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Volume 24, Number 8 — August 2017

Arts for Youth Spotlight

Camille Gray
Camille Gray

Camille Gray: "Theater is life'

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | June 27, 2017

Camille Gray started studying ballet when she was 2, stepped onto the stage as an actor when she was 5 and began to create costumes at 14.

Her last role as a dancer was in "Cats," where she took on the roles of choreographer, dance captain and played Cassandra. She had to leave ballet after "Cats" due to injuries, which led to her designing costumes at the ballet studio. She was accepted as an intern at Twin Roses Designs, a professional costume company, and was later a part-time employee.

While at Twin Roses Designs, she worked on projects for the TV show "American Horror Story," the World Children's Choir and more. Twin Roses Designs (see January 2013 A! Magazine) is a professionalcostuming company that ships all around the world.

"I did my first show, "Scrooge! The Musical,' at Theatre Bristol in 2003 when I was 5. I'd been taking dance lessons for three years prior and loved to put on little plays and skits with my friends, but "Scrooge!' was my first real musical. Though I've always enjoyed dressing up, I didn't begin sewing until age 8, and I costumed my first full show when I was 14.

"I miss ballet terribly. It was my first love, and I was certain for years that I wanted to be a professional ballerina and later teach. My performance focus has changed, but I do still love and miss it.

"I love performing because it gives me the opportunity to connect with people and make them feel different emotions and challenge their thoughts and beliefs. But the best is when a kid comes up to you after a show and asks for a picture and says they want to be onstage too. It's so satisfying to know that you've affected someone's life so much.

"I love costuming because the satisfaction of building a costume piece that takes an actor's breath away is unbelievable. I've primarily done shows at Theatre Bristol, but now I do shows at my school, Emory & Henry, as well, and have also participated in Barter Youth Academy. I love performing and costuming equally. They're different experiences, and I love each."

"Theater is life. It's complex and challenging and pushes actors and audiences alike. It's not something I could ever live without," she says.

Camille has been in more than 30 productions. They include "Les MisÚrables," "The Music Man," "Pygmalion," "Love's Labour's Lost," "CATS," and "Beauty and the Beast." The first show she officially costumed was "Peter Pan the Avenger" at Theatre Bristol.

At Emory & Henry, she's led wardrobe for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "The World Goes Round" and "Eurydice."

"I've been super fortunate to work with and study under some amazing teachers and directors. Some of the people who have impacted my life the most are Glenn Patterson, Michele Plescia, Jo Rosser, David Hyde, Chris McVey, Peggy Russell, Jeremiah Downes, Steve Baskett, Ryan Henderson, Jane Morison, Fred Dunagan and Andrea Wakely. All of these talented people have inspired me, taught me, and encouraged me over the years and I wouldn't be where I am today without them," she says.

Camille has been involved with Theatre Bristol for 14 years, "doing just about everything from performance, to choreography, to costuming, to stage management, to being the Youth Service Board president for two years, to cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash. Over the last year at Emory & Henry, I've gotten to perform and work backstage but have actually found that I really enjoy hanging the lights. It's kind of a weird puzzle piece to have fit into my interests, but I really like reading the lighting plot and being up in the lifts or on the catwalk doing the electrics for shows.

"While I was at Twin Roses Designs, I got to have some really wonderful opportunities. There were a lot of Jedi tunics and cloaks, but we also did some really fun projects like Elvis Dumbledore, a mashup of Elvis Presley and Harry Potter's Dumbledore, where we built a whole costume and spent a day making a video and doing photo shoots all around Bristol.

"I've done my fair share of church Christmas plays, but I'm particularly proud of when I directed "Godspell' at my church for my senior project. It was such a fun experience and people still talk about the quality a year and a half later," she said.

Camille hopes to continue performing, in summer stock and at a professional theatre in the future. "I'll never not costume and dance, however. And community theatre is something I'll never leave behind. It's what I'm grounded in, and my life wouldn't be what it is without the passion that volunteering causes. I would love to be able to come back to Theatre Bristol one day to continue Cathy DeCaterina's legacy of children's theater. Her passion of starting this theater for the sake of children so long ago is a lot of what inspires me everyday," she says.

She is 19 and a sophomore at Emory & Henry College pursuing a BFA in musical theater. She's from Bluff City, Tennessee, and her parents are Dan and Samantha Gray.

For more information, visit www.camillebrooksgray.wordpress.com.

Topics: Theatre