Brandi Kilgore was first introduced to performing in Kindergarten where her role as the narrator and her fantastic side ponytail were both showstoppers. Since this auspicious stage debut, Brandi has continued to grow in her love for theatre and has enjoyed acting, directing, playwriting, and sketch comedy.
For the past several years, Brandi has enjoyed performing with many local Atlanta theatre groups. Her favorite performances include Edie Bowprey in Old Aquatics, Betsy/Lindsey in Clybourne Park, Millie Owens in Picnic, Stella May in Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and Suzanne in Dearly Departed. Brandi has also directed several short, ten-minute plays for both the Lionheart Theatre Company and Onion Man Productions.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Brandi holds a Bachelor of Journalism in Telecommunication Arts and a Master of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication. When Brandi is not at the theatre she works as a marketing content manager for Mobile Labs in Atlanta. She no longer wears side ponytails.
Currently, Brandi is in rehearsals for Lionheart Theatre's next mainstage show, A Southern Exposure, where she directs a cast of four talented females in this small-town southern comedy-drama.
Can you tell us a little about your theatre background?
"I got my start in theatre when I performed in my very first play back in Kindergarten. I loved performing, but I did not find my way back to the stage until 2001 when I was cast in a community theatre production of Anne of Green Gables at New London Theatre in Snellville, Georgia. I was also very involved with theatre while I attended Shiloh High School, where I acted, stage managed, and helped build sets.
After college, I came back to community theatre in 2009 when I was cast in a production of A Coarse Acting Show with the New Dawn Theater Company in Duluth. Since then, I have made my way around town performing with several local Atlanta theatre groups including Onion Man Productions in Chamblee and of course, Lionheart Theatre Company."
You have a rich history with Lionheart Theatre Company. Can you name a few productions you have worked on?
"I first got involved with Lionheart back in 2010 when I was cast as Mercy Lewis in The Crucible. I have also appeared in several other Lionheart productions including Dearly Departed (Suzanne), Second Samuel (Jimmy Deanne), Radio T.B.S. (Mayola), and Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Stella May). I most recently portrayed Betsy/Lindsey in a co-production of Clybourne Park produced by Merely Players Presents and Lionheart Theatre last year. I am also excited to be appearing as one of the bridesmaids in Lionheart’s Fundraiser of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding in the fall."
How has your background in theatre prepared you for directing a season show at Lionheart?
"Although A Southern Exposure is the first full-length play that I have directed, I have directed several short ten-minute plays for both Onion Man Productions and for Lionheart. I am also a member of the sketch comedy troupe, The Onion Heads, where I serve as an actor, sketch writer and director for our various comedy sketches.
My experience as an actor also helps when preparing to direct a show. As an actor, you are tuned in to characterization and to blocking and how to use your body to tell story, so you can help the actors you are directing from both the perspective of a director and an actor."
What attracted you to the script, A Southern Exposure?
"I initially connected with A Southern Exposure because I enjoyed the relationships between the four women. As an actress, I knew that the roles of Callie Belle, her grandmother, Hattie, and her two wacky aunts, Ida Mae and Mattie, would be four outstanding roles for women in our theatre community. Although an ensemble piece, I find that each character has a well-defined journey she takes throughout the play and an interesting back story to drive the action.
Each character also has her own distinct personality, that cleverly mixes comedy and self-reflection. Watching the interplay of these four women speaks a lot to the power of the female spirit and how women come together to take care of their own.
As an Atlanta native, I was attracted to A Southern Exposure because I easily identified with the characters and the “slice of southern life” that playwright Kelley Kingston-Strayer presents in her script. As a comedy-drama that takes place in the early 1990s, it was fun to revisit my childhood and remember the pop culture references. Although the play is set over 20 years ago, I think audiences will find that the relationships of this family and the themes of life, love and happiness have not changed that much over the years."
What was your starting point for directing the play? How did you approach the material?
"When directing, I take the same approach that I do as an actor. I study the script carefully and make notes about the setting and the characters. I add to the information given in the script with additional research that helps to me continue to build the world of the play and its characters.
I started this process with the actors in A Southern Exposure by talking with the cast and getting their feedback and impressions of the themes and characters in the play. For the remainder of the rehearsal process, we worked as a cohesive unit to continue to build out the world of the play from bottom to top."
Describe your rehearsal process?
"As a director, I have learned that the rehearsal process should be a time where actors are encouraged to play and to explore their characters. As a director, you have the overall responsibility for organizing the collective efforts of your actors, but I always like to make my rehearsal period a time where actors can participate actively in the process.
I like an environment that is collaborative. I think this is a great way to facilitate creativity and to inspire the actors to give their all to a performance."
What major themes are prevalent in A Southern Exposure? With what do you hope audiences will walk away after seeing the show?
"I think everyone in the audience can identify with falling in love for the first time and the notion of balancing familial expectations with what a person actually wants to achieve and accomplish in life.
Upon leaving A Southern Exposure, I hope audiences will be reminded of the importance of family, whether it is the one you are born into or the one that you make for yourself. Having a support system where you can find love and acceptance is something we all need, so we can plant our roots and continue to grow."
A Southern Exposure, written by Kelley Kingston-Strayer and directed by Brandi Kilgore, is showing Thursdays-Sundays, July 19-29, at Lionheart Theatre Company. Get your tickets at http://lionhearttheatre.org/buy-tickets/.
Lionheart has lots of opportunities to get involved both onstage and backstage. If you would like more information on volunteering, please contact us at LionheartTheatreCo@gmail.com.