fun give aways. You can view the official invitation here, purchase tickets here and participate in the silent auction here.