Alice Gatling skipped class the day after she won a Barrymore Award.
She spent the day in and out of museums with her younger brother. The next day, though, she was back to work as the newly named “Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play.”
This year, 72 judges considered 88 theater productions in the Philadelphia area at the 19th annual Barrymore Awards. Companies like the Inis Nua Theatre Company, The Wilma Theater, The Lantern Theater Company, Arden Theatre Company and InterAct Theatre Company, were recognized. Gatling received one of the three Barrymore awards achieved by her company, InterAct. She was recognized for her role in “Gidion’s Knot.”
Connecting with the award winning role of a mother dealing with a son who committed suicide left her physically and emotionally attached to the role in “Gidion’s Knot,” Gatling said.
“I like taking scripts that I have an immediate emotional connection to,” Gatling said. “I would get in my car and it would be time to go to the theater and I would just sit behind the wheel and cry. You can’t cheat the character story. As much as it devastated me, I had to commit to telling her story every night and going exactly to the emotional places that this mother went to.”
Gatling, from Houston, is pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Temple’s acting program.
“[Continuing as a student] had a lot to do with the fact that I learned how to act on the job,” Gatling said. “Since I worked with several people and that’s how they learned, I wanted that [classroom] experience.”
Aside from this, as an educator and as head of The Educational Acting Company of Houston, known as TEACH, Gatling said she needed the credentials to provide professional development for teachers.
“She’s a pro,” Seth Rozin, artistic director of InterAct, said of Gatling, “[She is] experienced, smart and talented. Anyone who takes an acting class with her will not just see the academics but the work with someone that knows what she’s talking about, someone that’s recognized.”
Although her work has influenced undergraduate students, she said teaching the general education art course “The Art of Acting” has benefited her as well. Even if the students might not particularly major in theater, “the way they approach the work with such innocence, and willingness to just throw themselves into it … reminds me to keep that kind of naivety and joy and not get locked in to the technical way of approaching the art.”
“I have a rapport with my students – that when I’m with you, it’s about you,” Gatling said.
In the same way she receives support from students when they watch her performances like “The Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”
Winning a Barrymore left Gatling “completely overwhelmed,” as she recalled feeling when congratulated by her family. Her former student and younger brother walked alongside her and she was handed the award by her cousin.
“The Philadelphia community is aware of my work and receptive of the work that I do,” Gatling said. “And I’m very thankful.”
The last time Gatling performed in a Philadelphia theater, it was 1999.
“You begin to understand just how far reaching the Temple arm is,” Gatling said. “Which is a testament to Temple, that you are able to actually produce people who are working and who are able to find work.”
At 18, Gatling auditioned for a company which initially turned her down, but she fought to work in any capacity. She offered to take care of anything that needed to be done in the theater – whether that meant cleaning or seating people.
“If it needs to be done I’ll do it,” Gatling said. “Just because I wanted to be in the theater.”
Through the founder and artistic director of the Ensemble Theatre, George Hawkins, Gatling learned how to broaden her abilities within a theater by taking courses in lighting and other skills.
“So I tell [my students], do the same thing,” Gatling said. “Learn it all.”
After her receiving her award, Gatling said she has started to work on “The Syringa Tree” at Theater Horizon, which will be playing from Oct. 16 to Nov. 9. Her last project, “Under the Skin” is also fully booked, debuting from Jan. 15 to March 15 at the Arden and she will be soon back with Interact as Rozin writes her a piece.
“Don’t limit your experience to just the university experience,” Gatling said. “Create those opportunities for yourself.”
Maryvic Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org