Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

Eudora painter brushes up acting skills

March 15, 2007

Beverly Willis-Wyant has made a home behind her canvas as a painter. The former De Soto resident earned the nickname 'Granny B' for her prolific painting style.

Now, Granny B is still behind the canvas but she's working through a different medium. She's an actress.

"I always act and paint from life experience," Willis-Wyant said. "I worked in a mental health hospital. I worked in the courts. I paint as an artist. All of that always comes from what life has given me."

She spent the last five years with the Vintage Players acting troupe in Lawrence. With the group, she took part in staged script readings and educational programs.

"It's almost like another family," she said.

When the opportunity was presented, she decided to make the jump to a full-scale production.

She read for a part in the Lawrence Community Theater's production of John Patrick's "The Curious Savage."

Her gravelly voice struck a chord with director, Jeanne Chinn, and she was cast in the role of Mrs. Paddy.

"Mrs. Paddy is an insane artist and people have inferred that this might be typecasting," Willis-Wyant said. "They might be right, I don't know."

The play takes place in a psychiatric hospital known as The Cloister. It focuses on Mrs. Savage (Medora Davidson), a wealthy woman who was placed in the ward by her ungrateful children.

"The family members are evil," Willis-Wyant said. "We kind of turn the tables on the evil family and protect Mrs. Savage."

Several offbeat residents join her character at The Cloister to look out for Mrs. Savage.

"It's a wonderful, warm, funny play," Willis-Wyant said. "It shows the importance of treatment and caring."

Part of the reason she took on the role was to see if she could handle the memorization, Willis-Wyant said. She had a stroke in 1989.

With the help of her director, Willis-Wyant memorized her lines.

"She worked with me for hours," Willis-Wyant said. "She went over them, over them and over them and tried to create ways for me to learn. It was her creativity and her dedication that helped me keep the part after I got it."

The experience gave Willis-Wyant the opportunity to get in touch with her dramatic side and also to mesh with the cast of "The Curious Savage."

"I'm a bit player, but man, have I got some beautiful people to work with," she said.

Throughout the course of the play, Granny B has still kept up with her painting.

"I still paint. I painted two pictures for the play," she said. "Of course, one of them is just a blue line, but it's my blue line."

Willis-Wyant said she wasn't sure if she would act in a play again..

"I certainly have enough limitations that I'm not sure. I'm just not sure," she said. "It takes a lot out of you. It really does. "

If not, she has other creative options in mind, she said.

"I've always wanted to learn to weld and I've always wanted to do mosaic ---- and I'm in the process of doing a mosaic now," Willis-Wyant said. "I just haven't gotten there lately. I'll be 75 in July. Maybe I'll get to it before I'm 80."

But for the moment, the play's the thing.

"It will be a play where you laugh and cry, and that always makes for a good comedy," she said.

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