Morgana Shaw, performer of “All About Bette Davis” on what inspired her performance.
“When I walked into clubs during college, people used to play “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes.” I loved it though I didn’t know at that time I was going to be an actress. I was dancing at a dance company.
“Camilla Carr wrote this fantastic one-woman show about Bette Davis while she was researching her. When I was doing regional theatre in Dallas, it was brought to me by that theatre’s director. He said, ‘I think this is a project you should look at.’ That was the beginning.
“When you’re offered a role that someone else wrote, you never know if you’re exactly what that writer was looking for. What if she didn’t think I was right to do Bette?
“I met Camilla and we immediately fell in love with everything about each other.
“When I read the script, the hairs literally stood up on my arms. I knew it could be life-changing because it was that good. You just don’t get opportunities to go through all of the emotions – happy, sad, glorious, shocking – and it’s all here.
“The thing that’s so fantastic about this piece is it’s not a caricature of Bette Davis. It’s about love and heartbreak. Everybody has these shows about Bette where they make fun of her, but this shows her heart. She’s still funny, and she can still deliver that bitchy bite, but she was an amazing icon for women in film.
“I engage in a deep process when I play Bette because I don’t want her to be a parody. She was hardcore, honest, and hardworking.”
On being a woman —
“It’s a battle like it’s always been. Keep doing the work and putting it out there. I think we have more of an opportunity now to make a difference, at least that’s what I’m hanging onto. Otherwise, it would be hopeless.
“Women directors were snubbed at this year’s Oscar nominations. Bette fought the studios when it was all men and here we are again. We’re still fighting and it’s still all men. She did make a difference, yet we’re still trying to get people to take women as seriously as they do men in the business.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to get into this industry unless they passionately love it. It’s so hard.
“I’ve had women tell me, ‘Well, you know what you have to do if you want to play ball with men.”
“I do a lot of film and television work and a producer was trying to get me involved in a project. Something was not right about it, and I talked to a woman about him. She said, ‘You have to know that’s how it is. That’s what you have to do.’
“Are you kidding me?! This is another female telling me, ‘This is the way it is?’
“Well, I don’t choose to go that route.
“But we can do what Bette did inside the system. It just takes somebody to get the ball rolling. She had consequences, but she did it. I love keeping her alive for people.”
To read more about Morgana click here.