Ahhh, acting…I guess I spilled most of my acting life into my singing and directing columns on this site, like I did my dancing, as it’s all been layered throughout my lifetime. But, to break it down a bit more, I have to thank the Ruth M. Knight Theatre Workshop for getting me started. Prior to the summer of my 16th year, I was strictly focused on the musical ends of things. But during that teenage summer, my focus changed. For $25 a week, I went to a workshop sponsored by the benefactress, Ruth M. Knight. We spent full days in in-depth classes in all aspects of theatre, with brilliant teachers, and, twice a week, we got to attend a Broadway show. One week though, we went instead to Stratford, CT and saw Mourning Becomes Electra, by O’Neill, a marathon play with two meal breaks. We were so well prepped by our teachers, that an older woman in the restroom said to us, “I am jealous of how involved you are in this play.” It was a pivotal theatrical experience for me, as I relished every moment of the marathon. Afterward, I somehow found myself on the bare, dramatically raked stage, with seemingly no one else around, and I looked out into the audience and said, “This is where I want to be.”
After college, I continued to further hone my craft with acting, Shakespeare, commercial technique and improv/comedy classes. One of the first shows I did in NYC was a veritable opera. I sang at the audition, but the director had me read a non-singing part, which he then offered to me. It was a brief, but pivotal, scene. The reviews came out, and the singers, who were on stage the whole time and had thought it was all about the music, were a bit disparaged when I was the one who got the accolades. At Weathervane Theatre, where I worked with one of my favorite directors, Tom Haas (who we lost way too soon), I felt I had to prove myself repeatedly, as I was surrounded by some amazing talent. It was during one of my favorite roles, as Essie in You Can’t Take It with You, that I was able to overhear Tom as he leaned over to his assistant, to say, “You know, she really is very good.” It’s those little moments that keep an actor moving forward in this crazy business we call “Show.”
In between all the musicals, I did several world premieres of original plays in LA and NYC. I was in the first American cast of Sex Tips for Modern Girls at the Susan Bloch Theatre, after stage managing the Canadian cast; I played Godex, a takeoff on Godot; I was the mother of Walt Whitman, a bitchy corporate boss in Trade Show, and a vengeful murderess who used a wood chipper to dispose of her ex in Mad: Priscilla’s Garden. I used my acting skills to win lots of money on game shows, and even got hired by Merv Griffin to test some game shows. I worked regularly as an extra on Guiding Light and then Days of Our Lives, and I have done voiceovers (one as the computer voice, speaking to James Doohan, ala Star Trek, for an industrial film). I got to scream, “No!” to Snoop Dogg when he tried to squeegee the baby in my stroller in an episode of Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, and I got to play violin for a private concert for John Cleese, while he soaked in a bubble bath in a mansion overlooking Malibu, for a DirecTV commercial.
I have written for and about theatre, as well, for the Christian Science Monitor, AOL’s Digital City LA, the Colorado Catalyst newspaper (Arts Editor) and LA’s Canyon News (reviews in the column I originated, “Theatrical Musings”). I recently took a class at UCLA Extension, “Writing Yourself onto the Stage," and was in a USC Graduate Film, "Man Drops Dead," as a Singing Sheriff, and danced (Dancer #18) in Sia's yet-to-be-released musical Feature Film, "Music," and Netflix's soon-to-be-released "Ratched" series.
Lauren Greenfield, Photographer,
Woman's Day Magazine: Reader's Profile
You Can't Take It With You
My Personal Story
Beverly Wilkerson received her BFA degree in Drama/Musical Theatre/Dance, with Honors Recognition in Directing, from the Boston Conservatory of Music at Berklee. She then went on to work as a professional singer/actor/dancer for many years in and out of NYC, and then LA, continuing her training and studies beyond the Conservatory. She is a member of Actors Equity, SAG-AFTRA and AGVA. Acting credits are on the Contact/Resume page.