Actress Latreshia Lilly Shares Most Challenging Roles Played & her Continuous Growth as a Creative

“Continuous growth can’t happen at a standstill. ” – Latreshia Lilly
As a creative and theatrical actress, Latreshia Lilly is no stranger to hard work as she continues to grow through her profession by breaking barriers playing roles people said she could never portray on the stage. They were wrong. As a third year member of Greenville Theatre located in South Carolina, Latreshia has starred and participated in over twenty productions  in her career such as Dorothy in The Wiz and Annellle in Steel Magnolias. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Latreshia for years, so it was a breath of fresh air as we chatted about her discovering her passion for theatre, her favorite and least favorite things about the life of a creative, and the most challenging role she has played so far.
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Latreshia Lilly, Theatrical Actress

At what point in your life did you discover your passion and love for acting?

LL: “I suppose I’ve have always known! As a child I remember writing skits, where I was the star, of course and performing them at church. However I didn’t really understand what “acting” was until my freshman year of high school. In junior high, our electives were assigned and I was “forced” to play the clarinet in the band and it remains my least favorite thing to do. When I entered the 9th grade I was put in band as well, this did not sit well with me, so I skipped band the very first day and  went to the auditorium and asked the music teachers if I could audition for choir. I sang The Star Spangled Banner for them and was put in the top 3 choirs at the time. What I didn’t know was that one of the choirs required you to be in the musicals. By the end of the semester I was playing Isabella Fezziwig in Covington High’s production of Scrooge. As I was on my way to college to start law school I kept feeling a pull in the direction of the arts. Long story short, I changed my major an hour before my first criminal justice class even began. I like to say that  theatre discovered me. It just took some time for me to see it.”

From the roles you portrayed so far, which one has challenged you the most and why?

LL: “Mazy Buford in Fly Babies by Rusty Harding produced at Lunatic Theatre. Very early on in my professional career, I was given the criticism that I was not “black enough” or “urban” enough to portray African American characters. This was insane to me because I am an African American! Because of my confusion and a little bit of embarrassment I just stopped auditioning for ethnic roles all together. It is a note  I have been given quite a few times in this industry. While living in Dallas, Texas a few years ago I saw an audition notice for Fly Babies that included the fictitious role of Mazy Buford, an African American female pilot in the 1940’s fighting a war against prejudice. After doing a little research I decided that I wanted to be a part of telling the beautiful story. After being cast in the show I struggled tremendously with the thought of not being able to do the role justice because of the criticism I received. I did not share this with my director or cast mates so it was a silent battle for me throughout the beginning of the rehearsal process. My creativity was stunted for sure. I felt like I couldn’t use any part of myself to develop the character because we had no similarities, but there were so many including the obvious. Eventually, I shared my mental battle with a few close friends in the theatre world so I could try and remove the creative block I was feeling. After much encouragement, support and prayer it was clear to me that the criticism I received for not being “black enough” was just the opinion of those who shared it. The writer, producer, and director of this project clearly didn’t believe the same thing, which is why I was cast. Although it was one of the most challenging roles mentally, I would do it all over again. The role also earned me my first published premiere credit. If you obtain a copy of the script or look up a PDF online you will find my name listed on the premiere page. Take that, criticism!”

What is your favorite and least thing about being an actor & creative?

LL: “My favorite thing would have to be the bonds made with your cast mates. With every show a small family is created and a lot of those people become your lifelong friends. Constantly moving around for each job pulls you away from your family so it really is a beautiful thing to have  families created in all the places I have worked. My least favorite is the business of casting. As an actor you are at the leisure of the vision of others. When you walk into a casting room before you even start your audition, you could be cut from your looks alone. It’s just the business, but it does cause many actors to spend an enormous amount of energy trying to become the “perfect” or “ideal” image or type (which is impossible if you ask me.)”

What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were first starting out in theatrical acting?

LL: “Know your niche, love your niche, and know what you can do outside of it. Always keep learning how to expand your abilities.”

 How would you define success? Has a mistake ever led you to success?

Success for me is continuous growth! If I am learning new things, I’m successful! If I fail at something I’m successful.  If I am encouraging others through my grind I’m successful! Success is not a monetary mark that I can get to. If I feel I’ve ever reached success then at that point I am no longer successful. The work of an artist is never done. There is always room to learn, grow and create! I don’t think a mistake has led me to success, but my failures definitely have and I don’t see failures as mistakes.”

In the moments of self-doubt and adversity, how do you build yourself back up?

