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BWW Interviews: Pippa White and Her Upcoming 2014 UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL Performances

Pippa White has two shows scheduled at the 2014 United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. She will perform Voices from the Resistance on Monday, 10/27 and Voices from Ellis Island on Thursday, 10/30. Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview White about her career and the upcoming performances.

White turned to solo performing in 1994. Previously, she had an extensive career in theatre and television on the West Coast, including five years hosting a daily morning television show at ABC in San Francisco. To date she has crisscrossed the country many times touring to thirty states, including California, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Washington and Alaska. Pippa has a BA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to performing, she offers workshops and residencies, and has been a teaching artist with the Nebraska Arts Council for nineteen years. She is actively involved in aesthetic education through the Arts Are Basic Program. She has received several awards in recognition of her work, including two Individual Artist Fellowship awards from the Nebraska Arts Council White calls her pieces, "part theatre, part storytelling, part history."

We asked White what are her earliest memories of performing. She commented, "I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and though I spent my teen years in the city, my childhood was spent in Sausalito, the first little town you come to after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. So my first experiences on stage were with the Sausalito Little Theatre. I started with children's theatre, but at the age of nine I was cast as Flora in The Innocents which based on the Henry James' story, The Turn of the Screw. That was my first taste of being in a 'grown-up' play, and it was a strong production of a powerful, and unsettling, work. Children's theatre had been fun, but this was something so much more fulfilling and exciting. I can still remember so many details of the run of that show, even though it was decades ago."

White told us about parents and who proved to be excellent mentors. "My parents were theatre people, and though by the time I was born my father was the British Consul in Seattle and then San Francisco, they had come to the United States with the first production of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. My father was English and my mother Canadian. So, I grew up in a theatre home, and trite though it may sound, my parents were my mentors. My mother had a long career at San Francisco State as a professor of speech and drama. When Edith Skinner was asked to go to Juilliard, Carnegie Mellon, which had a famous theatre program, asked my mother to replace her. My mother was in her late fifties by then and turned it down, but she was well known in her field. So my parents were completely supportive of my wanting to be an actress. I think a couple of times my mother was accused of being a stage mother, but it was really the other way around. I was a stage child. I think I put more pressure on them to help me follow my dream than they ever did on me."

We asked White about some of the performers that have inspired her career. "There are dozens, but the one I will choose to answer your question with is one I never saw, but it's significant with regards to the United Solo Theatre Festival. My mother was an enormous fan of Ruth Draper, and had seen her solo shows three times: once in Seattle, once in London, and once, I think, in San Francisco. She literally rhapsodized about the power of Ruth Draper on the stage. The reason this is significant is because of it, the whole idea of solo performing was never a stretch for me, a leap in any way, or a risk. She also told me about Cornelia Otis Skinner's one-woman shows. There are some actors who don't like the idea of solo performing and choose not to do it. For me, the opposite was true. It was always an option, and in mid-life, when it looked like my options were few, solo work was a natural and easy choice, thanks to my mother's making it appear as a completely valid and exciting choice."

We asked White about her two very distinctive performances. "Voices from Ellis Island is significant because 40% of us now living in the United States have ancestors who went through Ellis Island. Forty percent! That means almost half of us have a personal connection to Ellis Island. And the Ellis Island years were relatively short in our immigration history-1892 to about 1930. That's not many years. After 1930 immigrants were checked on the boats and Ellis Island was only used for special cases, the ill who went to Ellis Island Hospital, etc. Immigration is a huge issue in our country right now, but it actually always has been. The immigrants of 100 years ago were not welcomed by everybody, and numerous bills were presented to Congress back then to stop the flow. Perhaps a look at immigration in the past can better help us deal with and understand immigration in the present.

She also said, "Voices from the Resistance is significant because it shows us how small steps, small contributions can make a difference. The many thousands of individuals who chose to fight Hitler as ordinary citizens took tremendous risks, faced torture and execution to stop the Nazis, and did it all selflessly; most of them were never recognized or even thanked. But it is an historical fact that the Resistance Fighters of World War II helped the Allies win. They inspire us, I think, to always do our part, to do our share, and realize that it really does matter."

The United Solo Theatre Festival is an exciting opportunity for White. We also wanted to know about her future plans. "One thing I love about solo performing is the tremendous variety of experiences and venues offered. I will be at a school one day, quite literally performing 'under the basketball hoop,' and then the next day I'll be on a plane to perform for a conference of nurses in Connecticut or New York. I have had audiences in small remote places of 20, and audiences of over 2,000 in performing arts centers or at festivals. One day I'm sharing the stage with storytellers at a huge storytelling festival, Timpanogos, in Utah; the next day, off to a fundraiser on South Padre Island. For the future, I'd just like to continue to get this kind of work."

Voices from the Resistance will be performed by Pippa White on Monday, October 27, 2014 at 9pm. Voices from Ellis Island will be performed by Pippa White on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 9pm. Both performances are part of the United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036. Tickets are $18. Visit Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200. For more information, visit: http://unitedsolo.org/us/2014-voicesfromtheresistance/ or unitedsolo.org/us/2014-voicesfromellisisland/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pippa White



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