Person of the Week
Inspiration in a Pandemic: Fitzpatrick Pens ‘All the World’s a Stage: A Guilford Love Story’
Supported by Guilford Performing Arts Festival (GPAF), Guilford author/actress Julie Fitzpatrick’s spoken word piece All the World’s a Stage: A Guilford Love Story is taking shape right now and will premiere at the next festival, scheduled for September 2021. She is one of six Connecticut performing artists just named a recipient of GPAF’s 2020 Artists’ Awards. (Photo by Alana Range )
Inspired in a pandemic and supported by Guilford Performing Arts Festival (GPAF), Guilford author/actress Julie Fitzpatrick’s spoken word piece All the World’s a Stage: A Guilford Love Story is taking shape right now and will premiere at the next festival, scheduled for September 2021.
Julie is one of six Connecticut performing artists just named a recipient of GPAF’s 2020 Artists’ Awards. Each awardee has won a $2,500 grant and a feature slot in the 2021 festival. GPAF created the Artists’ Award program in 2018 as a way to foster and premiere new works of Connecticut performers. The 2020 awards mark the second cycle for the program and a remarkable growth in awards from two in 2018 to six in 2020.
The exceptional number of awards offered during the 2020 cycle reflects GPAF’s mission to support performing artists seeking income and creative outlets during the pandemic. GPAF was committed to increasing the number to four awards this year, but with support from two donors, built up to a total of six.
Carol Sirot of Guilford sponsored the dance award, which this year will be named the Carol Sirot GPAF’s Artists’ Award in Dance. The other donor is anonymous.
“It can be challenging enough in ordinary circumstances for a performing artist to take the time and spend the money to create new work,” said GPAF Chair William Boughton in a press release announcing the award opportunities in May. “With live performances around the world canceled because of the coronavirus, many artists have lost their largest or only source of income. We feel it’s more important than ever to contribute in some small way to sustaining their livelihoods and nourishing their creativity.”
Julie is a fan of GPAF who also performed her one-woman play, 77 U-Turn, at the 2019 festival. She says GPAF’s extraordinary Artists’ Awards program presents an exceptional opportunity for Connecticut artists, now more than ever.
“These times are so challenging, in so many ways,” says Julie. “I think it’s a really rich opportunity for artists to really dig deep and create something that will help people go somewhere else for a little while. The fact that this festival is happening and there are people who want to sponsor and nurture artists is a such a beautiful testament to the whole point of art in general, which is to help us see the world differently.”
Julie embraced the reality of the pandemic as part of her premise for her new documentary theater piece. She’s drawing stories from Guilford residents about the themes of love they’ve experienced or have reflected on during this unprecedented time.
“What I realized is the theme of love is really wonderful, but grounding it in the here and now creates a commonality for all of us, since this pandemic has affected everyone,” says Julie.
Julie’s finished creation will be staged with five female performers. Her creative process involves interviewing Guilfordites from “all walks of life” for love stories she’ll transcribe and then “let wash over me,” to tease out different themes which come to surface, then synthesize their words into her spoken word piece, which will also blend in fitting lines from Shakespeare.
“Shakespeare has so many beautiful, eloquent lines about love,” says Julie.
Julie’s already had the pleasure of interviewing more than a dozen Guilford residents, but hopes to collect as many 50 stories from her community neighbors. She invites anyone with a love story to share to reach out to her for a Zoom chat (email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org).
“I’m putting out the feelers as much as I can—when walking by people, by shooting them a line and picking up the phone and calling,” says Julie. “Just this morning, I met with a woman on her porch, from a distance, [and] listened to her story of how the pandemic has been going for her, and where she finds love in her life, or has found it.”
Many of the themes Julie’s encountering in these stories resonate with the “new normal” of life during a pandemic.
“I’m hearing themes of hope, I’m hearing themes of despair, I’m hearing themes of boredom, of suffocation, of hunger, of extra weight—both physically on bodies, but also emotionally—and themes of young love,” says Julie. “Two people I’ve spoken to talked about when they fell in love with their spouses, one [with a spouse] who is no longer living, and one who has since had four children, so they’re at a different place in their lives. I’m hearing about divorce. The themes are pretty broad, but when we boil them down, everyone has such a specific, powerful story.”
Grounded in Guilford
What’s not surprising to Julie is that she’s finding such a rich vein of material in her own backyard, the town of Guilford.
“I acted for many years in New York City and I did some regional work, but I grew up in Guilford. I think it’s easy to think Guilford’s in a bubble in a way, and not recognize the remarkable people and stories that are right here around us,” says Julie. “And we’ve been so isolated from one another during this period, I thought ‘Maybe we don’t have to go too far—what if we just looked right in our town for the different paths that each of us have been walking?’”
Julie credits Guilford High School’s theater program with connecting her to life’s work.
“Pat Souney was my first director and I really found an outlet for expression of myself in theater, in acting. I just found it was such an anchor and a joy to do shows,” says Julie, who completed her undergraduate and graduate work at conservatories including American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
Julie’s love of her theater experiences comes through in her newest piece, which gave her license to celebrate Shakespeare.
“I find reading Shakespeare, performing Shakespeare, just saying Shakespeare out loud—I find such joy and such liberation and such curiosity, and I just love it,” she says. “I thought, ‘What would it be like to follow Shakespeare, somehow, through this town’s story?’”
When she came up with the idea of opening her new piece with lines from Shakespeare’s famed As You Like It monologue: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players...” through to its “...And then the lover,” line, then “diving off from there to tell a Guilford love story,” Julie realized she also had come up with the title for her creation.
“That started to click into place,” says Julie, adding she was grateful to have been encouraged to create the piece not only by GPAF’s generous Artists’ Awards program, but by the deadline it put in front of her.
“A deadline is a great thing for an artist and maybe for all of us, and that’s just something about the human condition,” says Julie. “The fact that this started to loom on the horizon in the late spring, and it was something for the end of July to submit, it felt like, ‘Okay, there’s a deadline, there’s something to meet; something to work towards.’ Whether we impose those deadlines for ourselves, or we have an outside deadline put out there for us, that can be a great thing to get the juices flowing.”
Julie says she’s also always inspired by her husband, Peter Palumbo, and her eight-year-old son, Fitz Pant.
“I live with my little guy who’s 8 and real source of energy and joy, and my husband, Pete, and they really help bring about the art in a way, because they’re such vibrant, neat people,” says Julie.
She hopes everyone can be inspired to create something as a way to bring joy in their lives, even during a pandemic.
“My hope is that people can turn to things that give them life right now, things that they love, in the midst of all this shut-down time,” says Julie. “If it’s baking, if it’s creating a yarn project, if it’s falling in love—whatever it is, I think the world needs more of it.”
Learn more about all of the 2020 winners at guilfordperformingartsfest.org.