2014 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical or Opera Nominee Interview: Crystin Gilmore as Shug Avery in SpeakEasy Stage Company's "The Color Purple"

Photo by Stephanie Naru

Photo by Stephanie Naru

Before we announce the winners of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards, we are proud to present our Nominee Interviews. 

NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Crystin Gilmore. I was born and raised in Tennessee. I'm the daughter of a preacher and an educator & I'm an actress who's not afraid to bare my soul. 

What is your performing history? 

My performance history is based mostly from Theatre. I have a love for straight plays but when I get an opportunity to sing my heart out in Musicals that touch me, I get on so excited!

What is your connection with The Color Purple?  Had you read the book or seen the movie?  How did this impact your performance?

I have loved The Color Purple since my childhood. I could quote lines from the film from the age of twelve. I have read the book as well and I just fell in love with the story. All of the women had different challenges to overcome. Self love and acceptance was the theme that stood out most for me. In a world of social media and photo enhancement in magazines,  I can truly relate to that struggle of loving yourself flaws and all.

Who was Shug Avery?  Did you identify with her at all?  How did you hope to portray her? 

Shug Avery is my hero. She was truthful and bitterly honest. I can sum up Shug as beautiful pain. I relate so much to Shug, it's scary.  We are both preachers children, performers, from the south, and fearfully fearless. Shug is just an all or nothing woman and I respect that about her because I'm that way myself. I hope I portrayed Shug with honesty. She is flawed, raw and love able. That was my goal, to humanize her and make her relatable. 

Last season hosted a feast of plays and musicals about the journeys and struggles for African Americans (Fences, The Color Purple, Guess Who is Coming to Dinner, etc.).  Do you think that these productions and stories are still important?  Why or why not?  What would you like to see done?

Absolutely, we as people are more alike than we will ever be different. Those productions showed that we all feel. The only difference is the race of the characters, the stories and emotion remain universal. We all have family issues, we all have internal struggles that manifest into our adulthood, we all have differences that we soon realize make us more similar than separate. 

I would like to see more productions that combine people as we are in life. We are all living, doing the best we can. We are a melting pot of nationalities and relationships. I would like those similarities to be portrayed on stage because that's what our yearbooks, photo albums, friendships and families really look like. The central connection of all of our stories is love or  the lack there of.

What is your biggest challenge as a performer?  As a person?

My biggest challenge as a performer is having the opportunity to become a character that reaches, teaches, and/or evokes change in the audience. That's why I do this. The accolades are great but if the audience doesn't get the message then I have failed at my job. It's important to me to be a vessel for someone's story but I want to make sure the story is worth telling. 

My biggest challenge as a person is balancing it all. As an actress, wife, sister, Godmother and lover of people, I have to make sure I feed my soul. I have to take what I do seriously and not so seriously. I have to sacrifice my time with my husband to give to an audience the gift of a laugh,  an "awe hah" moment or a tearful release. That's important to me. I have to make sure I give myself a break from New York and the hustle and bustle. I have to make sure I set my own standards of success and ride the roller coaster of this business to the best of my ability. I write my own rules and determine my happiness. This is my challenge and I'm at my happiest when I live in my truth.

What are your favorite kinds of plays and musicals to see?  To perform?

I love to laugh! I love to be challenged to think differently. I love to see productions that make me question myself or what I've been taught. I love to perform in shows with meat and potatoes. I'm picky about what shows I audition for. The show has to speak to me and the role has to challenge me.

What is the last book that you read?  What is on your “To Read” list?

The last book I read was A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. My must read list consist of all things Walter Mosley. 

How do you warm-up as a performer?  Do you have a favorite exercise? 

I meditate. I exercise. I do vocal warm ups and I pray before every performance. I always get butterflies and I would be concerned if I didn't. I would feel as though I'm too comfortable and not present in the moment. 

My favorite exercise is lying down in the dead man's pose. It makes me feel available to receive all that's for me.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?  More importantly, would you have a cape? 

My superpower would be to be invisible. Sometimes on the NYC trains I want to disappear! 

If you could give one piece of advice to a young college or high school graduate interested in the performing arts, what would it be? 

Find a way to release the passion that's within you. Be 100% sure that it's what you want. Make sure it's worth the sacrifice that comes along with it. And don't have a plan B. It has to be your all or nothing if you want it to be your life long career. 

Do you have any upcoming projects or productions? 

Yes, I will be performing in Beehive: The 60's Musical this summer at Greenbrier Valley Theatre in West Virginia & The Seat of Justice with Charleston Stage Company in Charleston, SC February - March.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers? 

I'm so grateful to have had an opportunity to perform for you. Boston's Theatre community has been very warm and receiving to me. Thank you for allowing me into your hearts.