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Ilasiea Gray

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Professional Actress, Teaching Artist, Kids Acting Coach & Children's Theatre Director

Interview By Talisa Caldwell

So Ilasiea, you are a professional actress, a teaching artist, a kids acting coach, and a children’s theater director, correct? And you do that all through Colorado Springs or in Denver? 

Yes, I am located in Denver, but right now because of the pandemic, my teaching program is accessible nationwide, which opens up opportunities for a lot more children. 

What role exactly do you play in education? And how long have you been in the field of education?  

I’m an art educator, specifically performing arts. Teaching artistry is when you’re an actual professional in your field and then you teach your craft. I’ve been teaching for about 10 years now.

 I teach in so many different capacities, including directing theater for children. I get the opportunity to create original work with students, which is very rewarding. As well as directing, I teach very specific targeted things for theater, like acting, improv, and  on-camera work. I coach a ton of kids who work in professional theater, the commercial industry and television. One of the kids I’ve coached is actually on the show Fuller House right now! 

I also serve in many actor educator positions for professional development, such as Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement, and Trauma-Informed Care for medical students and educators. Essentially, we act out different scenarios for a hands-on learning experience. 

Why do you think that art education is important? 

Firstly, I believe that knowledge is power. In these times, it is important to  educate yourself on current events and history, especially as a person of color. Everyone should constantly be trying to evolve and educate their mind. In terms of art education, I think it’s such an outlet, and plays an important role in childhood development. I work with kids ages K-12th Grade and I assist them in developing their creativity, self-expression, morale and teamwork. These are all life skills that will benefit them tremendously in the long run. 

I had the pleasure of being a part of an Arts Camp that was meant to empower young black girls last summer. I remember stepping into the room and asking the girls, “What do you want to explore?” They all got excited, and said they wanted to make talk about Blackness, Women’s history, and Societal Standards. It was amazing to see because they might not have the opportunity to  explore those subjects in other settings, or they wouldn’t have felt comfortable. The world needs art to explore those more vulnerable subjects. 

What do you love most about your role as an acting coach, teacher, and as an actress? 

That’s a great question. I love making an impact on others, through my teaching, and my performing as well. There is a show we have been performing virtually called Black with a Capital B that is about police brutality. We’ve been able to tour to so many different organizations, including libraries and churches, in front of so many different types of people. We’ve even been able to host a black and white discussion panel after the show. To be a part expanding people’s worldview because of the art that they are viewing creates an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and gratitude. 

It’s also great to impact the children in the same way. I made history in Colorado by playing the role of Belle in Sleeping Beauty as a black actress at Denver Children’s Theater. Not only did the kids get to see an interratial couple on stage–being that the prince was still white–but I got to show them that princesses come in all sizes and colors! It’s beautiful to give them a different outlook on life. 

What advice do you have for future generations? 

Being an educator has taught me to follow my own path, and that’s what I want to impart with– that everything is possible. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. 

As a black actress in this industry, I did not want to be labeled or put into a box.  I didn’t even think they’d consider me for Sleeping Beauty when I auditioned, and it turned out to be amazing for myself and the community. Do not limit yourself. Without me even realizing,  I had limited the thought that I could even play the role of Belle in Sleeping Beauty!

 I always just tell kids that anything is possible and don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do. Go down the path that is right for you, and don’t let anyone stop you from achieving your dreams. 

Do you have any upcoming projects, or classes that you could give us information about?  

I have a couple projects coming up. My online programming is called Acting Jam for children aged 4 to 17. To sign up,  you can contact actingjam@hotmail.com.

I am on a couple of creative boards for some projects that are coming up in the fall, including a  theater initiative to make theaters in Colorado more equitable for artists of color. You can also find virtual performances of the show I am in, Black with a Capital B.

Thank you for your time, we look forward to seeing more of your work in the community!

Written By Talisa Caldwell 


Self Submission profile Below

I am a professional actress and arts educator – having received a True West Award for my impactful work in both. I consider myself a social practice artist and the work I find most important are pieces that have social justice themes as well as educational theatre for young audiences. I made history in Denver playing Sleeping Beauty as a Black actress (Denver Children’s Theatre), and I know that having representation and diversity onstage (and in arts education) is paramount for children. I am so grateful to use the form to teach the form – meaning using my artistic background to educate children (and adults) by way of theatre. From acting classes, literacy workshops, to the over 25+ children’s productions I have directed, there is such an array of disciplines within theatre arts education. No matter the focus, performing is important for children in fostering creativity, boosting their confidence, and expanding their world view. I think it is especially important for kids of color to have teachers in the arts who look like them so that they know that careers in these fields are possible. It is equally important for all students who may never experience having a teacher of color in any capacity. I couldn’t have imagined having a performance educator that looked like me when I was little. It would have been magic. In addition to educating children, I have held several actor educator positions by way of professional development for adults as well, including role-play acting for Law Enforcement Crisis Intervention Training, for medical students, for lawyers, and with Kaiser Permanente as a Teaching Artist for trauma informed practices for educators and their students. In addition to having a BFA in Theatre, Film, & Television, I am currently pursuing an MFA in Social & Environmental Arts Practice, led by one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter.

 

Highlights

Commercial and T.V. credits. Additionally, I have my own programming, Lae Lae’s Acting Jam, with classes and coaching for young actors at all skill levels. Many of my students have professional theatre

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