Artistic Director Brenda J. Lillie joined TAPintoTV's Brian Brodeur via Zoom video conference from Massachusetts where she discussed her international career in theater production and her latest one-woman show.
Lillie started her professional career with a degree in Theater and Television Production from Emerson College in Boston. “For me, Emerson was a rock solid foundation to jump into the professional world.” Lillie told Brodeur. After working in Los Angeles for several years, Lillie returned to the East Coast to start her stage management career, which included work with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.
In 2009, Lillie found success in Europe, establishing the Stage Life Theater in Holland. “I work together with a group of about 20 Dutch nationals,” Lillie explained. “We tour around the whole country.”
Every Stage Life Theater show is performed in Dutch, which Lillie did not speak when first arriving in Holland. “The first three years I was there, all the Dutch I learned was from the kids and from shopkeepers,” Lillie told Brodeur.
Under Lillie's direction, the Stage Life Theater company flourished by mounting original productions, along with reaching out to a wider audience and pursuing more creative work. “We've come up on this really lovely model of writing a show, having one place to perform it so people can come and see it, and then we book a tour,” Lillie explained.
Lillie discussed the challenges posed by her organization's fundraising cycle, which eventually inspired her development of a one-woman show based on the life of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch writer whose family sheltered Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
“In 1940, as the war began...her family began to work alongside the Dutch underground,” Lillie told Brodeur. “Throughout the war, her family was able to rescue over 800 people from the Nazis.”
Lillie described how Corrie ten Boom and other family members were arrested and sent to German concentration camps for aiding the resistance. Corrie's sister Betsy died in a concentration camp, but due to a paperwork mixup, Corrie ten Boom was accidentally released. “For the next thirty years of her life, she traveled around the world speaking about forgiveness and loving your enemy,” Lillie said.
“I was looking for a way to connect with my audience,” Lillie explained. “What better way than to tell a truly Dutch story and showcase what I do as a human being and an artist?”
Without being able to perform to live audiences during the 2020 pandemic, Lillie has launched a Facebook group for artists called The Bridge Artistic Network. “The whole purpose of it is to engage, encourage and empower artists,” Lillie told Brodeur. “What kind of a world could we create if we treated each other the way we wanted to be treated?”