Caymanian Grace Gealey is making a big splash across the pond. And with the actress’ skills becoming increasingly in demand, she is paving the way for other Caymanian girls who may have similar ambitions.
Most recently, Grace has been working in Chicago, where she was featured in the lead role of Mimi for the musical “Rent,” a rock musical based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème that is depicted in a contemporary setting in Rent. The story focuses on a 19 year-old Hispanic female, who is HIV positive and addicted to heroin. The plague of Puccini’s opera is tuberculosis, which is replaced by HIV in Rent and 1800s Paris is replaced by New York’s East Village in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
The play was directed by David Cromer, who has received recognition for his work off Broadway and in his native Chicago. Mr. Cromer has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including winning the Lucille Lortel Award and Obie Award for his direction of Our Town and was nominated for the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for his direction of The Adding Machine.
Ms Gealey explained how their paths crossed, as well as the events that led to her being cast in the lead role for Rent.
“The audition was special,” she recounted. “David Cromer knew he was going to do it a year out and the only part he didn’t have cast was Mimi. I didn’t even know they were casting until my agent called me on a whim. They were going to start rehearsals at this point, but did not want to do so without having someone for the role of Mimi.”
As a result of the timing, Grace had only one week to learn three songs for her audition.
“I ate, slept and drank Rent for four days,” she joked, adding that upon receiving the call three days after her audition to inform her that she had been chosen for the role. “I cried. It was one of those moments and the funny thing was that I was actually the very last person to be auditioned for the role. It was an excruciating three days of waiting to find out.”
Once she knew the role was secured, Grace said she resigned from her job in New York and was on a flight to Chicago the next day.
Rent opened in Chicago on 7 May and closed on 24 June. The schedule of shows meant Grace did six shows per week, with two days off; sometimes doing two shows per day.
At the moment, Grace is back in the Cayman Islands, where she is doing some work with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation. She said her advice to those who may have ambitions to be actors and actresses is, “Follow your passion. I didn’t know this was possible. I just knew I loved the arts and drama and whatever your passion is, you can find a profession doing it. Find a mentor and empower yourself.”
She said Nasaria Suckoo Chollette and Henry Muttoo were two of the people whole brought some “realism” to her passion.
Some recent good news for the actress: The Court Theatre in Chicago is doing two classical plays at the end of their 2012-2013 season next year: The Misanthrope and Tartuffe. Grace has been cast as the lead, Celimene, in The Misanthrope and as a principal, Mariane, in Tartuffe. Both plays are written by Moliere and will be directed by Charles Newell. These two plays will take place in the Spring-Summer of next year.
Some of the ethos that helps to keep Grace focused in such a challenging business was shared by the actress.
“Being an actor can be a world of constant rejection, but “your work and what you produce should are not necessarily validated by others. You and your craft, regardless of the opinions of others, are still sacred, still yours and still valid.”
Grace has a bachelor of arts in theatre arts and a master’s in acting.