San Diego Playwrights

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Woman in the Mirror: An Interview with Devra Gregory

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Tell us about yourself.
There are so many variations in my life it’s hard to know where to start. I began my dance career in ballet when I was very young and then transitioned to other styles to stay working as a dancer.

At the ballet barre

I was very fortunate to make a career in dance, though often it was for less than minimum wage! In the 80’s I got into jazz. I then toured in a vaudeville show.

Burlesque Strip

I was an exotic dancer to make money while I studied acting.

Pole dance

I also worked in a kids show at Sea World. I got into a female impersonator show as a backup dancer and ended up becoming an impersonator. For over 13 years I’ve worked as a Michael Jackson celebrity impersonator. I never set out to be “MJ”. The Universe gave me a random opportunity. I believe that everything happens for a reason, though. I’m very Spiritual. In taking on that role I learned a lot about expanding my energy field, improving my self-confidence and stepping into experiences I would have otherwise been very frightened of. I had an abusive childhood and lived in fear of the world. Taking on the role of a huge celebrity forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me that I can stretch myself beyond what I previously thought. I have taught dance throughout my life and started teaching Michael Jackson style dance classes as well as performing. I’m also a massage therapist so that is another area that supports me when performing is slow. One of my musical passions is African drumming and I study and play the djembe. I lead women’s ritual circles and am a Wiccan Priestess. So you see, I have a very varied existence!

What inspired you to create and produce your show about your life story, Woman in the Mirror, a Dancer’s Journey?
I was at a party many years ago telling a stranger about my life. He said, “Wow, your life is amazing. You should write a book!” I pondered that and even began a manuscript. But because I’m a performing artist and not really a writer, I began to consider telling my story on stage instead. Maybe I’ll get to the book later!

Seated by alter

The fuel to actually do the show came from my spiritual side and my belief in bringing back the feminine side of Divinity. I guess you could say the Goddess gave me my marching orders. I felt I had to do the show to open others, especially women, to the fact that we are far greater than we allow ourselves to be. In my life’s spiritual journey I found there is a female side of God that has been neglected for thousands of years. Ultimately God does not have a gender, but all the patriarchal traditions limit women’s innate power. I practice a combination of Shamanism and Wicca, which are both very misunderstood traditions.  Wicca, or Witchcraft, is not what it is popularized as. It is an Earth based religion that celebrates natures’ cycles and the understanding that we are all connected. It honors both God and Goddess. Shamanism and Wicca are beautiful ways to connect ourselves back to our natural source, the force of life, the Earth and the entire Universe. We’ve been out of balance by only worshiping a male God. All ancient traditions had Goddesses (lots of them) and they were very powerful figures! By my stepping out and telling my story, not only my professional evolution but Spiritual as well, I hope to inspire others to step out bravely and honestly share who they are and what they believe without fear of being burned at the stake. Or maybe I will open people’s eyes to the fact that there are more options than traditional religions, professions, and ways to experience the world. My spiritual side and my dance had been like two parts of me that never met unless I was dancing around a bonfire under the stars. My show brought all sides of myself together under the same roof.

Priestess

What have been your successes? What are your challenges?
It’s quite remarkable to have stayed working as a dancer for several decades. Most people drop out if they don’t reach the top right away. I’m more the turtle than the hare. I’m one who persists over time and gets to the finish line…eventually! Although, in show biz there is no finish. It’s just one long creative path with lots of twists and turns. I just never quit. After a long career as a dancer I became one of the only females to be a professional MJ impersonator.

DEV as MJ Drill

Since 2000 I’ve had successes as well as challenges being a woman impersonating a man. When I first started I got a TV gig. The producer of the show was a woman and she was very supportive. I got some good video from that to make a reel and kept getting booked. The first show I ever produced was in 2010. It was a Michael Jackson tribute show with a cast of 25 performers. Although financially I wouldn’t consider it successful, artistically it was quite the presentation. I have to pat myself on the back for creating that when I had no producing experience whatsoever. I just kept figuring things out as they came up. I ended up losing my choreographer a month before opening. I recruited the dancers to pitch in and found other people to step up at the last moment. Producing a show and performing in it is one of the most stressful things to put one’s self through. Just having done it without a nervous breakdown is a huge success unto itself. Writing and producing my one-woman show “Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey” was a huge accomplishment and it won a Bravo SD award.   Continuing to self-produce and create is a challenge when there is no guarantee an audience will show up. That’s where sweat, trust, networking, prayer and visualization come in handy!

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What is your next step?
I’m performing my show in San Diego again on August 30th and 31st.  I want to get the show to other cities too. LA, San Francisco and Portland all call to me. Taking the show out of town is a whole new ball game so for this chapter I’m opening myself up for someone to help me book a tour. Finding sponsors, a typical requirement for self-producing artists, is my next manifestation.

Upcoming Woman in the Mirror Events
August 29th, 30th & 31st, 2013

Where:

White Box Live Arts

2590 Truxton Rd. #205

San Diego, CA 92106

On the corner of Truxton Rd & Roosevelt Rd in Point Loma’s Liberty Station

When:

MJ Master Dance Class–Thursday August 29th, 6:00-8:00 pm. $25, $20 for students 18 and under.

Woman in the Mirror Performance- Friday August 30th & Saturday August 31st, 8:00 pm. $25.Includes pre-show reception 7:00-7:30pm. Meet and take a photo with DEV as MJ. Complimentary wine, beverages and appetizers served.

Dance class & Show–$40

Tickets: Call 800-838-3006 or online http://woman.bpt.me

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