BWW Interviews: Lucille Petty - Nothing Can Stop Her Now
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by Jeanmarie Simpson
Lucille Petty has become a familiar and celebrated part of the Tucson theatre experience.
See her dazzling videos here.
She fell in love with theater at Amphi Middle School and realized it was her life's calling while taking youth classes at Live Theatre Workshop (LTW). She endured a fair amount of bullying for being "weird" as a theatre geek, so she went to City High, an alternative high school in downtown Tucson. There she excelled as a student and multi-media artist, while continuing to work with LTW. I caught up with her (it wasn't easy) between work and rehearsals.
So - Lucille. The last time we spoke, you had very recently graduated from high school. You chose not to take a full-ride to the University of Arizona and major in Theatre. Can you explain why you made that choice?
All through high school I was asked what college I was going to go to. Senior year it was more like every day. I don't quite think there was a moment that I realized that I wasn't going to go, but I just felt like the timing wasn't right. I was a really good student in school. I graduated with a 4.0, and like you mentioned, I was honored to receive the AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) standardized testing scholarship that would have given me a "full ride" to any University in Arizona. For some reason it was more a goal to receive it than to use it. I did a little bit of research on the scholarship as well, and it turned out that it was a fixed tuition, and that when tuition increases came around over the next few years, the difference wouldn't be covered. I have since met a few people who chose to take the scholarship who have since dropped out of the U of A because of the tuition increases and gone to trade schools instead.
It wasn't only the finances that deterred me from going the college route. The summer before high school began is when I started taking camps and classes at LTW, and to make a rather long story short they quickly opened their arms to me as a theatre artist, as opposed to just a student, which gave me an incredible opportunity to work with the different branches there. Before I graduated I had worked on over twenty full-fledged productions, with four different companies. This doesn't even include the classes I took beforehand, and/or during.
I felt that I had put more than just my foot in the door to the Tucson theatre community and I felt it would be a real shame to give that up. When I would say something along these lines in high school, the general response was something along the lines of "But if you go to college you'll be doing shows there, right?" Which is true, however I didn't want to limit myself to doing productions solely with the U of A (or any university for that matter). The experience of going through the artistic process of putting up a show from A-Z with actors of varying ages, and more honed skill levels is something I didn't want to give up. I felt that I would learn much more just doing the work. Be paid to do what I love in the field I love, or pay money to be re-taught to do what I'm already doing? The decision was easy.
What projects have you done since graduating high school?
After graduating high school in 2011, I have been in ten productions with seven different companies:
The Book Of Liz, which I also stage managed, The Three Bad Wolves, a reading of Gruesome Playground Injuries, Jailbait, Circle Mirror Transformation, Steel Magnolias, Alice In Wonderland, Harvey, Speech & Debate, and Becky's New Car.
The highlight of those shows was Speech & Debate. It was a show that I was set to stage manage a few years ago that got canceled, but in 2012 was produced by a different theatre company, Winding Road Theatre Ensemble of which I am also an artistic associate with as of last year. It was a show about a high school sex scandal that pulled together three maybe gay, maybe not, teenagers to a speech & debate team that my character, Diwata, was heading up. It was a blast, and the most incredible theatre experience I've had yet. It was a filled to the brim with George Michael, pregnancies, abortions, politics, blackmail, dance routines, nude body stockings, misunderstandings, teen angst, and was the first time I had been in only my underwear onstage for any amount of time. It was filmed for posterity's sake by one of southern Arizona's film crews, so I can watch it any time I want, which is amazing. It was also reviewed five times. Five! Which is rare in Tucson. But even more rare was that every review was amazing! Really. Each and every one had almost nothing but positive things to say about the production, and cast. It was a career defining moment for me, and it was very affirming that I've made the right decisions thus far.
I also stage managed three shows - The Book of Liz, All My Sons, and W;t. Those were all wonderful experiences as well.
Can you describe your process? How do you work, as an actor?
I usually don't try to make any creative decisions before I get into the rehearsal process. I certainly like to read through a script before I get to the first rehearsal, but I really don't feel equipped to make any decisions until I'm with the whole cast. For me it's just about staying focused with each individual director, and trying to do the line work as early as possible, so I can fully utilize the time in rehearsals to play, and make descisions. When I'm getting off-book I run lines everywhere, on the bus, in bed, out loud at work (to which the general response is usually something like, "Lucy, are you okay?" - "Oh you're new? Don't worry about her, she's crazy.") walking downtown, in cafes alone; if I've got a spittle's worth of time I can run my lines. I work pretty dang hard. I guess that's my process.
I'm currently in rehearsals for an All Together Theatre (family series) show at LTW. I'm directing an adaptation of The Brave Little Tailor that opens on February 17th and runs Sunday afternoons until May 12th. It's super fun, and sweet, and it's actually my directorial debut in Tucson. It's definitely a different experience. I have been around the folks at LTW for what seems like so long now that it's odd to be directing them. I did a bit of directing while still in high school for my senior internship, but it's way different to work with actors that really get where I'm coming from and can easily decipher my vague, but convoluted notes. Having ultimate control over all of the aspects in the show is really thrilling, and a bit draining, but I'm definitely into it, and see myself directing more in the future.
Honestly, my plans for the future at this point are to keep my current day job, and help the store I work at grow and develop so that I stay financially sound so I can continue to live alone, and do theatre at night. It really doesn't get much better than that for me. And when I'm not doing theatre I'm focusing my energy into my visual art, or media. I've been getting into music lately and working on honing that a bit. Ultimately I don't have any visions of grandeur, and don't have any plans to hop on a plane to LA or New York any time soon. I just want to be a starving artist. Before I turn 20 this year I will have been in over 40 fully fledged productions, and I don't feel like anything can stop me now. I just want to keep doing as much theatre as I can get my hands on, and eat well, and stay happy and artistically active. That's, I think the most important, and worthwhile thing I can do.