Gail Milissa Grant
I always fancied myself an actress or a director or a producer or a playwright or a costume designer . . . or all of them at the same time. In other words, I wanted to be in show business. From the way I memorized every show tune from every hit musical in the late 50s through the 60s and performed them in front of our dining room mirror ad nausea, I knew I was destined to shine as brightly as any light in Times Square. “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story, sung, or rather warbled in full Spanish accent, waving a ‘lace’ fan I fashioned out of paper doilies and twirling, wrapped in one of my mother’s starched tablecloths, was one of my favorite numbers. Did I say there was a long, lean crack in that mirror that my parents never got around to fixing? Well, I think that may have been a sign.
I never made it to Broadway but after more than twenty five years of chasing other muses (a wanderlust satisfied by traveling extensively on four continents and living abroad on two as a diplomat, and a love of art fulfilled by teaching art and architectural history at a university), I returned to my childhood dream of writing . . . books instead of plays. The first of which, an award-winning family memoir, was a love letter not only to my ancestors but also to a whole generation of black Americans who fought the good fight way before the more publicized civil rights movement of the 1950s.
I also wrote it because their stories were left out of our history books.
I’ve resurrected my thespian talents as a public speaker, talking about my book and unknown civil rights activists and their accomplishments at more than sixty venues (and counting) in Europe, the United States, and North Africa, with my all-time favorite being Oxford University. I’ve also produced art exhibitions, directed conferences, and organized film programs.
My book was recently translated into Italian and I have been presenting it at bookstores and on television and radio in Italy.
I am currently working on a novel, loosely based on some of the characters from my memoir and I find fiction a lot more challenging. Stay tuned.
So, I really did get to be in the ‘business.’ It just took a while.
Singing? Well, I confine my trilling to the bathtub or in a group where I can’t really be heard! And costumes? Just look in my closet!
Oh! And by the way, did I mention I live in Rome? An outdoor theater without parallel!