LL: “God! The life i’m living is a gift from him to me. Anytime I feel like it’s not going well or I don’t have the confidence to get something done, I go to God. He knows exactly how and when my journey ends so I do my best to consult the author. If his answers aren’t quick enough for me, they rarely are, I use my people! I have a very small circle of friends and family members who no doubt are my support system. I’m not sure I would ever survive without them. I also rely on the quote “fake it until you make it “. This just means no matter how much I am doubting myself I don’t stop the progress. Continuous growth can’t happen at a standstill. “

What is one role you aspire to play one day and why?

LL: “I have never been one to have a “dream role” which I have learned is very uncommon. I simply love being a part of the journey of a production. I have played everything from the lead character in plays and musicals to bucket girl on the left and I have truly enjoyed them all. However, I have been told by others what roles they would like to see me play. (Delores in Sister Act, Mama Morton in Chicago, Lorell in Dreamgirls, and Celie in The Color Purple, just to name a few.)”

 Which of your traits are you most proud of?

LL: “My resilience! In my 29 years of living , there have been some major setbacks, heartbreaks, curve balls, slaps in the face, etc. and with every one {with the help of GOD) I have been able to press forward. No doubt I have my scars and pains but that is all minor compared to the blessings that I have seen throughout my life. “
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What’s the best advice you have for someone who hasn’t discovered their purpose yet or feels “stuck?”

LL: “Keep pressing forward despite! Your purpose will be revealed to you when it suppose to. Yes, it’s that simple! There is no need to stunt your growth and possibly prolong the answers you seek by stressing over not knowing what it is at this moment.”

What’s your personal/professional motto?

LL: “Nothing is worth my peace! My career path is not an easy one. It is known for being disappointing, judgmental, gut wrenching, etc. but I can’t let that get to me. Every aspect of my career is not for me no matter how big my “want to” is or how hard I work for it. So I accept that if it’s for me and I’ve been grinding as instructed to, it will come. If not, stressing over it or getting depressed about it is not the answer. Living a peaceful life is far more important.
It is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t! My father has been saying this to me for years, but it wasn’t until last year that it hit home. Life is not meant to be terrible. Terrible things will happen, but it’s how you respond to it that matters. Remain calm. There will be things that happen to you and around you that you have no control over. What good will it do to stress over something you can’t control. I have found that both mottos are applicable in all aspects of my life.”

What’s your biggest goal for this year?

LL: “I have several goals in almost every area there is. It would be a very long list if I shared my biggest for each one so I’ll share my ultimate goal. Continue living, loving and learning so that I can be prepared for where this journey is taking me moment to moment, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year!”

About Latreshia Lilly

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Latreshia Lilly is originally from the small town of Folsom, Louisiana where she was born and raised. Currently she is entering her third year as a Resident Acting Company Member at Greenville Theatre located in the beautiful Greenville, South Carolina! She serves as the “resident swing” which means she works in all areas of the theatre such as Box Office, Costume Shop, Scene Shop, and Props! For the Education outreach Greenville Theatre on Tour she is the Performance Manager. She graduated from Northwestern State University of Louisiana with a Bachelors’ in Theatre, concentrating in Musical Theatre Performance and Performance/Directing (2013). After college she began her professional career touring with Missoula Children’s Theatre for 15 months casting, directing, and acting in a musical each week. When she got off the road she settled down for a bit in Dallas, Texas where she was a Part-Time supervisor at UPS,  taught theatre after school with Dramakids, and performed in numerous theatres throughout the DFW metroplex. She has also done background work  for a few television shows and PSA’s. She also has a small side business where she teaching private acting, vocal, and movement lessons.
ROLES PLAYED:

Beauty and the Beast ( Wardrobe)

Into the Woods   (Witch )

The Wiz ( Dorothy  )

It’s a Wonderful Life ( Clarice Oddbody, Clarence)

Oliver!  ( Widow Corney)

Newsies ( Medda Larkin)

Miss Nelson Is Missing ( Miss Nelson/Viola Swamp)

Steel Magnolias ( Annelle )

Fly Babies ( Mazy/Diane)

9 to 5 ( Kathy)

Burlesque Nutcracker  ( Ramona)

Suite Surrender ( Murphy)

You Can’t Take It With You  (Rheba )

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose (Charwoman)

Ragtime ( Woman of Harlem)

Charlotte’s Web ( Fern, Goose)

Frosty ( Frosty)

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Wife)

Catch Me If You Can ( Abagnale Player)

Dante: Purgatorio  (Various)

Treasure Island  (Jane Silver )

Mousetrap ( Miss Casewell)

Robinson Crusoe  (Friday )

Smokey Joe’s Café  (BJ)

As It is in Heaven  (Phebe)

Repossessions of My Heart     (Julie)

Lunatic: The Haunted Widow Lincoln  ( Zuzu Jones)

 

 

CONTACT INFO:

Latreshialilly@gmail.com

Facebook: Latreshia Lilly

Instagram: latreshialilly

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