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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert
Kimberly Gilbert

Today's subject Kimberly Gilbert is currently living her theatre life onstage at one of her local theatrical homes. She portrays the slightly deranged, tux shirt-wearing arsonist Billie Irons in The Arsonists at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. The production plays through October 14th.

In my humble opinion, Kimberly Gilbert is one of the area's finest performers. When you consider the wide range of characters she has portrayed since arriving here in DC in 2000, it's mind blowing to be sure.

As a company member of Woolly Mammoth she has graced audiences with stellar performances in Cooking With Elvis; Big Death Little Death; Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis; The K of D; Measure For Pleasure; Boom; Fever/Dream; Clybourne Park; The Vibrator Play; A Bright New Boise; Mr. Burns; You For Me For You; Stupid Fucking Bird; Marie Antoinette (Helen Hayes Award- Lead Actress Resident Play); and Women Laughing Alone With Salad.

She's delivered other unforgettable performances in Angels in America and Uncle Vanya at Round House Theatre; No Sisters /Three Sisters and Jumpers for Goalposts at Studio Theatre; Life Sucks (or the Present Ridiculous) and Broken Glass at Theater J; The Laramie Project at Ford's Theatre; and Othello at Folger Theatre.

Also a Taffety Punk company member, you might have seen Kim showing off her musical and acting talents playing bass for Owl Moon and The Rape of Lucerne. Other Taffety Punk appearances include Phaeton and Love's Labor's Lost. Let us also not forget her knockout performance in Life Sucks (or the Present Ridiculous) where not only was her portrayal of Pickles, one I'll always remember, but her 30-minute concert of Beatles songs on ukulele boosted that production to an even higher level.

Kim is giving another high-end performance in The Arsonists at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company as she plays opposite Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz. It's one of those shows where the production and performances all come together.

Kimberly Gilbert takes the stage and leaves you mesmerized every time and that my friends, is living your theatre lives on the highest of clouds. Boomskidoom!!!

Growing up, were you the type of kid that knew working in theatre was going to be your life's work?

Nope. All I knew was that I had eight older brothers and sisters that I wanted to pay attention to me. And they were extremely tough critics. So I kept at it. Then, I think, sometime in my junior year of college, I finally started to believe in myself and believe that this could be a lifelong gig. So, again, I kept at it.

Where had you been performing before coming to the DC area?

I was a company member at Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania for a year before coming to DC.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert
Kimberly Gilbert in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of The Arsonists. Photo by Scott Suchman.

What was the one thing that made you say "yes" to working on The Arsonists?

I said yes because Michael John Garcés was directing. I have been wanting to work with him for years. Also, I didn't work at Woolly last season and missed them all terribly.

This production of The Arsonists is a newish adaptation of the script. Can you please talk about some of the differences between this version and the original?

The script we had was from an English translation of the 1958 script written in German. Our version has slight changes with the approval of the English translator Alastair Beaton. It was "americanized," even more specifically to DC, 2017.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz and Kimberly Gilbert in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of The Arsonists. Photo by Scott Suchman.

You have been directed by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz many times. What is it like sharing the stage with him in The Arsonists?

It's incredible, truly. It's a completely different side of him.

You are a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Round House Theatre, and Taffety Punk. What do you enjoy the most about being a company member for these three theatres?

The relationships I've created with their subscribers/donors/board members, not to mention their staff and crew. Theatre is a combined effort; no one area is more important. We all keep the ship afloat.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert
Kimberly Gilbert up on top of James Kronzer's mammoth set for Round House Theatre/Olney Theatre Center's co-production of Angels in America. Photo by Danisha Crosby.

You were part of the mammoth Angels in America at Round House Theatre last season. The show is actually two plays that run at least three and a half hours each. Would you say that experience was one of the most challenging for you as an actress? Had you ever rehearsed two plays together like you did for that show?

It was indeed my first rep show. It was the biggest show I've been a part of to date. It was not the most challenging, but it was certainly the largest.

Every actress has a few roles she would love to play as she gets older. What are the roles you would most like to perform as you age into them? Please explain your choices.

I have NO IDEA. I'm at a place right now where I'm at the mercy of the directors notions of how young/old I read on stage. I mean, I still want to play Viola, Rosalind, and Kate, but am I too old? I have no fucking clue. So, I suppose Josie in Moon for the Misbegotten, ANY of the sisters in August: Osage County, and Paulina in Winter's Tale, are better, more fitting, future roles I'd love to rock out.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Kimberly Gilbert
Kimberly Gilbert in Cooking with Elvis, her first Woolly Mammoth show. She shares the stage here with Rick Foucheux. Photo by Stan Barouh.

With Howard Shalwitz retiring at the end of this season, can you please pick a few of your favorite experiences of working with him? Please explain your choices.

1. When he made me a company member

2. Clybourne Park

3. Stupid Fucking Bird

4. Every time I made him laugh or cry.

I can't get into the details of these or I'll start crying.

After The Arsonists, what does the rest of the 17/18 season hold in store for you?

Book Of Will at Round House Theatre, Jefferson's Garden at Ford's Theatre, and The Winter's Tale at Folger Theatre.

Special thanks to Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's Marketing and Communications Coordinator Mikala Stubley for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Additional photo assistance provided by Round House Theatre's Associate Director of Marketing & Communications Sarah Pressler Randal.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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